Pretty much everyone gets into fitness at some point or another and hears that they should stretch and that it’s good for them. I remember being a young coach in the late ’90s, the major reason to do stretching exercises was to reduce the chance that someone would get injured. Unfortunately, that science didn’t really pan out too well. Meaning, that research wasn’t able to validate that stretching exercises reduce the chance of injury.
Not really what we are talking about with stretching exercises
Does that mean stretching exercises are bad and useless? Especially because you hear things like stretching will reduce power production. Sounds like we should ditch static stretching exercises right? Well, the science hasn’t really landed on that! In fact, a more recent 2019 review of the literature on static stretching said…
“Therefore, our previous understanding of harmful static stretching (StS) effects on subsequent strength and power activities has to be updated. In fact, short-duration StS should be included as an important warm-up component before the uptake of recreational sports activities due to its potential positive effect on flexibility and musculotendinous injury prevention. However, in high-performance athletes, short-duration StS has to be applied with caution due to its negligible but still prevalent negative effects on subsequent strength and power performances, which could have an impact on performance during competition.”
Stretching exercises can improve our range of motion and even decrease some pain. How? Dr. Helene Langevin who is an expert in fascia research shares the following explanation below…
So, if stretching exercises aren’t that bad for us, actually they can be good for us, what is this whole thing with mobility training? Heck, what is even the difference? Stretching we tend to focus just on the flexibility of the connective tissue of the muscles that are being passively (either someone stretching you or using something to stretch you) moved through a range of motion. Mobility relies somewhat on those tissues moving well, but because it is active (you are moving the segment of your body through a range of motion) there are more variables like your nervous system in play. So, one is more passive and the other is more active. The big question is does it matter?
People often say that animal stretch naturally, but in the our terms they are more like they are doing mobility training.
Now, the science is almost never 100% conclusive on anything with fitness because there are many variables such as types of subjects that are used (do they have flexibility restrictions, past injury, etc.), the drills used, how the results are measured, and what they are measuring for at the end of the day. Overall, the research does show that both static stretching exercises and mobility training improve range of motion of the body. However, mobility exercises may have the ability to build both passive and active flexibility where static stretching may only improve the flexibility passively. This is an issue because it may not translate to how we perform.
A 2013 study found, “The first hypothesis that increased passive hip extension and rotation would result in increased hip ROM used during functional movements was rejected. Large increases in passive hip extension were achieved with training but were not used during active hip extension or lunging, both of which would be expected to result in full hip extension.”
While static stretching exercises probably aren’t bad and have many benefits, prioritizing them in training may not be ideal compared to mobility training. However, much of mobility training has not become very functional itself. The focus largely becomes on moving in isolation of a joint and not how well the body moves in integration. This means that we might see an improvement in a range of motion, but the question largely becomes does that improvement mean we move better when we need it in an exercise, in our daily life, or sport?
Fortunately, we know that there are many types of both flexibility and mobility practices. A style that I personally and professionally found very beneficial is our Myofascial Integrated Movement (MIM) drills. Using the science that shows us that a combination of relaxation techniques, mindfulness, neuromuscular coordination, and connective tissue/muscle flexibility results in greater progress is why we have been featuring such drills. Research has shown over and over again the practices we used to base MIM upon improve not only flexibility and mobility, but there is a positive transfer to how people move such as improvements in their balance and gait speed. Pretty cool right?
The “magic” really happens when we combine MIM with our DVRT Restoration drills to address how stability also plays a role in our movement and ability to increase our movement skills. Coach Laura Penton actually shows how we can apply these concepts to even athletes that need to move better, be more resilient, and have it all transfer to what they do. The best part is you don’t have to be an athlete to use these strategies. We will continue to show you not only how to build better solutions for your goals, but how to use ALL the aspects of our DVRT system to develop smarter workouts.
Don’t miss learning more in our MIM program, our Breath Science/Fascia program, and all our corrective exercise programs 25% off with code “save25” HERE
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