I am once again baffled by what I see in the gym these days. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a people watcher. Everywhere I go, I watch people. Whether I’m in the gym, at the mall, in the car, at work, I love to observe (OK.. maybe I stare once in a while )
I was wondering at what point in the exercising world did stretching become obsolete? Or when did flexibility become unimportant?
All too often I’m noticing members walk in the gym, put down their bag and either jump on a universal weight machine, start running/walking, or get on the treadmill and/or ARC trainer without any preparation at all!
I myself wonder how these people can walk the next day or two after their workout??? I take 15-20 minutes before my workout and roughly 5 minutes post workout to do full body stretching. Everything from my upper body, upper extremities, core and torso, lower quadrant and lower extremities. If I’m using it, I’m stretching it.
I know from my education and training that a flexible muscle is a safe muscle. During a movement, whether strength training or not, you need to utilize and maximize the range of motion of the muscle being trained. Each muscle group, and individual muscle has a set range of motion parameter that is determined by anatomy, physiology and basic physics. The more you can move the muscle, the more you can use the muscle. Maximum motion produces maximum effort which yields maximum results. (ergo.. move faster, lift stronger, etc)
Flexibility also protects your muscles from injury. Everything from the planned workouts, to those long days at work, and the unfortunate accidents we all encounter. The more flexible your muscle(s) are the more adept YOU are to saving yourself from possible injury, or at the very least minimizing the severity of injury. Have you ever slipped on ice? Did you get hurt? How did your back feel over the next couple of days. Or how about your hamstrings? Did you ‘pull a muscle’? Or for heaven’s sake did you tear something?
Now we could dissect the proper methods for stretching. Everything from types of stretches, whether or not to hold or bounce, static vs. ballistic, the ever-so popular jump-stretch program, foam rollers, the Graston Technique, PNF stretching and PNF Patterns, Myofascial Release, Proprioception, and Golgi Tendon Complexes and the Reciprocal Inhibition Reflex, but I digress. The list is endless and limitless as you can see.
I guess maybe I always view things as the worst-case scenario. I’ve lived the scenario of not being able to exercise, of not being able to simple task like lifting a glass of water. I’ve injured myself enough times to want and demand that being safe is so much better than being sorry. (Did you ever see Jack LaLanne? Did he incorporate stretching?)
If you exercise in any manner, it would behoove you to stretch. Those of us who have suffered the consequences of not having a safe muscle know better. (Have you ever tried Yoga?)
It may not happen today, or tomorrow. It may not happen this month or even this year, but it will happen. Sooner or later inflexibility catches up with you and your body and kindly reminds you of how important stretching and flexibility really are.