2 Personal Training Myths About Stretching

October 21, 2013 11:49 pm / Posted in , ,

A client at my personal training studio came in the other week in incredible pain, unable to exercise. When I asked him why, he said that he had recently started playing dodgeball with the Ottawa Sports and Social Club and he must have over exerted himself.

I had a feeling that wasn’t all the story, so I asked him to walk me through his day up until the point of the game. He had enough sleep. He was a little stressed out about work, but that was about it. Then he arrived at the game, warmed up with his teammates, stretched, and began to play.

That’s when I saw the culprit: stretching.

This is a tricky mistake that I’ve seen many people in my Ottawa personal training studio make. They think that stretching will help limber them up, but they end up overextending themselves. Like any physical exercise, you can stretch too much.

Below I bust 2 myths about stretching that I’ve come across over my years in personal training. It’s Burke Cleland, Mythbusters edition!

Personal Training Myth #1: Stretch Before You Exercise

Fact: We’ve all heard this one multiple times: limber up so you don’t. It’s an idea that dates back a few decades, to a time when people didn’t really know much about the science behind exercise, other than it was “good for you.” The fact of the matter is that stretching exhausts the muscle, leaving it weaker and more susceptible to injury during physical activity.

Bonus Burke Tip: At my personal training studio, I use mobility exercises instead of stretching to get things started, instead. It gets the body moving and activates the muscles without weakening them!

Personal Training Myth #2: Stretching is Perfectly Safe

Fact: While stretching definitely presents less risk of injury than, say, a 400lb deadlift for an out of shape person, it’s in some ways more dangerous because everybody thinks it’s harmless. While most of us look at a body builder’s weights and know we won’t even go near them, we stretch casually without really thinking about it.  And there’s the risk: the mindlessness of how people stretch.
While stretching doesn’t hurt and in many times actually feels good, your body has two important limitations: the need for stability and range of motion. Greg Roskopf, Founder of Muscle Activation Techniques, explains how the body craves stability, and how that relates to sports injury, in this video

But it’s about more than just stability. It’s also about your range of motion. You are at your weakest at the end of your range of motion. It’s why the body pushes back as though it doesn’t want to go any further: because it doesn’t! There’s only so far your muscles can move before they go too far and risk injury. That goes for seemingly “safe” exercises like yoga too – you need to make sure that your instructor doesn’t push you beyond your natural range of motion. If they try, leave.
Want proof that stretching weakens the muscle? Check this video:

As you could see in the video, muscle activation techniques can be used to treat weakened muscles, but it can also be used to treat muscular imbalances caused by improper posture, disproportionate exercise, and office work. I offer the service at my Ottawa personal training studio so if you’re reading this and you’re from around here, feel free to contact me to find out more.


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