When Should I 'Stretch'? Maybe Never!
I get asked all the time "when is the best time to stretch" and "is that StretchZone place any good". If you mean what I think you mean when you say 'stretch' - which is passively pulling or having someone else pull or push on you while you lay there - I'd like to let you know that you never need to do that ever again. And no, Stretch Zone is a waste of your time. Here's why:
Passive stretching, which is statically holding a position for a given length of time, will take quite a while to create a change, and also cause the shortest-lived effects on muscle length. Research says we would need to hold a position for >5 min (which nobody does) and the small effects would last less than 24 hours. What we need to realize, is that muscle length is determined by the nervous system's signals. When something feels like it is going further than the body has control of, signals get sent from the brain to tell it to tighten up, so that the body does not sustain an injury. The only way to improve this is to use mobility drills where you control your body into the end ranges of motion, to change the nervous system's response to being in those "dangerous" end ranges. Change happens in the nervous system with active and purposeful movements, not pulling a muscle apart and hoping it will stay there.
It is common to hear "I'm hurt because I don't stretch" or "I need to stretch more". I would disagree completely - you don't need to stretch at all in order to regain normal mobility in every single joint. You need to work on mobility, which means actively pulling and pushing with your muscles into end ranges. If that is what you mean when you say 'stretch', then good for you! you are ahead of the curve. Most people still mean "static stretch" as opposed to "active stretch" - which is what all "stretching" needs to be.
So passive stretching isn't really helping, but is it bad?
Most of the time I would recommend against it, especially in the case of a recent injury. Imagine, if some of the muscle just got torn, do you want to be pulling it apart even more? Despite this seemingly obvious logic, there are therapists out there who will recommend stretching a pulled muscle. Holy Moly.
There are a bunch of mobility drills in past blog posts already, so be sure to check on those and try them out. Upcoming posts will also feature mobility drills and active movement techniques so that you can gain crazy ranges of motion, and never have to stretch again!!