By Scott Forrester | Contributed
Let’s look at two myths that surround the issue of stretching.
Myth #1: Most athletes are very flexible.
Many people believe that flexibility is one of the main tenets of fitness. But did you know that most athletes do not possess nor require excessive ranges of flexibility? Most sports only require a relatively modest amount of flexibility. There are some exceptions and human endeavors of all kind do make requirements which are best met with incremental training in the activities that are important to each of us.
Myth #2: Daily stretching increases muscle length and is necessary to prevent injury.
This has been proven to be untrue.
Research has shown that stretching muscles does not make them longer. This is one of the reasons that to maintain “gains” one must stretch daily because the “gains” are lost very quickly; the muscle wants to return to its normal functional length. Stretching muscles is a dubious way to prevent injury and it is most certainly a way to flirt with serious injury if done too forcefully.
Our forgotten asset in fitness, our brain and our entire nervous system, is actually responsible for our movement. Here is a quick example:
Stand and do only what is the very most comfortable movement of touching your toes with your legs straight. Did you stay within your easiest range?
Now get down on all fours on a comfortable surface and begin to arch your back and look up comfortably toward the ceiling. Then round your back and look between your legs. Make it comfortable and notice how many vertebrae participate. Do your lumbar vertebrae participate easily? Do the vertebrae in the upper back participate?
Do the movement a number of times. Rest for a moment.
Now stand and bend your knees and let your hands and arms hang in front of you. You don’t have to touch the floor. Make sure that you are bending your knees and that your legs are not tending to be straight. Now move your pelvis, arch your back just a little and look slightly up. Now tilt the other way, round your back and look between your legs with your arms hanging in front of you. What happens in the knees when the back rounds and arches gently? Rest in standing.
Now check to see what has happened to the ease of movement of touching your toes. Do it gently, only to notice the improvement. If you have done all of the gently without stretching, you will be able to notice a difference. Don’t be process oriented. Let go of the need to touch the floor and just notice the difference.
You took only a few minutes and did not stretch, yet you learned to integrate the movement of the hamstrings with pelvis and spine. It is the brain that organizes our movement, and when we realize that, then further improvement is always possible. It is learning that makes the change possible.