Sit And Reach. Touch Toes. Do Some Relaxed Stretching To Gain Flexibility, Right?
Not so fast…
Many people are stretching in this manner to acquire more flexibility,a simple sit and reach toward the toes, for example. Or bending over and trying to touch the ground, or in most peoples case, their knees since they cannot reach the ground anymore.
Some even use this relaxed and passive stretching before sporting events and activites which has been shown to be detrimental to performance. Others use it as a means to prevent injury, kick higher, feel looser, and a plethora of other reasons.
Passive Stretching Can Lead To An Injury.
How so? Here are the issues with flexibility gained though the use of passive stretching:
It Requires A Warm Up.
To demonstrate and use the passive flexibility, it requires a warm up. You will not be able to utilize your flexibility in this case unless the conditions are optimal. Your body must be warm, the weather cannot be too cold, your central nervous system must be tuned up, and more. This does not sound very liberating or practical, does it? What is the point of being flexible if you have to fulfill all these conditions before it can even help you?
It Doesn’t Create Strength In The New Range Of Motion.
So you used passive stretching, you created a new range of motion for your limb or body to go into, but what happens when your body is forced in to that position? What happens when you have good middle split flexibility, but then one day, you slip on a puddle and fall into the middle split without a warm up, without a warm temperature, and without warning? Ouch, is right.
For this exact reason, I would rather be a naturally strong and immobile athlete than a naturally mobile and weak athlete. The weak athlete has no strength to resist force in the range of motion that is forced upon them. The result is a sudden entry into that range that they are not prepared for which leads to injury.
It Is Detrimental To Certain Athletic Performances.
Studies show that passive stretching should not be done before max effort activities like sprinting, jumping, weightlifting and the like. Why? It is detrimental to them. Simply try to hold a five minute sit and reach stretch then go try your hundred meter dash. You will notice decreased performance. This ties back into creating a new range but not having strength and rigidity in that range when needed. Ironically, I use passive stretching as a way to wind down someone’s central nervous system and help them go to sleep!
So What Is The Better Alternative? Loaded Stretching.
Loaded stretching is a method of stretching I learned from the Ido Portal Method, Yuri Marmerstein, and the Poliquin Group that uses resistance, such as a weight, body weight, or a partner, to put your body into a stretch while also having to resistance. This builds both strength and flexibility in the stretched position. This allows us to gain many benefits over passive stretching that include:
Strength In The Stretched Position.
Stretches with resistance build strength in the stretched position which means avoiding the earlier mentioned problems written above. Take that same middle split mentioned earlier and once again apply some weight or resistance to it. If the middle split was built through loaded stretching, it will be more capable of handling that load which means less chance for injury when we are forced into that position.
Flexibility Gained By Loaded Stretching Requires No Warm Up.
Remember how passive stretching needed all those various circumstances like a warm up to be useful? Loaded stretching does not have that issue because it builds strength in the position being stretched. A body that is strong in a range will have no problem entering that range unlike a body that is weak in that position and must enter the stretch gradually.
For opening up new ranges of motion for your body, loaded stretching is a much superior tool than passive stretching.
Be sure to check out our other blog posts for more tools and techniques to better your athletic and martial arts training.