We often talk about strength training, resistance training and cardio but one thing we often forget is flexibility. It’s not a hot topic and doesn’t seem very manly or intense so it’s often forgotten. But now’s the time to talk about it.
Flexibility is what allows your body to move and allows for smoother, more flexible movements, thereby reducing the risk of injuries to muscles that have never been stretched.
Unfortunately, flexibility training is often made fun of in the weight room, so many people skip it and only realize how important it is for muscle growth once they get injured. It is the key element of muscular and athletic performance, where of course its importance is more noticeable, for example, in martial arts, gymnastics, weightlifting and even hockey (goalies, for example).
A lack of flexibility greatly reduces your range of motion even in everyday activities, decreases mobility and the fluidity of movements (especially in the elderly).
There is a misconception that has proven very hard to shake, and that’s that flexibility is bad for bodybuilding. So, it’s necessary to add this exception: stretching is not recommended just before a weight training or even a competition because muscle strength is reduced after stretching due to a physicochemical and nervous process. However, this process is not the purpose of this article. This loss of strength has been proven to be between 5 and 20%… if even that.
Remember that the strength of the muscle fibers is at its maximum when your muscles haven’t been strained. So, stretch at the end of an indoor workout or after playing sport. Intensive and excessive stretching harms muscle fibers in terms of their contractility by exhaustion of the central nervous system because it is too stressed.
Different types of stretching exist:
1) Static stretching (the most used). This is done by holding the position for a while (e.g., quad stretch).
2) Dynamic stretching in a continuous motion (e.g., shoulder rotation).
3) Ballistic stretch, movement with rebound (e.g., side elevation of the leg on pulley).
4) Stretching with load which leads to resistance (e.g., chest stretches with elastic).
These are just a few examples but the fact remains: you can keep your suppleness or even your flexibility, even if you are very muscular but you will have to stretch after your workouts because otherwise it will be difficult to carry out some of the stretching exercises.
Finally, by stretching at the end of a workout, you reduce the aches that could occur after an intense, long workout and can sometimes having achieve new movements that would require more amplitude.
Several articles on this topic have interested me, but one book has really stood out to me.
(Source: Mythes et Réalité sur la musculation de Martin Lussier et Pierre-Mary Toussaint, les Éditions de l’Homme)