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Episode 117: Why Are You Stretching?

Video Highlights

- Clarifying the goal.
- Range of Motion versus Flexibility.
- External Focus versus Internal Focus.

You know guys, one of the most common question I get is, “Doc, what about stretching?…”Should I stretch?”  “How much should I stretch?”  “How flexible should I be?”  Well, I decided to shoot a brief series to introduce you to some profound concepts around stretching vs. range of motion, and that’s what we are getting started with right today.

Today I want to talk about this question: why are we stretching in the first place? Now, I’m holding this ball to remind you of a previous blog that we shot where we worked on Shannon’s shoulder range of motion. We’re going to put a link because I want you to go back and watch that particular blog because it does reference some very important information with regards to this topic. Now that you’ve seen this I’m getting rid of it.

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Improving Flexibility: Part 1

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Improving Flexibility: Part 2

The next thing that I want you to think about is that question: why are you stretching? Most people don’t stretch just because they like the feel of stretching. Some do, and if that’s you, fine. I’m not talking to you right now. Most people stretch because they want to achieve something. I am a lifelong martial artist. In martial arts world having a high degree of flexibility and being able to do the splits and all this stuff was always really cool and so a lot of people would stretch but they were stretching, not because they wanted to feel the stretch, but because they wanted to achieve the splits. A lot of people do hamstring stretching, not because they love the feeling of stretching their hamstrings but because they want to be able to comfortably bend over and tie their shoes or put their hands on the floor.

Why this is really important is some emerging science around flexibility versus range of motion training. That’s what we’re actually going to discuss in this video to set you up for what’s coming next because this is kind of a profound idea and it may make your life a lot easier. Here we go. We need to talk about what’s called an EMG first. An EMG is when I put electrodes on a muscle and then I make you contract or do something with the body and I can measure how hard the muscle is working. That’s simplified, but that’s how it works. If we take two different types of athletes, we take a bodybuilder and a field sport athlete, and we measure activity there’s a couple very interesting things that go on.

If I have someone and I say, “Okay, I’m going to put the pads on you and I want you to do a biceps curl,” and they start doing a curl and I say, “Think hard about the muscle. Think hard about making it contract. Really take an internal focus. Focus on what you’re feeling.” What we see with the EMG is that the activity goes up. This is old school bodybuilding for years and years and years where really strong, big guys would say, “Hey, if you want to get stronger and bigger think about the muscle. Think about it. Try and make it contract harder.”

Conversely, if I take a field sport athlete and I say, “Hey, let’s do some measurements of your arm as you’re throwing,” or, “as you’re maybe grappling with somebody,” or whatever, that athlete is not focused on the contraction. Instead, they’re focused on something external. If we do EMG on them what we find is that the activity of that muscle is actually lower. As a field sport athlete that’s awesome because your primary goal is efficiency, not maximum tension.

We have a really big difference between an internal focus and an external focus with regards to what happens inside the muscle. With that said let’s go back to, why are you stretching? If you’re stretching in order to achieve a range of motion what we want to do is, we want to improve your efficiency at achieving that range of motion. We don’t want you to focus internally because what happens is … Let’s say I’m trying to palm the floor.

If I really start working on my flexibility, when people think, “Hey, I’m going to stretch,” what do they think? They think about the muscle itself. They bend over and they start stretching and they’re like, “I really feel it. It’s really tight up by my pelvis. Now it’s tight down by my knee.” That internal focus actually increases internal activity in the muscle, hence making things harder and tighter.

What we’re going to show you in a couple of videos that are coming is how to use, again, more external focus to achieve your ranges of motion. This is, again, the big thought for the day. We’ve spent a lot of time at Z-Health working on mobility to achieve better range of motion. Again, the whole goal of better range of motion is to achieve certain things that are of interest to us. Maybe I want to be able to hit a better tennis serve. Maybe I want to be able to bend over without bending my knees and tie my shoes. I don’t know what your goals are but what I can tell you, again, from research is that if we get an external focus you’re going to achieve your range of motion goals more quickly than with an internal focus.

If you have questions about this let us know.

This is, again, a pretty controversial topic. A lot of people get excited when it comes to flexibility and range of motion training.

If you have questions about this let us know. Otherwise, stay tuned for the videos that are coming to show you how to implement this in the real world.

Thanks.

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