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How Stretching Damages the Body and Increases Risk of Injury

It’s an everyday mantra in our culture that we must stretch to maintain healthy, flexible joints.  But is this really the truth? Or could stretching actually be damaging us instead of preventing us from injuries?

A joint is where two bones meet and are connected together.  For example, the femur cannot only move back and forth, but it can rotate as well, which gives you the ability to move your leg in all directions – forward, backward, to the side, and across the other leg.  If the leg bone wasn’t attached to the hip bone, none of these movements would be possible.  It’s only because of the ligaments, which hold the joints together, that these movements can take place.

How does Stretching Damage the body?

When we partake in conventional stretching regimens, what we are actually doing is stretching our ligaments and causing them to become loose.  These loose ligaments will allow the joint more freedom to move and increase flexibility, but at the dangerous price of a less stable joint.  As you can imagine, ligaments that are loose will allow the joint more wiggle room and increase the chances of dislocation.

“If you stretch one of your joints to the point of pain and burning to increase flexibility,
you are stretching the ligaments that give the joint its stability.”
– Fredrick Hahn

Although the revelation that stretching can damage the body might trigger anger in longtime advocates of stretching, the good news is that there’s another way to increase flexibility that comes with no increased risk of injury.  In fact, increasing flexibility the proper way will actually increase the stability of the joint and at the same time greatly decrease your risk of injury.

What is the Cause of Inflexibility?

Inflexibility is a safety mechanism that our bodies employ to prevent injury due to lack of enough strength to operate in the unattainable range.  That’s right.  The reason why our joints become inflexible is because our  muscles are not strong enough to safely move it through the entire range of motion.

Increasing Strength Increases Flexibility

Muscle strength actually enhances flexibility.  As author Fredrick Hahn points out in The Slowburn Fitness Revolution, “Trained muscle is not only stronger, it is more supple, has improved circulation, is better hydrated, and can exert much greater force across the joint.”  He continues by saying that “Strong muscles moving the joint through its full range of motion while maintaining the integrity of the ligaments produce optimal, stable flexibility.”

A recent study, conducted by researchers at Democritus University in Greece, has compared the flexibility subjects gained from 3 different protocols.  The first group did nothing, the second undertook an intensive strength-training program of weight lifting only, the third group engaged in vigorous aerobic exercise only, and the fourth group did both strength training and aerobics.  Their findings may surprise you!

The strength-trained subjects had enormous increases in flexibility in all seven categories, the men who jogged and walked showed minimal increases in flexibility but only of their hips, and the group who participated in both aerobics and strength training increased their flexibility to the same degree as those who underwent strength training alone.

So if you want to enhance your flexibility, forget about stretching, yoga, pilates, and all the rest.  “Clearly,” writes Hahn, “if it’s improvement in flexibility you want, strength training is the way to get it.”

Learn more with Books about Stretching and Exercise:

     
 Relax Into Stretch: Instant Flexibility Through Mastering Muscle Tension  The Slow Burn Fitness Revolution  Body by Science: A Research-Based Program for Strength Training, and Complete Fitness in 12 Minutes a Week

References:
1.  The Slow Burn Fitness Revolution, Hahn, Fredrick.
2.  Relax into Stretch: Instant Flexibility Through Mastering Muscle Tension, Tsatsouline, Pavel.

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