Why doesn't stretching work?

I'm going to talk about something very controversial...I think you should stop stretching the way you're stretching. 

Ever stretch really good only to find the next day you're tight again? You just keep repeating the same thing and you never achieve flexibility? Why? 

I'll tell you...you're trying to become flexible and that almost never works. You should be aiming to become more mobile. What's the difference?

Flexibility is the ability to stretch out in a relaxed way to the extreme range you can get. 

Mobility is the ability to use your own muscles to the extreme range you can get using your own strength. 

Flexibility would be trying to touch your toes and holding it there while you're relaxed. Mobility would be able to be in that position and be strong. 

Most people think that if they stretch their hamstrings, that they'll be more "loose" and the muscle will be "longer." 

The reality is that when you do stretching, the results are TEMPORARY and the structure of the muscle DOES NOT get longer, but rather your brain will allow the body to be more flexible.  Without that new flexibility also having strength in the muscle at that new length, the results will be short lived. Reciprocal inhibition stretching known as PNF stretching has the same results. 

The new theory of stretching that seems to work with longer lasting results is based upon that stretching is really a neural (brain) adaptation. In simple terms, by stretching repeatedly, your central nervous system “allows” the ROM to occur. So this is why you have to stretch a lot, everyday. If the brain thinks that a certain joint motion or a certain amount of flexibility is dangerous to the joint, IT WILL NOT ALLOW THIS RANGE FOR THE LONG TERM. 

Is there a better way?


As our range of motion increases, we need to have STRENGTH in those ranges of motion. Flexibility without strength is the definition of instability. We don't want joints to be unstable. We want strong, stable joints. 

So how we do this is with isometric contractions in BOTH directions. We use maximal isometric contractions rather than sub maximal so taht  we can increase the muscle’s ability to function at the end range. Issometric contractions have been shown to increase strength at that specific angle +/- 10 deg. 

You have to use specific and safe positions to do these stretches. Standing and bending forward is not a safe position. It requires demonstration, but just know that it feels like a workout. 

When you do this, all those isometric contractions are going to teach the BRAIN that this is a safe range of motion that can feel STABLE. The brain likes that. It then allows this to occur. 

The results are amazingly long lasting. It requires less frequent stretching and better long term results. I'll eventually make some videos and put them on youtube/facebook, but for now, I'll be showing this in my office.