Is static stretching bad for you?
Static stretching has been the topic of conversation for a long time. Is it good? Is it bad? Everyone has been on the field or court and the coach immediately say so stretch to warm up. But do the athletes really know what to do to warm up? Coaches and athletes need to know what to do to warm up and cool down. The warm up and cool down may be just as important as the lift or game itself. It is preparing the body for whats to come. So wouldn’t it be right to get the muscles activated before and shut down after? Sounds simple but its not being done within all sports or the weight room. Turning off a muscle activates the parasympathetic nervous system instead of the sympathic nervous system. This are commonly known as rest and digest and the fight or flight nervous systems. Parasympathic is the start of the recovery process and sympathic get the muscle activate and read for use. So prior to an activity you want that sympathic nervous system primed and ready to go.
Before any competition or weight room session it is important to get the mind and body connected to make sure the muscles are being activated. If the mind isn’t connected then the chance for injury goes up. Static stretching is the opposite. Static stretching turns “off” mind and muscle connection and the muscle now becomes less optimal for use. Baseball players for example are notorious for stretching the arm across the body thinking that this is good for the shoulder before throwing. But what is really happening? Stretching the arm across the body is actually shutting down the posterior side of the shoulder causing the shoulder to become inactive and more unstable. Baseball players and any over head athlete already tend to have a lose and unstable shoulder anyways so your just adding to it. Now you want to use the arm to throw a ball or wight object. This is a recipe for injury. So what should you do instead? Active the muscles of the shoulder more importantly the posterior cuff and rotator cuff muscles. J bands or cross over bands are great for this.
This goes for any muscle group in the body, lower and upper. If you statically stretch the lower body and now try to run, your trying to use muscles that aren’t activate for that exercise. The simple solution, activate at the beginning. Have a routine in place that you do everytime to insure all muscles are primed and ready to go. Get is all planes. Start simple and progressively get more specific to the activity about to ensue. Get the mind and body connected before you do any time of physical activity. If you want to to activate the quad for instance do a walking quad “stretch” and walk as you go and don’t hold the quad in a stretch position for a extended period of time.
So when is it ok to static stretch? I am a firm believer in statically stretching post exercise or activity. Like I stated before this will now activate the parasympathetic nervous system and allow the recovery process to begin. Though I am still not a big fan of stretching joints that are already lose and unstable like the shoulder. Pre and post band work for posterior cuff strength and endurance would be my go to. Simply activate the body before and shut down after to help reduce the chance for injury and if you like to statically stretch do it post exercise or event and never before.