Why We Stretch!
To Create Space Inside the Body: The Truth About Mobility, Flexibly, and Training
Waking up the brain and the muscles before a workout is a no brainer. Increasing blood flow brings new nutrients to the area to get the body prepared for movement.
What this means for training, movement, and performance.
According to Inoue & Maruoka (2017), increasing the flow or rhythm of the lymph makes the body lighter, decreases cortisol levels, and reduces fatigue. Increasing the lymphatic flow through movement and stretching before a workout reduces the likelihood of injury and creates ease for movement. Stretching prepares the body for activity or an immediate demand on the system.
The lymph is congested if the fascia is restricted.
Fascia movement and mobility that happens during stretching breaks down or releases any fascial fibers that have been laid down during sleep or sitting for prolonged periods. It is essential for increasing strength and reducing muscle tears and injury. The fascial fibers are continually forming, coming apart, and reforming to meet the demands of the body.
There has been lots of debate about stretching, flexibility, and fascial stretching. There is the research on flexibility and then there is the practical application and how it works in real life. To me, it is a matter of semantics. The fascia creates space inside the body for organs, cells, and tissues to glide over each other. This reduces pain and the possibility of tearing tissues or injury.
Let’s look at several types of flexibility:
- Joint flexibility, which can also be the laxity of ligaments which we see in hypermobility. This determines the maximal joint range of motion. Anchor the joint and stretch the muscle and fascia.
- Muscle flexibility, the ability of the muscle to contract and expand, lengthening the muscle fibers
- Fascial Stretching, the space that the fascia allows for the muscles to contract and expand, this allows the lymphatics and the circulatory system to move without increased or abnormal pressure.
The flexibility of the muscles does predict the ability to generate power.
To demonstrate how this happens, imagine an elastic if we pull it back while anchoring one point. The further we stretch it back, the more distance or power we generate to launch an object. If we overstretch the elastic it loses its integrity and loses power. If there is not space inside the body for movement, power is lost. If there is too much laxity in the joints or muscles, power and ballistic movements are lost.
If you have no space inside your body to allow for the absorbing of stress, movement, and the pull of gravity and you put a heavy load on it, there is an increased likelihood you will have an injury at some point.
To increase performance benefits, mobility and movements before starting a rigorous workout are essential to prevent tearing of muscle fibers, the weakest link will be the first to be injured. The most important time to stretch or increase space in the body is after a workout. We are compressing the body all day long, during a workout and there is nothing telling the body to expand other than movement and stretching.
Why We Need to Stretch
- Get the lymph moving
- Break up fascial fibers that have laid down while sitting or sleeping
- Create space in the fascia so the muscles can contract and relax
The fine balance between stretching, movement, and training leads to a powerful, pain-free body.
Inoue, K., & Maruoka, H. (2017). Effects of simplified lymph drainage on the body: in females with menopausal disorder. Journal of Physical Therapy Science, 29(1), 115-118. doi:10.1589/jpts.29.115