To Stretch Or Not To Stretch – Is This The Question?
And is it the wrong one? This isnt about stretching. What the debate is really about is how to train so that the athlete can move into and out of end ranges of multiple motion planes simultaneously and/or singularly, while expressing speed and strength.
So Let’s Ask A Different Question
Does the dead-lift stretch the hamstring? Yes. Does the Chest press stretch the pectoral musculature? Yes, indeed. And do you become what you train for? Yes again. Most extremely strong men, with very large dead-lifts for example, may not be able to touch their toes, because they stay within a plane and range of motion that does not require it; dictated by the height of the plate.
But if they were to train the dead-lift off of a platform so that the bar would be at toe-level or below, what do you think would happen over time? Would they become more adept at the coveted toe touch? Without a doubt. But there is more! They additionally would STRENGTHEN that range of motion through CONTRACTION out of that positional end point.
So Do You Need To Stretch? Still A Firm, No
If you want improved range of motion, then simply improve the range of motion of the loaded exercises you use. You accrue the added benefit of actually “strengthening” those end ranges, instead of just lengthening. Lengthening without avoiding strengthening. The holy grail.
The one thing to keep in mind is to not consider ANY exercise as axiomatic or essential. You can literally “create” odd exercises that seem to mimic the patterns in the sport (without exact duplication attempt) and load them (safely) to be able to apply the concept above. Additionally, the sport ITSELF could (and maybe should?) serve the purpose of providing flexibility enough. And if it isn’t, then are you practicing incorrectly? There is much more to this debate than stretching. The word itself may be limiting our thinking and creative solution finding to the problem of how to combine range of motion with strength and speed. More soon…