Wednesday, 12 November 2008

A good tme to stretch

I have never been the biggest fan of traditional static stretching. Pre-workout, it is well documented that single plane static stretching inhibits muscles, reducing the neural drive to the stretched segments and as such can inhibit performance by ignoring the integration of the nervous system and muscles function. Post-workout, if you've trained properly, you shouldn't have really shortened any muscle groups to the extent that you need to pull and heave them back to 'normal resting length' and there is to much blood flow, synovial fluid and elasticity present to make any real difference to the tonus of the muscles.

With a training schedule that has me lifting and thai-boxing between 8-10hrs x week i was still in need of relaxing 'flexibility based recovery' work that would be an addition to all the dynamic movements that i do. With a humble understanding of function and the role of proprioception in the body, i found the most effective time for me to stretch was for 10 minutes just before i went to sleep each night.

i developed many traditional single plane stretches into sequence and adapted them to cover three planes of motion. Moving smoothly from one position to the next and slowly learning which planes to emphasise for specific muscles, i have managed to aid the rehabilitation of some nagging injuries and improve the range of motion at my hips. The main benefit though, has been that it quite simply feels great! A lot of the tension from high volume weightlifting is reduced and a better nights sleep ensues.

I am a firm believer that static stretching alone, even if it is done in three planes of motion, is not enough to make a real difference to flexibility and range of motion. Ideally, tri-plane mobility, static stretching and tri-plane self PNF stretching should be included as separate entities within the training lifestyle to reap the benefits of improved, un-inhibited motion.

In my opinion, it would appear that the apparent dangers associated with 'stretching cold' are largely overstated. Moving through static stretch positions in three planes of motion before you go to sleep allows the body to recover with the muscles in a state of reduced excitation and tension. Give it a go for yourself to feel the difference.

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