Here I share a few excerpts from The Big Book of Health and Fitness, by renowned researcher and clinician Phil Maffetone. (The chapter is titled “The hidden dangers of stretching”):
“It’s astounding that such huge numbers of people, young and old, athletes and those out of shape, have bought into the notion that stretching is a good idea. This view is widely held despite little, if any, scientific information demonstrating that static stretching is beneficial for most individuals, especially in the way it’s usually done. As a matter of fact, there’s quite a bit of evidence showing that stretching is harmful.”
“Clinicians who evaluated muscle function in athletes observed one outstanding factor: Stretching a muscle could make it longer, the reason it increases flexibility—and this resulted in a reduction in the muscle’s function due to a loss of power. In other words, stretching caused abnormal inhibition—a neurological name referring to a less-efficient longer moving muscle.”
“Most ligament, joint, and other physical ailments are usually secondary to muscle imbalance, which consists of a tight muscle and a loose one—you usually feel the tight one as tension or pain while its cause is a weak muscle. Treatment of these problems must be directed at the cause—the weakness—not the tightness.”
Stretching is an example of shifting the burden. Answer in the comments if you can figure out why.
Also, I’d like to hear what you have to say about stretching: why do you like it? why do you dislike it?
The conversation about stretching will be a recurring theme here on this blog; settling this issue and continuing on to train in the right way is, in my opinion, one of the most important changes we can make to the “typical” training routine.
AN IMPORTANT CAVEAT: The do’s and don’ts of correct stretching for typical athletes do not apply for the people who need an increased range of motion (RoM), such as dancers, gymnasts and martial artists. That said, the commonly-held ones don’t apply either.
UPDATE: In future posts, I’ll be discussing the issue of stretching in a very detailed manner. There are certain strength exercises that aggressively increase RoM—especially hip RoM—but I’ll get into those once I’ve posted about the biomechanic details of stretching (and of how to develop “real” RoM).
Given the excerpts I shared above, it’s extremely important that we approach stretching from an deeply informed perspective. Actually, it’s not just important. It’s critical that we do so, for the sake of our musculoskeletal system.
3 thoughts on “The beginning of a conversation on stretching”
Uff Ivan, this post and the one from today (biomechanic issue), you really got into me… There are two things that I truly enjoy as I get to truly unplug and at the some time connect with my own system: running and yoga. I find both activities to be highly complimentary and very systemic. While in running you need to listen and sense your body to create a compass with the physical movement and your own breathing, in order to create a coordinated symphony; in yoga the deep breaths become the connection with each flow of movement, where everything’s connected and aligned, with the space you’re in, your surroundings, the people next to you, your inner self and the incentive of getting closer to mastering another asana… Thank you for the inspiration 😉
Thanks Marisol! You’re totally right about yoga and running. They’re highly complimentary, especially if your goals are health and longevity.
A lot of the mental characteristics that you develop in yoga you also need for running, especially those that have to do with the timing and consistency of your thoughts, and your mental alignment to your body.
They are complimentary in many more ways too…in very deep, biological (and systemic ways). I think that a lot of people are curious about the combination of yoga-running, so I’ll definitely devote a lot of discussion to this on the blog.
Thanks for reading!