Mobility Gains. No Stretching Necessary.

I want to dive into a post I left on our Instagram this week about stretching.  

Like everything else in the health and fitness world, it’s a topic with a range of opinions.  The strength haters and medical professionals say stretching is the only way to keep your joints from rusting up and blowing out, but the performance nerds say stretching must stop because it will make you slow and weak.

To show you what I mean, the first Google hit on stretching comes from Harvard

“Without [stretching], the muscles shorten and become tight. Then, when you call on the muscles for activity, they are weak and unable to extend all the way. That puts you at risk for joint pain, strains, and muscle damage.”

And then an excerpt from a 2008 New York Times article says…

“When Duane Knudson, a professor of kinesiology at California State University, Chico, looks around campus at athletes warming up before practice, he sees one dangerous mistake after another. “They’re stretching, touching their toes. . . .” He sighs. “It’s discouraging.” 

Lol…so much drama.

In reality, the answer lies somewhere between.  It’s not the holy grail of fitness, nor is it the work of the devil.

Regarding the harmful effects of stretching, we can go back to a pair of 2008 studies published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning that showed a bout of static stretching decreased performance on jump and sprint tests.  But these effects are likely transient and wash out with further movement.  Also, these performance tests were done immediately after the stretching session, and the overall decrease was marginal.

The best conclusion is that if you’re a competitive power athlete (sprinter or jumper,) holding a long static stretch immediately before you compete isn’t the best idea.  And it would be best to follow up any static stretching with a dynamic warm-up.  

But is it even necessary?

First off, I was a bit surprised to find that 60% of our followers say they enjoy stretching.  To that, I say, “Hell, yeah!”  If you enjoy it, get your stretch on.  I was a semi-pro yoga player back in my day, so I understand the enjoyment one can get out of a good ‘ol stretch session.  It feels pretty good to work on the cobwebs. 

Yet, back to the post, stretching and strength training seem to have the same impact on range of motion.  With the added benefits of strengthening, your time is better spent hitting the weights, especially if the thought of 15-minutes on the stretch machine means you are more likely to miss the entire session.

In conclusion, feel free to skip stretching for the rest of your life. You can be just as happy and as functional even if you can’t do the splits.  The caveat is that your training needs to move through end ranges of motion in multiple planes of motion.  If it’s all heavy, all the time, or only works in a single direction; you’re likely to develop limitations in those ranges and directions that you don’t train.

If Crossover Symmetry does one thing really well, it adds this training effect of strengthening end ranges of movement, this is important for stretchers and non-stretchers alike.  Plus we made sure it’s short and sweet so you’ve got more time to do the stuff you like, whether that’s pretending you’re Gumby or chasing that muscle pump.

Stay strong and nimble!

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