For every piece of research or study that comes out stating one thing, another study comes out saying the complete opposite. Naturally, many questions arise, including:
• Should I stretch or not?
• Should I stretch before my workout? After?
• Will stretching reduce my risk for injury?
• Does stretching make me more prone to injury?
• What’s the most important stretch?
The list goes on and on. And for good reason- there always seems to be new and contradictory information. To the general fitness enthusiast, it can be overwhelming and confusing.
What I think:
While there are always exceptions to every rule, my general philosophy is to focus on mobility in a warmup, and static (stretch and hold) stretching in a cool down.
Mobility exercises take the body through movement patterns that promote optimal functioning. Often, these are the same movement patterns that will be performed during a subsequent workout. Examples include shoulder mobility before pressing, hip mobility before deadlifts or squats, or ankle mobility before a run.
Matching mobility drills with the exercises that follow serves several functions:
• Performing mobility exercises pre-workout allows a person to take inventory and assessment of what might need extra attention and warmup on any given day. Attempting to perform an exercise without proper range of motion is a recipe for injury. Mobility drills help avert that potential disaster.
• Mobility exercises groove a movement pattern, and help prime the brain/body connection. Mental focus and preparedness are hallmark in fitness and athletics. Running through mobility drills pre-workout help the brain and the body to communicate, send feedback to one another, and prepare for efficient and powerful performance.
• Mobility drills are an optimal time to practice visualization. Athletes often use this tactic to prepare and help get “psyched up” for an event. For example, while doing the high-knees mobility drill, a runner can visualize him/her self running the race with efficient strides that lead to a PR.
• Mobility drills allow all parts of the body (muscles, tendons, nervous system, cardiovascular system, etc) to get ready for higher demands. This includes increasing length and laxity of muscles, increasing blood flow to working appendages, and appropriate change of body temperature.
My Favorite Mobility Drills:
What mobility drills will help achieve all the above benefits? Some of my favorites can be found on my YouTube channel:
• Best Warmup Mobility Drills: https://youtu.be/iV0mvpTAxkQ
• Adductor Stretch Mobility Drill: https://youtu.be/R4vWfS97Ek0
• Thoracic Spine Mobility Drill: https://youtu.be/jUHsfQzsji4
• Over the Fence Mobility Drill: https://youtu.be/qOmEqYNcNIs
On Static Stretching:
Static stretching, also known as stretch-and-hold is something that I believe should be reserved for post-workout. Stretching and holding a muscle to increase length and flexibility is most likely going to be successful when that muscle is already warm and pliable; as you would find at the end of a workout. Stretching and holding muscles that have not been properly warmed up put them at risk for tearing, cramping, etc. In addition, static stretches do not address the changes in the nervous & cardiovascular systems, as well as the brain/body connection that are critical to optimal performance.
The amount of static stretching necessary varies from person to person. A very flexible and mobile person should not spend a lot of time on static stretching, as this can lead to injury. On the other hand, a person who has limited range of motion and flexibility should spend significant time stretching and working toward movement patterns that allow for optimal performance.
Simple Adductor Stretch