Stack: Ask the Experts – Do I Really Need to Stretch?

Stack Performance responds on this age-old question of whether we need to stretch (duh!).

Q: I feel like stretching is a waste of time. Do I really need to be flexible? 

A: Many athletes have a skeptical attitude about flexibility. They’d rather spend 10 minutes ripping off a few more strength exercises than spend the time stretching their muscles.

We’ve all encountered this mindset. Only gymnasts and dancers need to stretch, because they must contort their bodies into crazy positions, right? For football, baseball or hockey players, this is simply not part of the game.

True, unless you are a hockey goalie, you don’t need to be able to drop into a split—but this doesn’t mean flexibility is unimportant for athletes. Flexible muscles are critical for mobility. Bulky muscles that restrict mobility can directly impair skill mechanics.

Consider the running stride. If you have tight hip flexors, you will not be able to fully extend your hips to maximize the amount of force you can put into the ground. You will be slower not because you lack power, but simply because you can’t complete a full stride with proper mechanics.

It’s important to make flexibility and mobility work part of your regular routine—no matter how boring it may seem. Here’s how to do it.

Dynamic Warm-Up

The warm-up is designed to prepare your body for more intense activity by increasing your blood flow, activating your muscles and improving mobility. This is achieved by performing low- to moderate-intensity movements that take your joints through a full range of motion.

For example, try this dynamic warm-up.

During Your Workout

Strength and conditioning guru Mike Boyle recommends stretching between sets of a strength workout to increase your flexibility. He prescribes specific stretches that directly improve mobility for the exercise you are performing. For example, use a Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch if you are performing Squats.

Watch Mike Boyle discuss stretching between sets.

Cooldown

Take five to 10 minutes after your workout to stretch the major muscle groups you targeted. Perform each stretch for one or two sets of 30 seconds. Also, this is a perfect time to foam roll to improve muscle tissue quality, accelerate recovery and further increase mobility.

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