Jan 17 2014
When I worked at LA Fitness, walking through the stretch area was akin to visiting an open plan torture chamber. Yank, yank, yank on this, two seconds on that and 15 minutes on your hamstrings. Then a disheartened huff and off for a shower, thinking ‘why do stretches? I…
When I worked at LA Fitness, walking through the stretch area was akin to visiting an open plan torture chamber. Yank, yank, yank on this, two seconds on that and 15 minutes on your hamstrings. Then a disheartened huff and off for a shower, thinking ‘why do stretches? I never seem to get any more range?’
Currently I see at least three clients a week who are just looking to improve their flexibility through our stretch therapy, nothing else. Here are a few tips I always offer them:
1 Understand no muscle works in isolation.
The best way to think of muscles when it comes to flexibility is as rubber bands. Each band attaches to a fixed point, your bone. If one of these bands is tight it will pull on said bone and if tight enough, move its orientation. This then makes the muscles that attach to this point slack, or ‘tighter’. This is one way you can relate having poor lower body flexibility with shoulder pain. If one muscle is particularly uncomfortable for you and almost feels blocked when your try and stretch it, look at the joint most adjacent to it.
A prime example: if you have shoulder pain don’t look at your shoulder. Although an oversimplification, you probably have tight anterior muscles and slack back muscles. Simply stretching your chest won’t readdress this balance, as more than one muscle moves the joint.
2 Don’t only rely solely on yoga
Yoga is not a form of exercise or flexibility training, but a spiritual practice or discipline with a view to attain a state of permanent peace. It was never meant to be bastardised by health club chains and given a premium lunchtime slot.
A muscle cannot stretch under tension. Perform this quick test, “bend your right arm and tense your bicep hard, keep it tense, now try and use your left hand to straighten it. It will not move much at all. So, if you are in a standing pose where your hamstring is meant to be stretched it won’t happen. The length that you may be getting is through your ligament and tendons. This is not the result you should be looking for as you do not want to deform your connective tissue as it makes your joint unstable and prone to injury.
3 Flexibly must be a priority
Like getting strong or losing weight, flexibility takes time and effort. If you don’t maintain it, unfortunately you’ll go backwards. I’ve heard it said that for every hour you spend in the gym, you should spend an hour stretching. I think this is a little excessive but I would recommend minimum 3:1 ratio, strength to flexibility for preventative means. Poor flexibility is like pulling a suitcase with a sticky wheel. It’s irritating and makes you move along an unusual path to get to where you want to go. Now you can either oil the wheel (stretch), or leave it, ultimately leading to a wheel that gets jammed shut (arthritic or calcified). This is not a matter of if, but when. Take time to take care of yourself.
If you’d like a flexibility assessment, or have any flexibility questions please email us at email@example.com