Our interns at Endeavor have been firing questions at me the last couple weeks. They’re definitely keeping the gears grinding as I try to think back to all the things I read as a student, and explain why so much of the information we’re taught in school is only partially true (at least in my setting).
Recently, one of my interns brought up when it is and isn’t appropriate to stretch muscles that feel tight. As I mentioned in my presentation “Innovative Practices in Strength and Conditioning” for SCWebinars.com, I think static stretch has some validity in training programs and is necessary for almost all athletes. Having said that, it’s not always the best solution for “tightness”.
Consider these examples:
Psoas deficiency will increase the workload of other hip flexors (e.g. tensor fascia lata and rectus femoris) to flex the hip past 90°. Because these muscles are required to perform extra work while they’re in a shortened position, it’s likely they’ll feel tight afterwards. Stretching may help short-term, but if the psoas deficiency isn’t addressed, you’ll keep stretching/tightening yourself in circles. Address the cause, not the symptom.
All of us suffer bumps, bruises, aches, and pains throughout the course of our lifetimes. Some of these injuries necessitate medical attention, others may be “sub-threshold”, meaning they aren’t severe enough to require medical attention, and will hopefully resolve on their own.
As a hypothetical example, consider an athlete with a very slight medial meniscus tear. The body could naturally compensate by shifting weight off of this meniscus. As a result, muscles that cross the lateral aspect of the knee (e.g. TFL-> IT Band) and prevent genu varum may feel tight. Stretching could alleviate this tightness, increase the load to the medial meniscus, and increase the severity of the tear. Oops.
Some people just don’t respond to stretching. They stretch and stretch, but always feel tight and the muscle never seems to improve its extensibility. Many times, this has to do with myofascial restrictions that are better addressed through soft-tissue manipulation through foam rolling, Active Release (A.R.T.) or graston. On a personal note, I’ve gained more range of motion from a single A.R.T. session that I have from hours of stretching.
Stretching can help, but it’s not always the BEST solution. If you aren’t responding well to stretching, consider looking into some of the other possibilities presented here.
To your success,
P.S. The 30-day trial offer for $1 at HockeyStrengthandConditioning.com ends March 31st! The feedback we’ve gotten about the site has been incredible. Don’t drag your feet on this. If you’re serious about training for hockey, you NEED to be a part of the site!
Follow me on Twitter!
Follow me on Facebook!
Follow me on YouTube!
Connect with me on LinkedIn!
Kevin has rapidly established himself as a leader in the field of physical preparation and sports science for ice hockey. He is currently the Head Performance Coach for the Boston Bruins, where he oversees all aspects of designing and implementing the team’s performance training program, as well as monitoring the players’ performance, workload and recovery. Prior to Boston, Kevin spent 2 years as an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach for the San Jose Sharks after serving as the Director of Performance at Endeavor Sports Performance in Pitman, NJ. He also spent 5 years as a Strength and Conditioning Coach with USA Hockey’s Women’s Olympic Hockey Team, and has been an invited speaker at conferences hosted by the NHL, NSCA, and USA Hockey.