Stretching and mobility work seem to get a bad rap around certain parts of the strength community. I'm sure this is due, in part, to the over-saturation of stretching and the much exalted "prehab" in nearly every facet of the modern health and fitness world. This post is to make a case for the when/why of using techniques like these to save you time and discomfort while not detracting from your gains.
We've been told to stretch all the time: in PE, before AND after running/walking, when you get out of bed, in the middle of a day long office meeting, before during AND after your workout. I'm sure we all get the point.
Or do we?
The over-use of stretching and mobility, (There are even coaches and companies whose sole focus is mobility!), shows that we may not really understand the purpose of stretching. Is the market being saturated with BS techniques that serve no value to the average person? Or is the average individual now in such a predicament to need what seems remedial to the popular strong folks of our time?
Being so prevalent, it's lost its value to those who have been egged on to stretch, but they receive ZERO benefit from the effort. Those of us who specialize in strength tend to opt out of pre-stretching because it would in fact loosen up the joints and muscles, a detrimental effect prior to a strength or "resistance" training session where the tension held in the body is needed to move the load. There's also the time factor of having 30 minutes of a training session be dedicated to stretching before any of the main work of the session has been. Watch out for programming that claims to have a certain effect without prioritizing the kind of work to cause it. That being said, stretching wouldn't be a bad idea after a session. The muscles have indeed worked hard and if you're staying within A/C controlled spaces, making sure your muscles properly relax and recover afterwards is key to long term well-being of your body.
Myofascial release is a related technique that has also been getting some shine in this arena. Foam rolling, massage, and sitting on tennis balls are all the rage. These techniques work via the application of pressure to various points of a muscle to loosen it and restore normal range of motion, relieve pain, and potentially more effects depending on the person and their situation. This can be a life-saving technique for those who actually need to loosen up, but saying that everyone should foam every time they set foot in your gym is definitely overkill. It's more suitable to use on recovery days or working through rehabbing a muscle that just won't relax.
Generally speaking if there is no dysfunctional movement, pain, or limited ranges of motion, then it's safe to say that you don't need to stretch. On the flip side, if you have too much of any of those ailments, you probably need a good chiropractor or physician. A good chiropractor will x-ray and examine your physical structure to pinpoint what they need to adjust. Great ones like Dr. Dave Kellenberger of Chiropractic Memphis will help you learn how to do your own maintenance between visits so you're good to live your best life.
Stretching and myofascial release, like most of one's fitness endeavors should be tailored to the individual's needs and situation. Work closely with your coach or doctor to keep an eye on your progress and how you feel. A great professional is one that takes that into account to keep you on track to your best self. A good strength coach should also be able to help you not only access your full range of motion, but to improve your strength and quality of movement as a result.
If you're uptight and frustrated with your lack of movement, hit us up and we'll help you get big and strong!