Warning: this is not a jargon filled post with sprinkles of science. It is based however on evidence based practice.
First off, I’m not going to bash stretching. I’m going to suggest a better way for most people to initiate a stretch that will last longer and improve muscle and movement range.
Most people who stretch use a static stretch. A position is assumed and held for 10 seconds to over a minute. But, many will report no lasting affect and indeed when returning to the same stretch again, they’d be back where they where in the previous stretch session.
Why? Therapists much smarter than I would inform you that no lasting stretch is achieved because the static stretch affects the muscle and the local nerves but not the brain. (Simplest description I dare write) The stretches benefits will last only a short time.
Simply put, the act of stretching the muscle for a period informs the nerve of no further threat and in course, the nerve allows the muscle to relax. However, no learning or adaption will be incurred without the message going to the brain. Intent movement initiated by the brain telling the nerves what to do are learned reflexes. We develop these as babies, toddlers and onwards.
As much as intentional strength activities cause a learned adaptation, the same applies to progressing a muscles range of movement or mobility or flexibility.
So how we do get our brains involved in a stretch? We move into brief moments of muscular stretch with intent. You intentionally move your muscles to take you into the stretch albeit briefly.
There are a few methods that utilise a therapist helping you to tense and release muscles, you can also do this yourself ‘or’ you can just move and have fun.
I prefer the latter.
This wee video below is not a technical demonstration. The rules are simple, briefly move into a hamstring stretching position (in this case) while moving around into and out of various mobility drills or positions you are familiar with. Heck, you can make up moves. It doesn’t have to look pretty or flowing – just move.
Number one rule though, use muscles to pull and push and manoeuvre you into each position to feel a light stretch and do not go to pain.
Final word. If you like stretching and it makes you feel better then do it. Make it a frequent practice. I did for years until I found an alternative that helps me achieve some of the physical activities I want to pursue.
Got any feedback, just fire a message off below.