It usually comes as a MAJOR surprise to most when we tell them that they are not strong enough in their stretches.
“Huh, you have to be strong in your stretches?” we hear in reply.
The rest of the response usually sounds something like this:
“Aren’t stretching and strength opposites and unrelated?”
“Isn’t stretching meant to be easy?”
“Stretching is all about relaxation though….right?”
The answer to these is actually quite simple – what use is extra range of motion if you’re not functionally strong enough to use it?
Put in simpler terms – why are you stretching at all if it has no carry-over use or application?
If you’re wondering why your stretching is going nowhere for you, then you should be starting to get an inkling as to why.
In fact, there are a number of things people do in the gym with their strength training that they fail to apply to their flexibility work.
Here are the biggest stretching sins relating to strength that most people are guilty of:
1) Not using strength when stretching
Most people fail to get any progress in range of motion because they treat stretching like a mindless activity and are they’re way too passive. They ‘hope’ and ‘wish’ for their bodies to magically relax all the time and drop into deeper and deeper ranges of motion without any applied effort.
For instance, if you are trying to increase your hamstring flexibility, you shouldn’t be passively waiting to ‘fall’ further into range – you should be actively contracting your opposing muscle groups (such as the hip flexors) to pull yourself into position:
2) Not contracting the muscles involved
Just like in the gym, you need to be actively contracting muscles when you stretch. Most people don’t know how to properly execute contract-relax stretching techniques to overcome their nervous system and the various stretch reflexes nullifying their flexibility. Contrasting between contracting and relaxing the muscles involved will greatly improve your flexibility. In fact, big contractions coupled with big relaxations are the key to significant progress in range of motion and functionality
3) Avoiding specific and intense stretching exercises
Doing a standing quad stretch will not get you into a front split anytime soon – period! This is a major and hugely common mistake. To get into intense positions like the splits, you will need to do more intense stretches.
Your selection of exercises must also be specific – doing calf stretches won’t get you into a split any time soon. The closer the stretch resembles the final position, the better.
4) Lack of repetitions and repeats sets
Just as you need a certain amount of volume and repetitions of an exercise in the gym to get stronger and grow from it, so too you need multiple sets, reps and exposure to your stretches in order to get better at them and increase your range of motion.
Doing a 30-second hold here and there for a few various stretches will not do ANYTHING towards improving your flexibility.
If you are doing 3 sets of exercises in the gym, you should be doing 3 sets of stretches (minimum) for the same muscle groups. If you are doing a certain number of repetitions for your strength exercises, you should be doing an equal or greater number of repetitions of mobility exercises – you get the point.
5) Not strengthening the range
Just as you learn new exercise variations and get stronger at them at the gym, you also need to strengthen your new ranges of motions and stretching progressions. A failure to both attain and retain flexibility, usually stems from not training the body and the nervous system to be comfortable and strong in the new and unfamiliar positions you are stretching into. This is important not only from a progress viewpoint but also from an injury prevention perspective too. ‘Weak and vulnerable’ are words often used in the same sentence for very good reason.
Are you guilty of any number of these sins? Chances are that you are struggling to make progress because of any one or number of these.
If you’re serious about getting some atonement for these inequities (i.e. answers), then reach out to one of our expert coaches today.
Get clarity around where you’re going wrong, change course, and start progressing with your flexibility efforts.
Or you can choose to remain inflexible, rigid, and ultimately frustrated with your lack of functionality -the choice is all yours.
To get in touch with us to fast-track your flexibility, your body, and your health, simply fill in your details below and one of our expert coaches will get in touch with you about your specific problems and how might be best to solve these.