- Should you stretch before you lift or afterwards?
- Do you perform static stretching in your workouts?
- Are you prone to tightness and immobility?
If you are prone to tightness, but you’re confused about the whole static stretching topic then I’ll help to clear it up for you here today. I’ve been training athletes for damn near 20 years and I’m very aware of all the studies regarding static stretching prior to lifting and that it can weaken the muscles and blah blah blah. Before you allow the studies to paralyze your decision to perform a static stretch take a moment to read the rest of this article.
Static Stretching Or Not?
In all this time I’ve never noticed any significant fall off in my own strength, or that of my students when performing a static stretch prior to lifting because they were too damn tight to do anything else prior to getting some laxity in their muscles.
In fact, I’ve even recorded some of my best PR’s after stretching prior to lifting due to experiencing some severe tightness in my hips and hamstrings.
Here’s the thing.
Sure stretching prior to strength training may weaken the muscle, BUT do you know what else can weaken your muscles? Not being able to move worth a shit from excessive tightness…that will also make you weak.
Look I’m completely open to general rules of thumb, but if you’re looking at training your body to address your needs then train to address your needs.
I’ve had students that have had desk jobs for 10+ years and they want to come to me for a strength workout and on day 1 and day 2 they can’t even bend over to touch their toes, or barely tie their shoes… let alone make an attempt at pulling a weighted barbell off the ground with the deadlift before working on getting some laxity in their muscles.
I’ve had trainees to come to me with the problem of being tight and have previously communicated straining their lumbar spine due to having piss poor range of motion (ROM) in their hips, glutes, and hamstrings when attempting to pull the deadlift off the ground. Immobility will paralyze results and a lack of results boils down to weakness.
When you have inhibition, or restriction in one muscle you will subject yourself to a compensation in another muscle…unless you eliminate that restriction. So if you are prone to tightness in your hips and hamstrings then you need to eliminate that tightness.
Look I’m not saying to “only stretch before” lifting weights. In fact stretching afterwards is ideal and stretching regularly is even more ideal. However I am saying that such a situation doesn’t always present itself in a nice neat package.
People have busy lives, they tend to be more immobile at work these days, and their stress levels tend to be higher. Though I know my students are capable of pulling a deadlift, or squatting with a satisfactory ROM I know that it’s not going to be satisfactory if they walk into the gym tight and restricted of movement.
Static Stretching And Addressing Your Needs
As far as many of the studies go regarding stretching prior to strength and making your muscles weak I would also like to point out that many…if not all of those studies predominantly have to do with acute bouts of stretching prior to lifting.
In other words much of the data doesn’t bear out the adaptation period of the muscles adapting to stretching before strength training over the course of time. I’m not saying the data would support what I’m saying here, but if the body is capable of adaptation in terms of strength and stretching then you would have to surmise that the same thing would apply here…study, or no study.
Plus when it comes to results I often shake my head and laugh at all these damn studies because they often only present a snapshot of situational evidence. After all, at one time the incredible edible egg was deemed evil for heart disease due to increasing cholesterol levels in your body. What was this based on? It was based on a study that gave you a narrow snapshot of some particular situation.
Don’t get me wrong I won’t discount studies without reading them and learning more about them first, but I’ve got all the studies I need with 20+ years of training and going with what works every damn time. All I’m saying is that when looking at such things you’ve got to be capable of looking at them while applying a little deductive reasoning to draw out a conclusion that makes sense for the situation at hand.
Learn to look at things on a case by case basis. Individual needs are unique to the individual. I’m always skeptical when I hear these hard and fast rules that tend to paint with a broad brush.
Static Stretching: The Takeaway
In the strength and conditioning field there’s a statement, or saying that applies to the very principle of training that I heard years ago and it applies today more than ever. The statement says We want to stretch that which is tight and strengthen that which is loose.
This just boils down to principled and intelligent coaching. Sure there may be ideal times to perform static stretching, but if you are prone to tightness then stretching consistently, regardless of when is better than not stretching.
How often do you include static stretching in your own training?
What muscle groups tend to be tighter for you?
Post up and share here at the bottom of this article in the comments.
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