Stretching vs. Strengthening - What Should I Be Doing?
We’ve all been there, we get to the gym 10 minutes before class starts and we sit in our favourite three stretches or lay on a foam roller because we want to target the areas that feel tight and restricted. But is this really priming the body and the nervous system, improving that range or getting it ready for the workout your about to put it through?
Flexibility doesn’t really mean a whole lot if we don’t have strength or control in those ranges… Our goal is mobility - active control and strength through full ranges of motion. Actively loading the tissue and gaining control shows the body that the movement is safe, and builds more capacity and resiliency through full ranges allowing us to target the area of the restriction.
If we want to address restriction and prepare our muscles and nervous system to perform, getting muscles to turn on to create power and stability, active mobility and muscle activation/strengthening drills are the way to go.
Now you say Sara - what the heck does that look like? A great example of movement preparation is animal crawls. They are body weight, low stress/impact, done slowly are a great way to increase some blood flow and ease the body into full range of motion movement and muscle activation.
Or if you have specific issues, say you sit at a desk all day at work and it’s really hard for you to engage your glutes during squats, lunges or deadlifts (no booty DOMS??), do some glute bridges - bilateral, add a yoga block between your knees, single leg - whatever progression is most suitable for you. This creates awareness and recruitment, and is neurologically creating length and space in the opposing area - the notoriously shortened hip flexors. This active approach creates real, long term change in the glute/hip flexor imbalance, unlike passively sitting in a low lunge for minutes.
Passive stretching feels really good, and that cognitive benefit should not be underestimated. If it brings you joy and makes you feel good, keep doing it. But if you’re wanting to prepare your body for a workout, or address any areas of tightness or restriction effectively and create long term change - active mobility and muscle activation drills are the way to go.
Sara Vis, RMT
The Athlete Centre
WARM UP: 3 rounds - 4 cossack squat per side, 4 inchworms, 4 overhead squats with dowel progressing to bar.
SKILL: Overhead Squat from rack: 5 x 3 with 1 sec pause in the bottom of the squat, e90s to E2M (coaches discretion based on class size)
Rx: 8 min cap: 40-30-20-10 double unders and 16-12-8-4 pullups.
FG2: 5 double unders per round, rest as singles
FG1: single unders x 2, jumping pullups or kipping banded
CP1: ctb pullups
CP2: Bar MU 7-5-3-1
Rest 8 min
Rx: 8 min cap: 16-12-8-4 Double KB Sto (35/53) and burpees.
FG1: scale KB as needed