Does Stretching Improve Flexibility?
Everyone always talks about how stretching/lengthening our tissue (muscles) is the best thing you can do to increase your range of motion and improve flexibility. I don’t agree. A good example would be someone who is in anterior pelvic tilt; about 95% of the population:
In this example, we see a predictive pattern of tight/overactive muscles and weak/inhibited muscles (also called Lower Cross Syndrome).
Tight/Overactive: quadriceps, TFL, psoas (hip flexors)
Weak/Inhibited: hamstrings, glutes, abdominals
Most people like to stretch their hamstrings, cause they always feel “tight,” when in all actuality they’re anything but. Why would you want to stretch an already weak and inhibited muscle? The hamstrings are already lengthened in this scenario (hence why they “feel” tight). By static stretching them, you’re just making them MORE weak and inhibited.
What if I told you that you don’t necessarily need to stretch in order to improve your flexibility? Would you believe me? What if I told you I was voted sexiest personal trainer this side of the Mississippi River by panel of my peers? Would you believe me then? (wink).
I like to get people in the mindset that working on tissue QUALITY is paramount in how they feel overall. We can stretch till the cows come home (I’m from upstate NY, we actually have cows there), but if we don’t take care of all the knots, adhesions, trigger points, and scar tissue that build up in our muscles from all the weight training, running, and daily grind we put them through (even sitting at your computer all day); we’ll never get full range of motion. A great analogy I like to use, is a rubber band.
Suppose I took a band and put a knot in it:
Now I pull the band to emulate stretching, what happens to the knot?
It just gets tighter/smaller. Eventually, the band will break either above or below the knot; kind of like what your muscle does when you strain it. Again, you will NEVER see full range of motion/lengthening in your muscles until you work on tissue quality and getting those knots and trigger points out of there.
Using a foam roller or something as simple as a tennis ball can go a long ways in helping you achieve improved tissue quality. By breaking up all those adhesions, you will automatically improve your flexibility, without even stretching. How you like dem apples?
***Side note: I am in no way saying that static stretching doesn’t have a time and place. In fact, we need MORE stretching (but moreso doing it correctly and in the right areas). But I just wanted to bring light to the fact that people are doing themselves a disservice by not focusing on tissue quality as well and including more soft tissue work into their daily routines.