QUESTION: “I saw you say, like many coaches, that flexibility is underrated. I just wanted to ask what shaped your views and why you think that?

I understand that stretching has been heavily emphasized in the past and was always said to be crucial for performance, but I’ve never heard any reasons as to why.

As far as i understand it most research has shown injury rates increase with increased flexibility (possibly because of reduced neural inhibition designed to protect the muscle). I also see this first hand with many athletes with great flexibility injuring themselves for long periods when their less flexible peers don’t.

And then of course we know that flexibility *tends* to reduce contraction power, rate of force development and rate of change from eccentric to concentric. So it reduces three vital aspects of performance!

Everything i have seen reinforces the viewpoint that a muscle is like a spring- the stiffer it is the more force it contracts with- and increasing flexibility lengthens and weakens the spring. So instead of having a short, stiff spring that can contract powerfully throughout its range you make it a longer weaker spring by increasing flexibility.

As well as this in the last 20 years they have said not to do static stretches during warm up as this leads to injury and weakens muscular output, but still say it is vital for post-exercise. Even though they have proven it does these things in the short term, they say it is beneficial in the long term. Yet i fail to see why anyone has concluded this!

I accept that an athlete must have the mobility and flexibility to perform his event, but i see a lot of people say that stretching is not done enough and should be done more and more, but i have never actually heard a reason why!

I was wondering what has shaped your reasoning regarding stretching (research or personal experience with athletes) and whether or not you advocate improving flexibility beyond that needed for your event, and why?”

ANSWER: “Flexibility and stiffness are not at odds with each other. Stiffness comes from active contraction. Flexibility comes from relaxation. There is no reason muscles can’t do both. Being flexible does not make a muscle weaker, less powerful, or less reflexive. That’s false.

In the short term, long static stretching deadens reflexes. That’s why it shouldn’t be done immediately before explosive performance. You also wouldn’t run 6x100m or do an exhaustive squat session immediately before explosive performance either. That doesn’t mean those are not good training methods.

Muscles need to be loose to allow fast, fluid joint movement. It’s that simple. Think about the hip split achieved during early acceleration. That requires flexible hip extensors, flexors, and adductors. You cannot have to stretch and strain to get into the positions of your sport. The movement has to be achieved easily at high speed. That means you have to be able to stretch well beyond the positions of your sport.

I’m not advocating contortionism. Athletes don’t need to keep getting as flexible as possible over the course of time. But here’s an appropriate level that should be reached and maintained, and plenty of athletes are not there. Those who are not reap major benefits from making flexibility improvements. That’s been my experience.”
 

Flexibility yo

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