The “Art” of Stretching.
We’ve all been hearing about it for decades.
The average gym goer, veteran runner, health coach and personal trainer is constantly told stretching is a great way to increase flexibility and decrease chance of injury.
But what are you stretching?
Are you stretching muscle? Ligament? Nerves? Or maybe blood vessels? How do you know exactly what it is you are stretching and to what extent?
What if, over time your ligaments are becoming weak due to all this passive stretching. You, in fact, be could be ruining the integrity of your joints by performing these movements!
Ligaments are amazing tissues. They hold bone to bone and stabilise your joints.
These structures, when stretched overtime, can loosen and the structural integrity of a joint may weaken.
How does this happen?
Adding force to these structures externally may cause their shape to alter and “stretch”.
If a ligament becomes stretched or torn, the joint it is holding may be more prone to dislocation and instability.
Another tissue that helps with stability is muscle.
When do ever want your muscles to not be ready to handle load? Simply walking creates load on a muscle.
A muscle works best when it’s contracted and ready for load.
The job of a muscle is to pull a joint into a specific position, like the quadriceps pulling the tibia and fibula into extension.
The idea of passive stretching is to relax and elongate these tissues. But these tissues work better when they are “tight”, contacted.
If passive stretching releases “tightness” on these tissues, what happens?
They become relaxed and therefore unstable.
Would it be beneficial to relax these muscles and cause instability before exercise or activity? Probably not.
So next time someone tells you to stretch, it might be a good idea to ask them what the purpose of the stretch is and if it will hinder, cause instability to the joint and the joints integrity, and how do we know exactly what it is that “stretches” along with the muscle?
Do the perceived benefits outweigh the potential costs?
Think about this next time you decide to stretch.