I have a mate and every time we go to kitesurf he has to spend 20 minutes stretching to warm up before we start. Now he also expects me to launch his kite so inevitably I (being the kind and considerate chap I am) end up sitting through his impromptu Yoga session with gritted teeth waiting to get out on the water.
At some point through his contortionist act he’ll no doubt call out,
“You should join me you know, you’ll get injured out there if you’re not careful.”
“No thank you good sir.” (I swear I’m that polite!)
And yours should be too if you’ve any sense.
I’m sure if you’re like me, since the age of 0 you’ve been told to warm up before sport and to stretch before you do any form of exercise. To loosen your muscles up and prevent injury…
Now I’ve always had my doubts about the second part of this (well I say doubts, really I was just too lazy and too impatient to get started to bother most of the time!) but recently science has got on my side. At least for the form of stretching that my mate does.
You see he practices something called static stretching.
This is just the posh way of referring to the stretches which most people do before a workout. You know, the bend over and touch your toes type of stretches. To define them a bit better they’re stretches where you get into the stretch position and then hold the stretch without moving.
The problem is that static stretching doesn’t really help your mobility, worse, done before a session it can negatively impact your performance on the water. For example a recent study found that runners were on average 13 seconds slower when they performed static stretching right before a one mile up hill run.
In fact several studies have shown that static stretches can inhibit the amount of force a muscle can produce in just about any jumping, running or lifting activity. Even worse, it doesn’t reduce your risk of injury.
It all comes down to the fact that making muscles loose and tendons too stretchy before exercise prevents them from producing quick and powerful responses.
Think about it like this, when you’re doing static stretches you’re telling your muscles to do the complete opposite of what you need when kitesurfing, surfing, snowboarding or pretty much any other sport you care to think of…
That’s not the only problem with static stretching. If your body is already a bit messed up or injured (and let’s face it who’s isn’t!) stretching can create more problems.
So if you’re prone to hyper mobility too much stretching can make you…
Joint hyper mobility, whilst cool at parties, means less ability to produce force and increased risk of cartilage and bone injury.
Another drawback, when you exercise frequently your muscle fibres can easily get cross linked, knotted and stuck to one another in a pattern called an “adhesion.”
Think of your muscles as a rope with a knot in the middle. When you pull on the rope at both ends the knot gets tighter and more difficult to untie. This is exactly how static stretching can make things worse if you have poor mobility, adhesions, knots and other tissue issues.
Added to this most people have a set repertoire of stretches they run through again and again. Meaning that whilst some joints are getting stretchier, other aren’t. Which can lead to huge imbalances down the line..think of a bicycle wheel with bumps and dents at random spots all over it so it’s really not a circular shape any more at all…
Bumpy ride huh?
But this is effectively what is happening to your body.
So what’s a guy or gal to do?
I’ll be covering that in my next post but in the meantime I’ve put together a FREE workout and recovery routine designed to be done in just 15 mins a week which will boost your mobility and your sports performance in my latest book. You can grab your free copy here >>