Learn why stretching can actually cause more harm than good. There’s no reason to static stretch especially if you’re concerned about performance or trying to heal up or prevent an injury. Stop stretching!
Stretching for flexibility is a common practice for runners, athletes, and fitness enthusiasts at all levels, but it is a myth that stretching will better prepare muscles for improved performance or health. In this video I explain why no stretching is preferable to pre-performance stretching for flexibility.
Despite stretching encouragement from many coaches and trainers, some athletes may wonder: Is stretching bad for you? Should runners stretch? Learn why you may have the sensation of a tight muscle that may “need” stretching is actually a symptom of something wrong with the muscle that feels tight. I also discuss some potential causes for this feeling, suggest alternatives to warm up stretches, and offer some simple flexibility exercises and warmups.
Finally, I discuss why yoga, despite what many people think, is NOT stretching.
More information on why not to stretch!
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You didn’t actually think I was stretching. Of course not, because for most parts, stretching is only going to increase your chance of injury. It’s only going to decrease your performance. Unless you really need excessive flexibility in your body like certain dancers like ballerinas, of course, or gymnasts or martial arts, you really don’t want to be to be doing static stretches where you’re holding a muscle or a joint at a certain tension for 20, 30, 40 seconds, if not minutes. There’s never been any really true solid evidence to say that these things are actually improving performance or decreasing injury rate.
Actually, I’d say the opposite that you can increase your chances of becoming injured if you’re doing stretches like this. We always want to be moving. We want to be moving about naturally. There’s another sock-doc video on natural movements and moving about our environment like we’re intended to do as a functional dynamic unit, not by isolating certain areas that we feel need more range of motion to hopefully decrease our injury rates or improve our performance.
Stretching is not a warm-up either. A lot of people think that it is. They think, “Oh, I got to stretch out before I run. I got to stretch out maybe my shoulders before I swim or throw something.” If you feel like you need to stretch out an area, there’s actually something wrong with that area. And you’re really treating the symptom. You’re not treating the cause. Your feeling like you need to stretch means that your body, for some reason, is having an issue with muscle imbalances in your body. Certain muscles are working too hard. Other muscles are not working well enough. There’s this balance between facilitation, too much, and inhibition, not enough between muscles in your body and how the connective tissues all work between them, especially your fascia.
So think of stretching or the need to stretch as your body’s inability to naturally become flexible and that flexibility is a great reflection of your nervous system. If your nervous system is stressed out, you’re going to feel tight in certain areas. You’re going to feel like you need to stretch. And the way to correct that, therefore, is to figure out why you’re having an issue with that flexibility and your nervous system. And pretty much, for the most part, that’s going to mean that you’re pushing yourself too hard. You’re either training too much. You’re training too intensely. Maybe you’re not correcting the other side of that training equation by recovering properly. You’re not sleeping well. You’re not eating well, maybe not enough proteins or enough good fats. You’re eating too many refined carbohydrates, and you’re drinking too much coffee and other caffeinated beverages. Maybe you’re not by taking care of yourself by, say, you’re working too much, or you’re trying to do too many projects at once.
So if you’re stressing your system out too much and not recovering properly, not taking care of your body, then it will show up in your nervous system. And your nervous system will then reflect that back to your musculoskeletal system. Next thing you know, you always got to feel like your calf needs to be stretched out before you run or your shoulder before you go for a swim or something like that. Your body becomes tight in certain areas, and you feel like you need to stretch.
Stretching is not going to correct the problem. By stretching an area, you might have some temporary relief in that area, but that’s going to be it. It’s not going to actually fix why you have the issue. Before you warm up, before you go for a work out, especially a run or really anything, any movement, move naturally throughout your environment. Do some ground motions. Go for a walk. Do a light run, nothing too strenuous. That’s how you warm up aerobically for an activity. You don’t warm up by stretching.
And at the end of your activity too, whatever it is, same thing, that’s how you cool down, not by stretching. You move around slowly, slowly bring your heart rate back down.
So think twice before you start stretching. Realize that you’re not really addressing the problem. Realize that moving naturally throughout your environment and your body’s dynamic motions is a great thing to do. Moving your body through a full range of motion is a great thing. And even holding certain areas for a couple of seconds is a great thing. But don’t hold them so long that you feel like you need to elongate these muscles.
Yoga’s another great activity too if you’re doing it correctly. But yoga is not stretching. A lot of people think that that’s what they’re doing. They want to become extra stretched out for yoga, and they’re doing more than what they should. If you’re doing yoga properly, you’re creating more stability and mobility and natural flexibility and a relaxation of your nervous system in your body. You’re not just trying to stretch out muscles to the point where they’re not ready to do that. You become injured. Okay?
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