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Tales from the Texan!

Should I stretch? Part II

Travis Burkybile

Hello all,

Back with the follow up! In part one we discussed the difference between flexibility and mobility- the ability to move the body in a passive way, vs an active way under your own control, while bearing load in multiple planes. We also talked about the need for great soft tissue quality, along with strength and stability around the joints to protect from injury, otherwise the body will restrict our motion to protect from injury. So what can you do to improve it?

Use the following example of someone with tight restricted hip flexors and quadriceps. You can self myofascial release the affected area (fancy way to say self massage). This is illustrated in the picture below.

 Feel the love

Feel the love

Then you would stretch the area. Here is an option that works well.

So problem solved right? Anytime you feel tight you just knock these out and you are good! What if you still feel restricted when moving around, or the effects don't last very long? That might be a signal that the problem is more on the strength/stability side, or a combination of that with soft tissue restrictions. In that instance the following exercise is a great way to get a a weight bearing exercise and stretch combination to do following the previous work.

 Full depth split squat front foot flat (FFF)

Full depth split squat front foot flat (FFF)

So what can you do if you aren't able to go to that range flat on the floor?

 Split squat with front foot elevated (FFE)

Split squat with front foot elevated (FFE)

I know what some of you are thinking- I am lucky my knees haven't exploded by now. Actually, the knee in a normal healthy population is meant to go that far forward. It is when there is often ankle and hip mobility problems along with quick rotation at the knee that leads to knee injuries. If you were playing tennis and your opponent executes a drop shot sending you toward the net, what is going to happen as you slam on the brakes? I am guessing the knee is going to travel well past the toe as it often does in sports and more general daily activities. We need to strengthen it in that position to handle the stresses it will encounter.

So to recap- improve the soft tissue quality and strengthen in the weak/unstable posititions. It works very well to use slower tempos as you lower yourself and take 1-2 seconds pause at the bottom to build strength. As you progress increasing the weight will actually improve even more if you do not short the range of motion. That's right, weight training done appropriately will improve flexibility, not harm it. I have never been closer to doing full splits than when I train split squats with higher loads and lower repetitions. Just make sure range before weight!

If you are having issues related to knee pain or any other joint problems please always consult with appropriate health professionals before attempting any of these exercises. If you are having trouble getting the desired result contact a skilled FST provider and coach such as yours truly! Sometimes to get through an initial barrier skilled touch and appropriate exercise regressions will get you over the hump.

Stay tuned til next time.