“You Stretch Too Much”
Before you upset and comment, hear me out.
Foam rolling and stretching are GREAT tools. When done correctly they can effectively improve recovery, mobility, and performance. However, most people only stretch and never strengthen correctly.
To use a very basic example try this: Flex your bicep. While your bicep is flexed, notice what your tricep is doing. Now reverse it. Flex your tricep and notice what your bicep is doing. In both cases, for one muscle to flex the other has to extend. Another word we could use for extend is STRETCH.
Let’s try another experiment. I want you to try to touch your toes. Mark how far down you went. Notice how it felt. Were you tight? Did it feel difficult? Now find a chair or a bench. I want you to sit down and raise both feet up off the ground and flex your quads as hard as you can for 3 sets of 10 seconds. Once completed I want you to retest touching your toes. For most people it should feel significantly easier!
This works because for one muscle to effectively contract, your body has to tell the opposing muscles to relax. The more consistently a muscle is contracted, the more the opposing muscle will relax.
Let’s take this to a real world example that affects a HUGE number of the population: Sitting at a desk.
When a person is sitting down on a chair the hip flexors turn on and the glutes turn off. For a short amount of time this doesn’t have an impact on the body, but let’s stay we stay in that position for an hour, or 2 or say an 8 hour work day. Now let’s extend that out days and months and years. We can see how this position could lead to chronic hip flexor tightness and glutes that are so turned off that they do not work properly. And now let’s add to the mix the posture that most people have while typing: Hunched over, scapula flared out, shoulders rolled in. This leads to pectoral tightness and anterior shoulder pain. It also affects the ability to do overhead movements.
So how do we fix it? With strength!!!
Hip flexors tight from sitting all day? Instead of sitting in a couch stretch position for way too long, try a set of glute bridges! Focus on really squeezing your glutes as tight as possible. By activating the glutes we tell the hip flexors to relax and BOOM no more hip flexor tightness! What about those tight shoulders from typing? Try out banded pull aparts and really focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together. You should notice an immediate reduction in shoulder tightness and an ease of overhead movements.
Almost every single part of the body has opposite muscle groups. Find where you are tight and experiment with some opposing activation!