Stretch First

I recently instructed a course on the relationship of the lumbar spine and the hip joint which included teaching a few hip mobility exercises.  During the instruction, I mentioned to the group to do this prior to their workouts at the gym.  After this comment, someone asked me if I thought it was good to complete more static stretches before working out, which is seemingly a big no-no in today’s world.  The answer is… It depends.  What is your goal of that specific workout? What is your fear of increasing mobility before working out?  

While I would not recommend static mobility exercises with the focus of increasing mobility be done immediately prior to competition or a day where you are trying to max out or simulate peak performance, I think that working to increase your mobility before training can be very effective.  The age old principle “If you don’t use it, you lose it” is spot on when it comes to movement.  By increasing your mobility prior to dynamic movements and exercises, you give yourself the ability to USE the new range of motion and train your body to be efficient and strong throughout the entire movement.

The ability to utilize a full range of motion is imperative for staying healthy and being able to perform at optimal levels.  Many injuries, whether it be in strict Olympic lifts, sports performance, recreational activity occur due to the body not being able to handle the designated load in a certain position or range.  Effective training is not always increasing the weight you are lifting, or the speed of which you are completing a task, but also includes increasing the range of which you are able to appropriately manage a load or dynamic task.  By adding this variable to your training, you give your body the ability to manage forces for “when things go wrong” and help mitigate injuries.

In order to truly maximize your strength and body’s abilities, you must be able to control a force throughout the entire range of motion.  You are only as strong as your weakest point, which is also the point most likely to result in an injury, therefore the more time you spend strengthening outside of your “strongest range”, you increase your body’s safe range for movement and load.  By increasing range of motion prior to the training session, you give yourself the ability to teach your body to work in this expanded range and increase your strength in this range progressively to maximize your overall abilities and performance.

Training is the time and place to enhance your body, managing a new range of motion, conquering a new movement pattern, working in risky positions, all of it can and should be used appropriately throughout training sessions as to decrease untrained and at-risk positions during performance.  By stretching prior to your workout, you are give yourself the ability to strengthen appropriately and create the neuromuscular control to decrease the chance of damage to your body during competition if forced outside of your ideal range of motion.

Do not shy away from things that “make you weaker” or less efficient.  If you are able to train in those conditions, you raise the low end of your bodies abilities.  All of your training should be intentional and purposeful and each aspect of your training should have a place in achieving that purpose.

Examples:

Pigeon Stretch 2 minutes each side before squatting

  • Increase Squat Depth with hip capsule opening

Posterior Shoulder Capsule Stretch 2 minutes each side before Snatch

  • Increase External rotation ability in the shoulder for greater overhead capabilities.

Remember, life is your Journey and you are in complete control of how you are performing.