If you’ve been to Fitness Evolved for more than one session or class, you’ve likely noticed that we don’t do a lot of stretching. Is there a reason for this? Is stretching bad? Are we just lazy? Well, there’s an answer for each of those questions that requires a little more explanation than just the one word answer you’d expect. Is there a reason for not stretching? Yes, and actually, there are many. Everything that happens in the human body is happening for a reason. Very rarely (though it does happen sometimes) is there a muscle that is actually physically too short and needs to be “lengthened.” If a muscle is “shortened” or tight, we’ve found that it’s most often a mapping or “threat” issue in the brain. Muscles’ #1 job is to control/protect joints. If our joints are compromised, our mobility and therefore our “survival” is compromised. When the map in our brain for a particular joint is foggy, unclear, or “missing,” muscles that control that joint or area will tighten and guard to protect that joint. Most often, if you can mobilize the joint and clarify the map, those muscles will relax and function more normally. Pulling on a partially contracted muscle typically causes some low level muscle damage, can actually cause a decrease in muscular performance, and doesn’t usually get to the root of the problem- the map. We’ve found time and again that the most common cause of tight muscles is either poor mapping in joints or muscles or there is a lack of strength. Is Stretching Bad? Stretching itself is not bad. It can be very useful, and has been used for decades for a reason. The problem with stretching is that it is time consuming and very often misapplied. To get the best results with stretching, you should have a pretty good knowledge of your muscular anatomy. Generally pulling on a group of muscles typically doesn’t have enough “specificity” for the brain to pay full attention and allow results to last longer than a few minutes. “Are they loose yet?” You can, however, get great results if you know your anatomy and are able to gently stretch a muscle until it releases- remember, you’re not pulling on just muscles, which are elastic. You’re also pulling on a large bundle of nerves, which aren’t! Most often we pull too hard and tend to “beat it into submission” only to have the tension return almost immediately. Stretching does feel good, and there is a time and a place for it- typically as a recovery or rehabilitation tool. Are we Just Lazy? Well, you can kind of make that argument. We’re not necessarily lazy, but we’re trying to be as efficient as possible. All muscles and joints have receptors that send movement signals to the brain to help feed the map. More receptors live in joints than muscles. Movement signals travel from the joints to the brain at 300mph- very quickly. The noxious signal (the “pulling hurt” feeling) from stretching a muscle travels 5mph. Movement is always faster and higher payoff than slow and static. We are beings who are designed to move! Intently moving a joint can send more signals for better mapping, release a muscle, as well as prepare the body to move (by moving!) in just a few seconds. Stretching typically includes a static 30 second hold for each muscle group followed by a 5-10 minute warm up. Is getting more done in less time with less required work lazy or is it efficient? There is a time and a place for stretching- usually after a work out, on a recovery day, or during rehab. It’s definitely a useful and effective tool when used appropriately. But there are newer, more efficient techniques that can get the job done more efficiently and completely.


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