Physical Types of Stretches
Limiting stretches to their physical aspects and leaving the connection between the mind and body through neuromuscular control or the effects of nutrition including hydration is not productive.
However, to be effective, we need to focus our attention, and here we focus on only the physical types of stretches.
Stretching process has two basic aspects. The first relates to joint mobility. For example, correct hamstring stretch is focused on hip flexion without engaging the spine.
The woman in the image below retains a firm posture and only hinges at the hips.
In contrast, the man, having difficulty with hip flexion incorporates a spinal flexion that you can see in his rounded back and kinked neck.
Neither the woman or the man feel the flexion in the joint.
They both feel the second aspect of stretch in their lengthening of the hamstring muscle.
Focusing on the how the muscle feels and losing the ability to control the joint creates three major problems.
- Harmful stress the wrong areas of the body
- The illusion of flexibility
- Stops real progress that effects positive results
In the same image, you would notice how the man is stressing his lower back. Through practice, he can quickly round the back even more and reach his toes without any impact on the hamstring.
Reaching his toes with a rounded back provides an illusion of flexibility.
The necessary progress in restoring length-tension relationships in his hamstring does not happen with that illusion in place. His “stretching technique” creates a weak back and neck that are susceptible to injury, and his still inflexible hip joint will create additional stress on his knees.
An effective stretch focuses on the safe joint mobility first, reducing the activation signals traveling to the muscles second and lengthening the muscle third.
The techniques below only cover the lengthening techniques, and they assume you are aware of the first two steps and have taken them.
I don’t assume anything. That is why there are links for you along with videos to learn about the other two steps.
Static stretching, as the name implies, is without motion. The typical length of time recommended for holding a static stretch position is around thirty seconds. There are studies that show holding these positions for more than a minute will help you retain results.
Remember that your muscles do not have a stopwatch and your body is not a case study.
In my classes, I asked clients to focus on “release.” This is a sensation of relative comfort that flows into the body as it relaxes during the stretch. This sensation usually comes at 30 seconds to 40 seconds of holding the proper stretch posture.
The anecdotal evidence from martial arts with high kicks and dance indicates these stretches to be both effective and necessary to reach flexibility and retain it.
There is a controversy as to their effects on other sports. The roots of these controversy are usually misapplication or incorrect timing o of these types of stretches that fall under misunderstanding the principle of specificity.