Why We Stretch

It seems to depend on what year it is as to whether we’re told stretching is good for us or bad for us. Should you do it before training or after training?

Stretching Before Training

One reason we’re told static stretching is bad before training is because it has been shown to reduce power output (vertical jump, sprinting etc.) and strength for 15 minutes after doing the stretch.

Immediately, the thought of some people will be ‘I’m never stretching again, I want to be as strong as possible’.

This doesn’t take into account the benefits of stretching. Mainly a reduced chance of injury.

Mike Boyle (well-known American Strength Coach) puts it brilliantly… Would you rather have Michael Jordan for 50 out of 80 games (because of injury) in the NBA season who can jump 48 inches off the ground or would you rather have him the whole 80 games in the NBA season but can only jump 44 inches off the ground?

Add in the fact that you’ve warmed up after the static stretching ,and thus left the 15 minute window, and the argument for not stretching before training disappears.

Stretching After Training

This is a two answer section. One answer is for immediately after training, one for is for later in the day.

Immediately after training, don’t static stretch.

It’s like stretching warm rubber. You can stretch it as much as you like when it’s warm, but as soon as it cools down, it’s going to go right back to where it was in the first place.

After you’ve cooled down, stretch the muscles that you’ve worked hard in the session. Not to prevent soreness, because it’s been shown that stretching has little effect on muscle soreness, but to prevent developing muscle imbalances (If you haven’t guessed by now, muscle imbalances are very important to performance, health & pain).

Who needs to stretch?

There are a few tests you can do to test your general flexibility. Rocabado’s Flexibility Index is one.

A highly technical equation to work out how much stretching you should be doing is this-

How We Do It

At PT-Health, stretching is part of our warm up. First we foam roll (link), then we stretch, then we mobilise and warm up.

In the first stages of working with someone, the reason for stretching is to help fix imbalances.

As an example, if someone’s pelvis is naturally in the position below, they’re likely to have back pain or develop back pain in the future unless the problem is fixed.

We want to get their pelvis back in alignment with less of a curve in their Lumbar spine (image below) where they’re much less likely to be in pain (why they get stuck in this position is explained here).

So we stretch the muscles that are pulling them in to what’s called an Anterior Pelvic Tilt/Lower Cross Syndrome, which in this case is probably the Quads and the Hip Flexors.

Part of our stretching routine then involves stretching these two muscle groups. The reason why we’re stretching these is to switch them off, to inhibit them. Once they’re switched off it makes it much easier to strengthen the weak muscles around the hip to get the pelvis back in to this position.

Much better.

Summary

A quick guide to stretching-

Are we right?

Maybe.

In a years time, we may have a different way of doing things at PT-Health. We may stop static stretching because we’ve found a better way to achieve our aims.

Hopefully that will be the case. The more we can improve how we do things, the better.

For now, this is the best, most logical & practical way we’ve got of doing things.

Enjoy.