STRETCHING MYTH: When muscles are flexible around a joint, you will get injured.

STRETCHING MYTH: When muscles are flexible around a joint, you will get injured.

The idea that tight muscles perform better is a common misconception.

In order for muscles to perform at their best and protect a joint, they must not only be strong, they must be flexible. It doesn’t matter how strong your muscles are around a joint, if they lack flexibility you risk imbalance and injury.

A strong muscle has the ability to lengthen and shorten at an adequate rate while acclimating to the forces placed on it. When the muscle is tight, it lacks the ability to fire properly due to poor adjustments to tensions being placed on it. When a muscle fires incorrectly, it causes a chain reaction throughout the entire body, throwing off your balance, posture and functional ability.

When a muscle lacks flexibility, it also restricts your joint’s range of motion, decreasing mobility, and creating muscular imbalances around that joint. In all sports and activities, proper form is imperative for maximum results and to prevent injury. Proper form can only be achieved if all the muscles that are involved in the movement are healthy and flexible and able to meet the demands being placed on them.

A tennis player came to see us complaining of recurring elbow bursitis. After evaluation, we found that her bursitis was a result of tight muscles surrounding her elbow joint. This tightness caused a friction force to be applied to the bursa, inflaming it. We stretched the muscles that surround her shoulder and elbow in order to increase blood flow and decrease pressure in the joint. After two sessions with our stretch therapist, the client reported that her pain was 100% relieved. Now that her elbow joint is more mobile, and the muscles are able to fire properly, she is able to play multiple sets without the added stress on her bursa.

Continued sessions with us have helped her to decrease tension forces in her elbow, increase mobility, enhance her posture and improve her tennis form and performance. She is now able to play longer and stronger without pain. Regular stretching sessions have taken her game to another level.

Stretching and Weight Training: A LYMBR stretch therapist and personal trainer’s perspective.

Stretching and Weight Training: A LYMBR stretch therapist and personal trainer’s perspective.

Strength Training continues to grow in popularity, more now than ever. It’s no wonder considering the many benefits – an increase in muscle size and strength, the ability to help maintain a lower body fat percentage, stress management, and, of course, the benefits we see in the mirror.

The few minutes you may (or may not) spend stretching after a workout are not effective enough to give you the benefits you need to keep you progressing at the gym, and keep your risk of injury to a minimum. An hour a week of proper, purposeful stretching will help keep you on your 4-5 hours a week schedule at the gym.

An avid weight trainer who focuses on upper bodywork came to us with lower back pain. A postural analysis was performed and it was identified that his shoulders were rounding forward. The anterior side (front) of his upper body became tight (overactive) due to the weight training, and the posterior chain (back) of the body became weaker (underactive).

The cause? Strength training shortens the muscles and creates microtears on the tissue during a workout. These microtears are caused by the tension placed on the muscle from using weights. Through this process, the length of the muscles is shortened, and over time, the more these fibers remain shortened, the more prone you became to injury and compromised posture.

The physiology of the body is very good at seeking equilibrium. The body will always seek a balance in which the body creates a stable environment. But in our client’s case, this new stable environment came at a cost. Rounded shoulders created an imbalance within the mid-line of this body, creating an improper posture. And thanks to gravity, the weight-bearing lumbar spine had to support more weight due to the slight protruding head that comes with rounded shoulders, resulting in lower back pain.

Stretching the muscles of the anterior portion of his upper body helped him regain better posture by lengthening the appropriate muscles. As the muscles lengthened, the rounding in his shoulders decreased. As his body found its new, more efficient equilibrium and his posture improved, the pain resolved as the pressure was taken off his lower back (primarily his Latissimus Dorsi).

We are often asked, “what is the best set of stretches for weight lifting?” The answer – there is no specific stretch regimen. It all depends on each person’s body blueprint, and what they need according to their overall assessment. Whether you’re a beginner, moderate or frequent gym member, every stretch protocol is different.

Our sessions helped him to better understand how his body works and how to be conscious of when his body is in need of a stretch. His workouts are more effective, his movements are more efficient, his training can progress, and he will reduce the risk of further pain or injury.

Written by Noah Moore. Noah is a Stretch Therapist in our Darien Studio as well as a certified personal trainer.