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Have you ever stopped to wonder why you stretch? Usually if asked we say we stretch to make sure our muscles don’t get tight. This isn’t wrong but it goes a bit further. If we just accept muscles shouldn’t be too tight then there is no real sense of urgency to solidify a good flexibility routine. In this article we will help you understand why flexibility is necessary to your body and how to properly go about stretching.
First, there are a lot of different ways to stretch. You can do moving stretches (dynamic), self-massage type stretches (SMR), holding stretches (static), and more. A good general rule of thumb is you want to do your dynamic (or moving) stretches before your workout, and your static (holding) stretching after. You can use the SMR (self-massage) before and after. There are exceptions to this rule if you are static stretching an over-active muscle, but let’s understand the why a bit more and then revisit this rule of thumb.
According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, flexibility is simply described as the ability to move a joint through its complete range of motion. The range of motion of a joint is dictated by the extensibility of the soft tissues surrounding it. Having poor flexibility leads to poor and altered joint motions, and altered joint motions always lead to an injury somewhere down the line. This is why it’s important to include stretching as part of a well-balanced lifestyle.
Our bodies have a series of overactive and underactive muscles that we acquire throughout our lives. The muscles become over active and underactive because of things like modern day shoes, chairs, bags, injuries, and more. The issue with most stretching or flexibility routines are that they do not address the specifics of the individual, or bio individuality as we like to call it.
The best way to understand your body’s imbalances is to have a fitness professional give you a movement screening or if you would rather, you can do a basic self-assessment. This is a critical first step so don’t skip it!
It's like the foundational survey of a house. Before you can build a solid and safe home built for longevity, you would be wise to make sure the foundation of your lot is conditioned enough to handle the build. The assessment is a survey of the land to determine what needs to be done to get it into building shape. If you skip this step and your foundation was weak, you will most certainly see some stress cracks in your walls, and no one can tell you how bad the cracks might be. The point being that you have to know your imbalances before you can fix them, and move on safely. Stand with normal posture in front of a mirror.
Perform 5 squats keeping an eye on your knees and ankles. Next, turn to the side and perform 5 more squats keeping an eye on your hips. If your feet flatten, knees fall into the midline of your body, or your back arches see table 1. If your shoulders shrug up, you get a hunch back, or you can’t keep your chest up see table 2. If you see all of the above happening consider all of the tables for your flexibility routine. We would recommend that you stop your normal workout routine until you can stop these movement patterns.
|Pre-Workout: Roll Out||Dynamic:||Post Workout: Static|
|Calf 45 Seconds||X-Stance Hinges: 5 each||Seiza: 45 Seconds|
|Pre-Workout: Roll Out||Dynamic:||Post Workout: Static|
|Traps 45 Seconds||Shoulder Openers with chin waves: 10 total||Neck Stretch: 45 Seconds|
Keep in mind that this is a general self-assessment only analyzing your lower body one way, and will always be more accurate if a fitness professional does an assessment for you. When you are dealing with tight muscles (short) you will almost always have muscles that are loose (long), the name of the game in a nutshell is to lengthen(relax) the short, and shorten(strengthen) the long. Yes, Strengthening is part of “stretching.” Having balanced muscles length and tension helps aid to proper joint motion and human movement. With this said add your flexibility routine in daily. If you are adding this to your workout do the roll out and dynamic stretch before your start your normal routine, and add the static stretch to your cool down. You will want to re asses yourself every 2 weeks to see if your squat has changed and is more comfortable. If you need help with your movement assessment and want a custom flexibility routine set up for you, please contact Lifestyle Athlete.
The Lifestyle Athlete Team
-Mdrive Nutrition Coaches
"Train like an athlete, heal like a hippie, always trust your gut"
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