Often overlooked. Hardly the focus. Do you know what I’m referring to? Probably not but that’s OK. I haven’t really given any clues. Let’s try this: No one does it, no one has time for it, it’s at the end of the workout (if you do it at all). Got it yet? You are correct: Stretching.
I’m writing this post because I realized how much flexibility is ignored and doesn’t get the due attention it should. A student of mine came up to me and asked what could be done to get better at karate, grappling, sparring. The focus of the question was putting on weight to become stronger to do these things. When I asked the student some questions it became apparent that the goal of the student was to bulk up. Kind of funny because yes you need strength to grapple to a point (but it shouldn’t be the only thing relied on), and you need healthy cardio so you don’t gas out but how much strength do you need? And where does flexibility play into this?
Let’s look at a well known grappler, Royce Gracie. The story goes that Royce Gracie was chosen over Rickson Gracie for UFC 1 as Royce had a smaller physique compared to Rickson Gracie and winning UFC 1 would be that much more impressive since grappling was new to the MMA sport. Everyone though it would be a striker that would win and when a small grappler won ju-jutsu took off. It showed that you could defend yourself, defeat your enemy and you didn’t have to be huge to do it. You could protect yourself while having somewhat of an ‘average’ build. But what did that average build of Royce Gracie bring with it? Great flexibility. To be a great grappler you also need to be very flexible. If you watch professional level grappling it usually becomes apparent that flexibility plays a very important role. Watch no gi grappling, especially 10th Planet Eddie Bravo grappling and you can see how important flexibility is.
But the importance is so underestimated, so overlooked. When have you ever heard someone talking about getting healthier and mention flexibility at the same time? Never, right? And it doesn’t only live in it’s world of grappling. Everything we do requires a level of being flexible. And the older we get the more we lose it. Things tighten up. We don’t realize how inflexible we are until we try to do something and we can’t. I see it in people who are in their 30’s. Already they have stiffened up.
Flexibility has never received it’s due. Tons of infomercials on building stronger abs, building a strong body, losing weight, getting that beach body. But tell me, what infomercial have you seen for getting more flexible? Crickets. That’s what I hear right now because there isn’t one. So if we never hear about it, it’s never brought up when you talk to a professional about getting healthier, losing weight then you will never give it it’s due.
But you need to. Want to be more injury free? Want to perform better? Then stretch. You need to. More range of motion means it’s easier to move when you need to. It means you are less likely to get injured when you move. And if you are looking to increase performance then stretching will give you that. Longer muscles perform better than shorter muscle.
So where do you start? I recommend getting an evaluation from a personal trainer. Ideally this will help identify muscles that are short and tight and need stretching. These are the muscles you want to stretch. These muscles are the ones that have tightened up over time due to our lifestyles. Muscles like the front of our shoulders, our ham strings. Don’t stretch the muscles that are already relaxed and long. Focus on the tight muscles.
You can stretch every day. If you don’t have time to work out then ease into it, giving time for the muscles to warm up. If you are working out, leave the stretching for the end of the workout. And stretch those muscles holding the stretch no less than 90 seconds per stretch.
Bored? Yep. I think that’s why most of us don’t stretch because it can be boring. Doing something else while stretching helps with this. Get on the floor and stretch while reading a book, or watching Netflix, or whatever. It doesn’t have to be boring.
Do it. And don’t make an excuse. You can be more flexible if you work at it. And who wouldn’t love to be able to kick someone in the head and not have to lean way back to do it ;).
Yours in health,