Why to Stretch?

From the person who spends hours on their laptop, to the athlete who trains countless hours per day.. The one thing in common is that they both need to stretch equally. Let’s hope they’re not borrowing each other’s stretching programs.

For me to be able explain to you why they do need to stretch and why they should have a different stretching program, I first would need to explain to you the difference between Phasic vs. Tonic Muscles.

Visualize  the Phasic Muscles as the bouncer on the door of your favorite night club, strong, muscular, but will easily fatigue if they had to run. They are composed of at least 51% fast-twitch muscle fibers. Powerful, responsible of movement, yet they fatigue really easily. The gluteals are good examples of phasic muscles.

Now visualize Tonic Muscles as long distance runners, not very strong, yet very high in endurance. They are composed of at least 51% slow-twitch muscle fibers. Unlike phasic, they are highly resistant to fatigue and are very hard workers. Thanks to them we can keep our heads upright the entire day. The Levator Scapulae is a great example of a tonic muscle group.

If you’re like me who is learning how to handstand, or if you’re like someone I know who spends hours in front of their laptop, we all are loading our muscles, whether we are moving or not, by loading I mean muscles are trying to overcome some kind of resistance, such as gravity, body weight or dumbbells. When this loading becomes FAULTY LOADING due to under-use, overuse, misuse, or disuse, we can create muscular imbalances, this imbalances are not only effecting the esthetic posture of our body but also our kinesiology.

Tonic muscles respond to faulty loading by shortening and tightening, with a very little effort. This can, and often does, result in hyperactivity of a tonic muscle, it limits the motion at the joint(s) over which that muscle crosses. This lack of flexibility/mobility results in all the biomotor abilities being adversely affected.

Phasic musculature does the exact opposite. It tends to lengthen and weaken in relation to its relative antagonist(s) or opposing muscle (group). The problem is then magnified by the fact that muscles which are short and tight will hold their antagonists in a lengthened position.

When continuing loading the same exact way, without properly paying attention to correcting the muscular imbalances, the strong muscles are becoming stronger, while weak is getting weaker.

I know what you’re thinking, I should start stretching more often, yes, that’s correct, but which muscles do you want to stretch? When? And How? If you go to a general stretching class, where you’re stretching every single muscle you have, guess what? You didn’t change anything, because you stretched both the strong and the weak, your body is continuing to be out of alignment. And a body that’s not properly aligned moves and functions less efficiently, increasing its susceptibility to fatigue and, ultimately, to injury.

Challenging the self and pushing the body to learn new moves, is one of the ultimate pleasures we humans can have in life. Handstand is my current challenging pleasure. To be able to learn and perform a new move in the optimal way, first a great coach to teach the technical part, to give feedback, and to correct when needed is essential, the second very important step is to have a tailor made stretching and mobility program designed by an expert who will spend enough time to assess the postural alignment and the muscular imbalances.

The reason why I got motivated to write this article, is because I started experiencing some pain, after reducing the time of the stretching before and after my workout sessions.

Holistic Strength Training For Triathlon book By Andrew Johnston
Corrective Exercise Coach course by CHEK Institute

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