The way to become more flexible is based on stretching. However, stretching is just one part of the equation that creates flexibility. Flexibility and stretching have a process, and it is not just about trying to pull your muscles apart.
These three techniques will instantly increase your range of motion and flexibility without needing to stretch and stretch for success.
The name is just technical. It simply means holding the stretch of your muscle’s tension for 7-10 seconds. After 7-10 seconds, your proprioceptors adjust by relaxing the muscle to stretch further.
Many times, stretching is aimlessly performed, overstretching and forcing a muscle to go beyond its capabilities. This is how injury occurs.
If you simply stretch your muscle and hold it when you feel the tension barrier for 7 seconds, after 7 seconds, it will innately stretch further. And if you repeat this process a few times, your stretch and flexibility will enhance naturally without force.
However, overstretching or forcing a stretch on a muscle is like trying to put a round peg in a square hole. It does not fit. And the more you try to force it in, the more damage you will do. Furthermore, if you try to force a stretch on a tight muscle rather than following the process, it will tighten more to protect itself. You will be working against the system rather than initiating it.
Reciprocal Inhibition works based on feedback, a reflex, from the opposing muscle—for example, your glutes and quads, your quads and hamstrings, or your back and chest, etc.
- If you contract your quads, it sends a reflex signal to relax and stretch your hamstrings.
- If you contract your glutes, the same goes for your quads.
- If you contract your back muscles, the same for your chest.
The contraction and shortening of a muscle signal the opposite muscle to stretch.
In addition, you can see how reciprocal inhibition is used to strengthen muscles to align and stabilize your joints so that you can move correctly. For example, if your glutes become weak, your quads become tight, causing your hips to tilt forward. Therefore, you can stretch your quads day in and day out and never become flexible. Only until the glutes become stronger will the quads be more pliable, and your hips return to a neutral position. That is reciprocal inhibition.
Breathing into the Stretch
When you inhale into the stretch, your muscles contract, and when you exhale, your muscles relax. As you repeat the breathing cycle of inhalation and exhalation through your stretch, you naturally improve your range of motion and flexibility. The muscle relaxes and adapts to the tension, adjusts its position, and creates a change in the range of motion. Breathing into the stretch gets your core involved too.
Benefits and Disadvantages of Isolated Stretching
Stretching and stretching will do just that; cause you to pull and force your muscles to be flexible. When you stretch a muscle, you pull the muscle fibers apart. This will:
- Make muscles lax and less responsive,
- Desensitizes muscles,
- Cause muscles to become less resilient and flaccid,
- Produce weak and slow muscular reactions, affecting your speed and explosiveness.
As an athlete, your muscles must maintain a level of stiffness to be resilient, springy, and explosive to enhance athletic performance. Static stretching negates this.
A sprint study was done that tested the speed of elite soccer players. They separated the players into two groups. One group static stretched before sprinting, and the other did not. The group that did static stretching before the sprints accelerated slower, diminished their maximal speed, and their 30-meter sprint time was slower than the non-static stretching group. Therefore, it is not recommended to stretch statically before sprinting.
Here are the primary concerns about static stretching. First, it doesn’t hurt you. Secondly, it won’t injure you. But the result of static stretching only leads to weakness. And weakness is the prelude and susceptibility to injury. Static stretching diminishes a muscle’s ability to contract forcibly and absorb force.
Like a stretched rubber band losing elasticity over time is the result of static stretching.
Resistance Vs. Static Stretching
Slow focused stretching with weights or resistance bands maintains and enhances muscular stiffness, springiness, neural potentiation, range of motion, and flexibility.
The resistance makes your muscles absorb force while stretching, whereas static stretching does not. So, resistance trains your proprioceptors more effectively.
A few studies say that regular heavy stretching with resistance for 10 minutes three days a week increases strength, speed, and power and enhances flexibility and mobility.
Others say that dynamic stretching through ranges of motion, where muscles contract and stretch, improve flexibility, and promotes muscular stiffness.
The Best Times to Stretch
Believe it or not, the worst time to stretch is before any competition and training. And it is most common in pre-warmups.
The trade-off is muscles lose contractility and gain flexibility. Something you don’t want for your muscles, especially as an athlete, because contractility is your ability to be explosive.
Static stretching does have a time, place, and purpose. If you want to stretch static, do it on non-training and non-competition days.
To stretch effectively and enhance your flexibility, use resistance, and incorporate all three things into your stretching routine.
Wait for the adaptation. Let the adjustments adapt. The transformation will change and develop more range. It will happen instantly, naturally, and be more effective!
Check out the book, Balanced Body, to understand deeper and more techniques about flexibility. Or, check out the book, Instant Strength, to understand muscular stiffness, force, and speed to be more explosive!
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