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Stretching but not getting any closer?

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Mobility kit

So you regularly stretch but aren't getting any improvements?

Most of us are nowhere near our max flexibility so if you're putting the time in and not getting results then something is missing. Check out our stretching plan checklist and see whats missing from yours:

1. Having a stretching plan in the first place

If you're wanting to improve your hamstring flexibility, or open up your shoulders for an overhead squat then it isn't going to just happen on its own. Draw up a plan, even a simple one, and ensure that you're dedicating at least 15mins x 3-4times a week. Fail to plan and you plan to fail. Simple. Its amazing when people actually track how often they stretch and its much much less than they thought!

2. Mix it up

For absolute beginners who have never stretched then literally anything will help. Like when you first hit the gym, any weight, any movements, any set/rep ranges will make a difference. But you'll start to plateau if all you do is back squat 5x5 every single session.

So mix up your stretching regime. I normally suggest having a focus for the month, be it hamstrings vs quads, or using static stretches one month and banded work the next.

3. Explore the stretch

You'll probably have improved from when you first started stretching but now the tissue doesn't seem to give you the same amount of improvement as before. Well maybe thats because it's responded and something else is limiting it.  Have you ever tried getting to end range, then slightly twisting your torso, or gently turning the leg out to the side? Explore the stretch, search out the restriction and work on it. Muscles are 3D and are pulled, twisted and stretched in multiple directions. So make sure you mimic this when you stretch.

4. Look above or below

Sometimes it might be that the restriction/tightness is actually coming from above or below where you're feeling it. The classic example is tight hamstrings - this can commonly actually be coming from restricted hips or lower back. Try stretching out surrounding muscle groups. At the very least this will reduce any fascial tension and make it more comfortable when you return to your original stretch.

Try this neural mobilisation technique to see if it's coming from your back. If not, then use this 10min Hip Mobility Routine to help!

5. Back off

Stretching is also exercise - your body doesn't differentiate between exercise, stretching, daily movements etc, its all stress and loading on the tissues. If you're doing a LOT of stretching as well as a load of training then maybe reduce the volume of stress on the muscles and they'll actually have the chance to recover.

The other point from this one is to back off the intensity of the stretch. The stretch reflex is a built in mechanism to prevent muscle damage. Going too deeply or aggressively into a stretch can trigger the stretch reflex and actually cause the muscle to contract back against you. Move into the stretch gently, breathe, and you're looking for a slight give in the tissue as the green light to sink deeper.

Integrate these into your stretching regime and look out for some improvements in that range. Let us know how you get on!

Follow Vicki:

Sports Massage Therapist

Vicki Marsh MSc BA (hons) studied at Oxford University before training as a Sports Massage Therapist. With over 12 years experience she specialises in chronic pain & complex cases as well as coaching Crossfit & Weightlifters. She runs specialist workshops, creates online courses and has spoken at events such as COPA on how to grow a successful business.

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