Why Static Stretching Doesn’t Work And Why It Never Will
“PERFECT Practice makes perfect”
“Practice makes perfect”, I’m sure you’ve heard this famous quote before but most people leave out one very important word, the first, PERFECT. This motto can be applied to all aspects of life but is particularly relevant when you are training and static stretching. The reason why you are not getting any better is because of 1 tiny secret. When you practice something (like stretching) you focus on the things you already know how to do and things you probably already do well. This is why girls like stretching and yoga (they are naturally more bendy). And, why guys prefer to look at themselves in the mirror whilst lifting weights.
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Deliberate practice however is different. It involves stepping outside of your comfort zone and trying something you currently can’t do. It involves specific and sustained efforts to do something you aren’t great at. But that is where the greatest room for improvement is.
Deliberate practice involves 4 main points:
- It’s designed specifically to improve performance.
- It gets repeated a lot.
- Feedback on result is continually available
- It’s mentally demanding, not particularly enjoyable at the time, but the results at the end are definitely worthwhile.
- It involves focusing on improving areas you aren’t satisfied with.
You Need A Plan
This is what sets mobility work apart from mindless stretching. It’s also the reason why static stretching is such a fleeting relief. Getting into a tight position and then holding it and trying to zone out or breath deeper into the pain is not something you have to concentrate on. Your brain doesn’t like to remember painful situations. Therefore your brain forgets about it as soon as you come out of the stretch.
You need to retrain your body how you want it to move, that is where a combination of static stretching, dynamic stretching and/or foam rolling with some mobility or activation drills afterwards come in. The stretching or foam rolling give you a temporary window where your joint is able to move more. Next you need to teach your brain and body how to control that new found range so that makes it a more long term gain.
If You ain’t Testing You’re Guessing
Finally you need to test, if you aren’t testing and getting continual feedback on whether you are improving or not. I’m a super competitive person and remember watching the mighty ducks growing up. One scene still rings in my mind whenever i’m competing against some is “It ain’t worth winning, if you can’t win big”. And if you aren’t winning with your mobility then why are you doing it?
A test is as simple as something that you can do afterwards that you couldn’t do before your did your mobility work. Initially this may just be a temporary before and after a mobility session. But, after about 2-6 weeks it should be something that you retest again before your mobility training and see an improvement.
Putting It All Together
So because i’m a practical person, and always loved video more then reading I thought i’d give you a nice simple example. (everyone has tight hamstrings so thought i’d make it even more practical for you).
- Stand up pop your feet together.
- Bend forwards and touch your toes (or at least try)
- Make a mental note of how far down you got
- Do this exercises:
- Repeat toe touch test with feet together
Did you get down a little further? Awesome repeat 3x a week for 4 weeks and then test again and you should notice an improvement.
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