Will stretching make me weaker?
– by Felix Leech
This question comes up a lot. Will stretching make my muscles weaker ? And if I get flexible, will I decrease my strength?
It’s a great question. And yes, after stretching particularly hard we all feel that jelly like, almost weakened feeling. But there are ways around it.
The first is timing your stretching and doing the right kind at the right time.
When warming up, keep it to dynamic (moving) stretches and mobility exercises. Now if you’re used to warming up with static stretches, don’t worry, everyone does it.
But there’s a few reasons why static stretches are less effective. Muscles that are over stretched are less able to output power, for a short period.
While they are longer they are also more prone to injury – not so good if you do a high impact sport. Dynamic stretches are better for keeping blood around the body and brain, giving you that ‘buzzed’ feeling.
Save your static stretches for post workout, as well as PNF and partner stretching.
The other secret to staying strong AND flexible is active flexibility. Active flexibility is using your own muscular strength to stretch – for example when a dancer holds their leg in the air.
By doing active stretching after your main post workout stretch, you are engaging the muscles ‘waking them up’ after the relaxed period of stretching.
You’re also training your body to work at that new range of motion. Truth is, we think stretching makes us weaker but in fact we just haven’t built the strength in that range before.
This exercise is for building active flexibility in the legs:
Start out holding a support. Lift one leg out straight in front, hips facing forward. Hold for 10 seconds each leg.
Repeat on the first leg, although this time have a partner hold their hand under your foot while up in the air. Lift your leg out of their hand 10 times, aiming to move about 3 inches.
Repeat this cycle, first holding then pulsing up and down, on the side and back leg extensions.
That’s it! Do this active flexibility work after you do a deep leg stretch and you won’t feel so jelly like, keeping some of the ‘strength.’ This can be adapted for other body part.
By combining this with some strength work in your new range of motion (eg deep squats) you really can be strong AND flexible.
– Felix Leech, Crossfit London Flexibility Instructor
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