While there is a seemingly endless supply of articles touting “the best way to stretch,” the truth is there is no one-size-fits-all approach to stretching. In fact, the appropriate application of stretching techniques can be different for each client, depending on the client’s needs and goals and at which point in the workout the stretches are performed.
Stretching for corrective exercise and performance are not necessarily different or contradictory concepts. It isn’t uncommon to begin working with an athlete of any age and any skill level, who performs well, but is struggling with chronic or recurring injuries. Once that client is released by his or her doctor, your program design must include a combination of mobility and stability exercises to create a good foundation for strength and power increases.
You are likely familiar with many types of stretching, including proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF), pin and stretch, myofascial release on the foam roller, ballistic stretching and static stretching, to name just a few. Each has an important place when applied appropriately. This blog focuses on two fundamental concepts about stretching that will help you incorporate stretching in a meaningful way to your program design.
Why does your client need to stretch? This may seem to be a silly question, but starting with a clear point of view about why your client needs to stretch dictates an important first step. Two basic starting points for a solid foundation on which to build strength and power include posture and mobility.
Align a postural discrepancy: Your client may notice or have a chiropractor, physical therapist or athletic trainer point a postural imbalance that is leading to movement dysfunction. A common example of this is hyperlordotic posture in an athlete who is struggling with recurring low-back pain. Improve mobility: An athlete who has struggled with chronic injury needs to work progressively to improve the activation and elongation of muscle fibers for maximized reflex contractility.
Depending on your clients’ needs, you will employ different techniques at different phases of their workout plans.
In identifying a postural discrepancy, it is possible that the practitioner has identified the imbalance as the catalyst of the recurring injury. It is not uncommon that the discrepancy itself was caused by a surgery or injury. Acute or chronic injury or surgical intervention of any kind will result in scar tissue, decreasing the elasticity of the soft tissue.
Another post-injury reality