Why I Stopped Stretching
What if everything you knew about stretching was wrong? What if I told you it's actually counterproductive, and may do you more harm than good? Now, I know this is a strange concept. You've probably been told by coaches, trainers, & therapists for YEARS that you need to stretch.
And you've been misled.
Now when I say I don't stretch I get a lot of questions:
Doesn't stretching prevent injuries?
Don't you need to stretch for flexibility?
That only works for young people, right?
No. No. And no.
Now before we explore why, let me say: I know this will upset some people. I get emails from yoga instructors, personal trainers & physical therapists all the time, constantly telling me that stretching is good for us. That it's necessary for flexibility.
But time & time again my students use this new approach to unravel years of chronic stress & tension in a fraction of the time. One student told me, "I've been to 5 of the best specialists in the area, and spent over $100,000, but I've never felt this good in years".
Everyone he spoke to told him to stretch, and stretch, and stretch. Yet within one session he was walking better than he had in years, totally pain-free. No drugs, no injections. He was blown away that no chiropractor, surgeon, or physical therapist had told him the truth about stretching. See, there's plenty of evidence that it's not as good for us as we've been led to believe.
Let's dig in.
Stretching Doesn't Prevent Injuries
From junior high gym class all the way up to college wrestling I heard that you have to stretch before exercising or else you'll hurt yourself. It seemed logical. Stiff muscles needed to be pulled back into shape. And if my teachers & coaches were all saying it, it must have been true.
However, if we look through the available scientific literature, there isn't much evidence to support it. There have been numerous literature reviews (you know, the studies that study other studies) demonstrating no reduction in injury rates after stretching (like this one & this one). Some claim that stretching may even increase risk of injury by desensitizing something called our myotatic reflex. This reflex causes a lengthened muscle to automatically contract in response to a stretch. This helps it maintain its natural length.
When this reflex is desensitized, muscles lose their elasticity, which can set us up for hyperextension-related injury. Move with enough force, and you can even damage tendons & ligaments, and that is NOT a fun recovery.
Flexibility Versus Mobility
Here's where things get really interesting. See, most of us don't really need more flexibility. We need more mobility. Flexibility is defined as the range of motion in a joint. Far the most part we don't need more range of motion. We need more control over the range of motion we already have. That's mobility.
And you know what's responsible for this control?
It's the nervous system.
The nervous system governs just about everything in the body. It's responsible for our strength & mobility, and it's concerned with just one thing first & foremost: survival.
It's trying to keep us alive & functioning all day every day. And it can get a little jumpy sometimes. It often acts like an overprotective mom, desperately trying to keep us safe & intact. It governs that myotatic reflex, along with all the others. It's looking out for us even when we aren't.
Rather than randomly stretch & pull at our muscles, we need to learn how to control our current range of motion better. We need to teach the body how to really put that flexibility to use.
We can do this by consciously engaging the body as we move into our end range of motion. This mindful engagement shows the nervous system that this range of motion is safe. This is how we can start to sync mind & body for unprecedented strength, flexibility, and ease.
Upgrade Your movement
Ready to upgrade your movement? You can get started today, in just 10 minutes.
I call this exercise the Somo Stretch. It's a powerful way to get your brain & body together. Click to watch this video, and I'll walk you through the process. Careful: you may never look at stretching the same way.