Why You May Not Need To Stretch Anymore

Sunday morning I woke up and could not turn my head to the left, which was perfect seeing how I was about to coach our free charity bootcamp and have a two hour golf lesson. I felt like Derek Zoolander, not because I have only one look (I have 5-6 including magnum and blue steel), but because I couldn’t turn left without having physical pain. I’ve been working on my flexibility a ton as of late, so the growing question of “why” this happened in the first place began frustrating the hell out of me.

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I texted back and forth with my chiropractor on why this happened in the first place, and we came to the realization that sometimes you just get injured. The first and most important fact is accepting the fact that you’re injured, and going from there. The second is realizing that we can still workout and get closer to our goals.

So, I worked out, and what happened next was what influenced this blog. It was a moment of clarity, and it’s why I tell most of my clients to still come to train even when they’re injured.

There is no research anywhere that people who perform better in flexibility tests are less likely to ever have any injury in their entire life. There is, however, tons of research that if you perform well on various flexibility tests you will have less of a chance of getting injured DURING A SPECIFIC SPORT. But to say flexible people don’t get injured at all is a load of crap.

To demonstrate why you may not need flexibility, a clarification on what flexibility is and is not must be made.

 

What is flexibility?

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Flexibility is a measure of range of motion for a particular joint. It has nothing to do with your body’s control of that range of motion (which is called “mobility”) nor which muscles anatomically are most responsible for that specific range of motion. For example, if you can “stretch” your hamstrings causing a large range of motion at the hip, it may not be because the actual hamstring muscle itself can lengthen. You can read more on stretching with last week’s blog HERE.

Why do we need flexibility?

 

Old school train of thought is that if you are flexible, you will not get injured. This could be true, to an extent, but what influences how “flexible” you are is dependent on mobility and stability. Joint stability is the quality of resistance to movement by the muscle tissues that surround a joint. If you don’t have joint stability in the right places, your body will start looking at joint that should be more mobile for stability. This is why core stability training is so important for flexibility in your hips and thoracic spine.

 

Why don’t we need flexibility?

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As I was going through my warm up which starts with static stretching, then mobility, and finally stability, I realized why my neck was killing me. As I was doing my rotator cuff stability drills (cable shoulder external rotations, Ys Ts Ws, and kettlebell arm bars) I realized how unstable my left shoulder was.

 

I didn’t need flexibility because flexibility entails as much range of motion at a joint by any means necessary. We need joints to be able to move through a large and CONTROLLED range of motion to stay injury free and to perform better. If your movement is restricted, you need CONTROLLED range of motion, otherwise known as MOBILITY. As I mentioned before, if you have no stability, you’ll have no mobility. Creating joint stability in the knees, hips, core, and shoulder girld is imperative to have proper mobility. Otherwise, your body will decrease mobility in adjacent joints in order to control movement better (or so your body thinks so).

 

In conclusion:

 

  • Mobility is much more important than flexibility for injury prevention and performance
  • If you have no stability in your joints, you will never have any mobility
  • You may not need to stretch your hamstrings as much as you need to have more core stability!

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