Is Stretching for Fools?

“No matter how much I stretch, my hamstrings are always so tight!”

It’s uncanny how many times I’ve heard this statement in the clinic regarding the hamstrings or another muscle group. If these people are doing the right thing by stretching, why does this tightness persist?

Stretching has been the bread and butter management strategy for muscle tightness since Paris hit Achilles in the ankle with an arrow back in 1200 B.C. and told him to ‘stretch it out’.

Unfortunately it didn’t work for Achilles and perhaps we have also been doing the wrong thing when it comes to dealing with chronic muscle tightness.

achilles

“But Coach Peterson told me to stretch all the time!” Hear me out little Jimmy, stretching still has a role which I’ll explain a bit later.

Ideally what we need to address is our posture and the way we move. ‘Tight hamstrings’ for instance, often occur in populations who sit for long periods such as office workers. Sitting places the muscles in a shortened position, and over time the body adapts by shortening the hamstrings.

Similar adaptive changes occur when we repetitively move in an inefficient manner. Walking or running with your feet angled out slightly often results in buttock tightness for example, as the muscles in the region are constantly being loaded in a shortened position.

Resolving this problem not only means relief from the discomfort but also drastically reduces the opportunity for injury to occur, such as muscle strains and tears. Furthermore, performance will improve for those involved in sports.

So what’s the solution?

  • Determine the root of the problem – i.e. what movements or postures are you performing frequently in a compromised position.
  • Restore the muscles and joints to normal length and mobility. This is achieved by; massage techniques, joint mobilisations and stretching.
  • Correct the deficient movement pattern or posture. This may require; video analysis of running technique or assessment by your coach or health professional.

Simply put, if you are always tight in an area think, what positions or movements am I carrying out poorly? Then address the affected tissues and optimise the movement.

If you have any questions or would like to voice your opinion on the topic, post in the forum below!

“You can never conquer the mountain. You can only conquer yourself.”
— Jim Whittaker

By Andrew Cammarano

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