I must say, and I know this comes to a shock to you Sock Doc veterans out there, stretching is dangerous. Yes I’m talking about the typical static stretching that so many perform before or after exercise. Actually many consider static stretching an exercise of itself. There’s no need to get into why I don’t agree with the static stretching philosophy, as well as some types of dynamic stretching – you can read “Stop Stretching!” to learn why. As I say in that stretching article, and throughout the SockDoc site, flexibility is important. Flexibility is associated with health and fitness, and vice-versa. Flexibility is the result of a healthy body and that includes a healthy nervous system. Stretching will not accomplish this aspect of health for you. What will accomplish it is addressing total health – dietary, emotional, (yes, spiritual too), and physical well-being.
Is what most regard to as “stretching” part of this physical well-being? No, I don’t believe it is. But moving is. And we should move a lot – every day, and hopefully often throughout it. Natural movements are essential to achieve properly flexibility. Sure, when you move naturally you are essentially “stretching” to some degree or another. It’s impossible to draw the line between what is beneficial and what is harmful in regards to stretching for every possible movement. And no, holding some static stretch for a bit isn’t necessarily always bad. Remember, it depends on why you feel the need to stretch, what you’re trying to accomplish, and if your movement is even natural for you (not someone else) and your activity. Those first two points are discussed in “Stop Stretching!”; the last – the “natural” part, I will address here.
Stretch Like an Animal
People love to say that animals stretch and therefore humans should too. Well that’s true, to a certain extent. Animals move and “stretch” within their natural means. A lion, (or your dog for that matter), doesn’t cross his hind legs and lean forward to stretch out his hips before he chases a zebra (or your house cat). Your cat doesn’t doesn’t take her front paw and grab her rear leg to pull it to her neck so she’s more flexible prior to her night hunt. You get the point. Don’t they sometimes “hold” these stretches for several seconds? Sure, sometimes they do. So I guess, if you’re timing it, then some of the stretches may be defined as “static” since that cat may reach her legs out for several seconds before she gets up from yet another nap. But it’s a natural motion and she (hopefully) doesn’t have another cat sitting on her back pushing those legs down more to the ground or pulling her leg out forward to give her more of a stretch n’ hold. I’ve never seen that in nature, as funny as it would be, but we see it all the time with humans. So yeah, we should stretch like animals, but within our humanly means, (which is individualized for each person). I still don’t like that ‘s’ word – but call it what you like. I’m going to stick with moving naturally.
Warm Up and Cool Down
Stretching is performed by many as a pre and post exercise regime. Many consider it their only form of a warm up or cool down. Though ideally the best warm up and cool down you can perform is light, easy, aerobic exercise. This is true whether you’re going for an easy run, a hard run, lifting weights, or getting ready for some grappling. Aerobic exercise prepares the entire body for any type of activity whether it’s easy or very strenuous. Now of course the aerobic exercise may not suffice for the activity or sport you’re about to perform, so other natural body movements specific to your sport will be beneficial for a proper warm up and maybe cool down too. It’s impossible to give examples for every activity and every sport, but after the aerobic warm up, (walking to easy running for approximately ten minutes is most common), then consider moving your body within its natural means with respect to the activity you’re about to perform. So if you’re preparing to ride your bike, you don’t necessarily need to do some hanging movements as I show below in the photos, that would be more applicable if you’re about to do some climbing or lifting and carrying activities. If you’re about to swim, you sure don’t need to focus heavily on your quads. If those muscles appear tight, then you need to address why they are that way. But how about this – rather than worry about each individual muscle and compartmentalize your body, why not perform some movements the way your body actually moves in a dynamic, natural, and integrated system.
Common Bozo-Type Stretches & Their Natural Corrections for Flexibility
Below are several very common stretches that have been performed for years and for the most part are unnecessary, useless, performed incorrectly, or just flat-out dangerous. Basically for the ones where I’m wearing the “Only Bozos Stretch” shirt, I’m acting as such.
First, let’s start out with five very common types of stretches that we all learned some time or another: quadriceps stretch, ITB stretch, hamstring (Hurdler’s) stretch (somehow this photo got lost – but it’s on my shirt!), groin (adductor) stretch, and the calf stretch. Click on the first photo in the group to enlarge and to read the description, then click the photo or your escape key to exit.
Now, here’s how you can warm up these muscles much more safely and effectively.
Next, a couple common stretches that many perform to “loosen up” their shoulders and back.
And a couple better ways to strengthen, stabilize, and bring natural flexibility to your shoulders, back, and that trendy “core” everyone talks about.