If you want to increase flexibility, stay limber, mobile and healthy then “stretching” is a favorite the world over for all of these, but…exactly HOW should you be stretching?
If you’ve been hanging out with me here at Mobility Mastery for any length of time then you’re probably aware that I’m not a fan of static stretching (going into a linear stretch and holding it for an extended period of time). In fact I adamantly oppose it for most people most of the time. This is because taking “cold” muscles into intense stretches and forcing all your tissues to stay lengthened greatly increases the chances those same tissues will resist being pulled on, which means risking micro tears, stretch reflexes and generally doing more harm than good.
The potential benefits of static stretching simply aren’t worth the risks (in my opinion). Besides…there are FAR BETTER ways to stretch that not only yield better results for increasing flexibility and range of motion but have nearly zero potential for harm if performed correctly.
So what’s the BEST method of stretching?
My personal favorite way to stretch is called PNF stretching. PNF stands for proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation.
In the above video I talk about the basic principles behind PNF and show you a simple PNF stretching routine for 4 basic muscle groups: quads, hamstrings, calves and chest. Instructions for specific stretches starts at 2:37.
Why do you want to stretch? Is it for sport specific reasons like being a gymnast or dancer?
Are you trying to stretch your way out of pain?
Do you simply want to maintain healthy muscles and range of motion?
All of the above?
If you’re at all unsure of your WHY then please go read my three part series on the differences between fascial restriction and flexibility issues. Start with Part I by clicking here.
If you’re in pain PLEASE DON’T TRY TO STRETCH YOUR WAY OUT.
I advocate fascial release (or addressing muscle and nerve inhibition) for most pain issues from head to toe. I NEVER recommend stretching as a way to get out of pain.
The reason this is my personal (and professional) preferred way to stretch is because it engages muscles and fascia (and other fancy worded things like golgi tendons) in such a way that it fatigues all the tissues (muscle inhibition), including attachments, allowing for the greatest range of motion (lengthening) without the risk of a strain or stretch reflex. Put quite simply, the tissues relax and do not resist the stretch, making this a very safe way to increase gains in flexibility.
You can use this method on ANY muscle group in the body, though typically it is used on major muscles like quads, hamstrings, calves, pecs etc.
The HOW TO’s are in the video.
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