The most efficient way to stretch

I hate wasting my time or our athletes’ time so every workout is meticulously planned and every minute is filled with the most optimal movement, even if that means rest. However, nowhere in our programs will you find time dedicated to just stretching.

The classic stretching regimen occurs before/after workouts or sporting events, and involves holding positions for a specific period of time or number of repetitions. The team gathers together to go through a series of long holds to offer sacrifice to the mythical flexibility gods in hopes these movements will prevent injury. As discussed previously (see SpartaPoint 1/28/09), these static stretches can both decrease power, such as slower sprints and lower jumps, and increase your injury risk due to increased laxity, think of a stretched out rubber band.

The solution to removing this traditional stretching is proper strength training. Movements in the weight room should seek to improve range of motion first, then improve strength levels by the increasing the weight, but never at the expense of the former. Therefore, the squat descent should be performed until the hamstring touches the calf, lunges would involve the largest step forward possible, and pressing overhead should involve the arms fully straightening at the top.

Such larger ranges of motion through actual movement increase the active flexibility of the entire muscle, versus just the passive aspects which only include the ends of the muscle (i.e. tendons and ligaments). This active flexibility is what carries over to sport, not passive improvements.

So there is no need to do extra yoga, unless the goal is spiritual relaxation, and there is no need for targeted stretching regimens, unless you’re dedicated to wasting time. Flexibility should not be pursued in isolation, but rather its pursuit should be inherent in every aspect of your sport, whether it is warm-up, weightlifting, or conditioning.