Sunday 6.13.10

This type of extreme flexibility is probably more than you really need.

Most people have heard that they need to stretch for injury prevention and athletic ability. It is true, someone with minimal flexibility will not be able to perform functional movement efficiently, and the substitution of inefficient or incorrect movement patterns can lead to injury at worst, and poor performance at best. There are many types of stretching, but for our purposes we will discuss the two most common: dynamic stretching and static stretching.

By now most of us know not to stretch cold muscles. Warm muscles are muscles that have blood flowing in them, the range of motion capable of these muscles is greater, and therefore you ensure that you are stretching muscle fibers in their relaxed state, rather than fighting against contracted muscle fibers. Clinical studies have also shown that static stretching before a workout actually reduces power, speed, and strength. Enter dynamic stretching.

Dynamic stretching simply involves taking all your muscle groups through their full range of motion. For example, before my workouts I do neck rolls and forward and rear shoulder rolls to loosen up my traps and upper back. I do arms swings and arm circles to loosen up my shoulders. Hip circles, side bends, sit ups, and back extensions all wake up our midline stabilizers (the core). Leg swings, squats, ankle rotations, etc pump blood into and loosen up the legs and ankle. You can do all of these things in 2-3 minutes before your actual warm up. Doing so will help loosen you up, make you more flexible without hindering your performance in the WOD, and make you less susceptible to injury.

After the WOD is the time to really work to increase the range of motion of your major muscle groups. Stretch your muscles and hold positions designed to increase flexibility particularly in the shoulders, hips, groin, and hamstrings, since these areas are chronically "tight" among fitness enthusiasts.

Roger Harrell, a former competitive gymnast and CrossFitter wrote, "Stretching should be performed so that muscles, not connective tissue, are stretched. Stretches that push joints outside of normal function should not be performed—for example, any stretch that stretches the knee side to side. Stretching connective tissue or stretching joints in an abnormal fashion can destabilize joints and lead to severe injury.

Focus on stretching muscle tissue to maximize ROM in functional movements. Aim to be flexible enough so that you do not reach a fully stretched point during movements you regularly perform. For example, if you feel resistance in your shoulders or hips when performing an overhead squat, then you are not flexible enough and this resistance is hindering your performance. Making significant increases in flexibility will bring marked improvement in performance. Larger ranges of motion will allow for longer periods of applied force, improvement in technique, increases in biomechanical advantages, and reduction in joint strain."

I can't say it better so I won't even try! Simply put, do some form of dynamic stretching before the WOD when your muscles are cold. After the WOD, do some static stretching to increase the range of motion of your muscles, which will help you in your next WOD, and all subsequent WOD's, as well as life in general.

Stretching is severely under-emphasized in most training programs. There are significant performance benefits to flexibility and severe performance penalties for a lack thereof. Gaining flexibility does not require an enormous time investment, just a commitment to stretch regularly. Resolve to stretch after each and every workout.

For some great stretching routines, check out For an easy to follow stretching routine, also check out Ian King's article "The Lazy Man's Guide to Stretching".

Now go twist yourself into a pretzel and take a rest day! bc

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