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And stretching - good or bad?

Mobility vs flexibility


Much has been written about the benefits & hazards of stretching. It is a complex and somewhat controversial area.


In simple terms , dynamic stretching is appropriate prior to exercise. Put the joints and limbs through a functional range of movement , using bodyweight and gravity and muscle power – think callisthenics.


In general terms , though a stereotyped behaviour familiar to us all, there is no point in static stretching before exercise. It may tear muscles and has been shown to hinder subsequent athletic performance.


Having said that , a brief whole body stretch (the best is the
upward dog/downward dog movement) first thing in the morning or after prolonged immobility will activate your body for movement. How often do you see an animal going thorugh a complicated series of stretches? We are fundamentally animals ; we should follow their instinctive beahviour!


When your muscles are properly warmed up , you can stretch…but by & large, if you exercise properly and reset your body with kettlebells it is unnecessary...unless you are ambitious and wish to achieve above average flexibility. Or , if you are a true athlete you need to stem the patterns of muscle tightness that accompany frequent  maximal muscle exertions.


Static stretching should be performed when muscles are warm and the body and mind relaxed , i.e. at the end of a training session. Too much static stretching will result in muscle , tendon or ligament tears , overly long muscles and stretched joint ligaments/capsules – the opposite of what you are trying to achieve , namely a strong , resilient but elastic musculoskeletal system.


Contract-relax stretching is an advanced system which can result in safe , rapid gains in flexibility , recognising that extreme flexibility is not a goal in itself. It relies on retraining the muscle and tendon stretch reflexes to accept a greater range of motion than the body has become accustomed to.


In general terms , the concept of relax into stretch , as popularised by Pavel Tsatsouline will take you far. You need to overcome the fear that active stretching of a muscle e.g. hamstring , which feels tight or sore will cause that muscle to tear. It won’t! The muscle is tight because it has forgotten how to be loose! You can re-educate the muscle i.e. what is “acceptable” in a particular range of movement. If you tense up it is impossible to make gains , BUT with deep breathing you can teach the muscle to rela…xxx and restore your body to its youthful , uninhibited , natural  state. It just takes a few deep breaths , practise and a leap of faith.  Yoga relies heavily on this form of stretching.


Learn to improve flexibility with :

Relax into Stretch

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