The Psychology Of Fitness

Mindsets, Body Types and Everything In Between

Monday Workouts – What Good is Flexibility?

Over the past couple of years, static stretching has been beaten down and bloodied by researchers and some top level personal trainers.  They say that it decreases performance and therefore, shouldn’t be done by people. Although I believe there are some good arguments against static stretching, I do believe that there are more reasons to continue doing it. This is especially true if you’re working out for yourself, without the help of a competent trainer.

Gray Cook put together a much more coherent argument – here’s his article(pdf) on why static stretching is still important for most people that work out.

With that said, I would say that besides static stretching taking a beating, foam rolling has come out as the “best thing in the world.”  And although I do love me some foam rolling, when I see some people foam rolling their lumbar spine, it makes me cringe.

With that said, I think everyone should be doing some foam rolling.  Here’s a video from Cressey Performance that displays the best foam rolling movements that you can do for mobility in your IT band, calves, piriformis, lat, chest, thoracic spine, etc.

With that said, why would you want to follow these recommendations for flexibility when you’re trying to lose weight?
1 – If you don’t have the proper flexibility, then it’s harder to do more advanced movements without hurting yourself. What this means is that you’re “stuck” doing low level exercises, you will typically then complain that you don’t see any results from exercise. Maybe if you had more range of motion to do more than bicep curls and lateral raises, you would actually see the bodily changes you want.
2 – It feels good. I don’t have a better reason than that. Seriously, when you’re done stretching and foam rolling you feel like you’re 10 years younger. You actually feel like you can “move” again and you don’t feel “so old” like you do every time you get up from your seat at work.
3 – Injury prevention – The most important key in body composition changes is consistency. Consistency with “stupid movements” is not smart, but not working out is even worst. If you want to continue seeing results, you will need to not only work out, but to do it consistently. Therefore, stretch and foam roll.

What if you’re a guy trying to gain muscle? Why would you need flexibility? Pretty much for the same reasons.
1 – If you don’t have flexibility, then it’s harder to do advanced movements properly. What this means is that if you trying to squat without the proper flexibility then you’re more apt to have your knees buckle in while doing the movement.  You will most likely not be able to get to parallel to the ground, no matter dropping down even further. If you can’t or don’t squat properly, you’re missing out on A LOT of overall muscular development.
2 – If you’re tight, you won’t be activating the correct muscles. Ever complain that you can’t grow your chest, but you can bench press a lot of weight. Besides needing to pick a better exercise to actually hit your pec musculature, you’re probably overdeveloping your anterior delts and tri’s. Meaning that all that weight that you’re putting on your bench isn’t being used by your chest, but is instead being transferred to muscles that should be assisting the movement, not doing the movement.
3 – Injury prevention. Christian Thibaudeau has a quote that is integral to his training – “The more you can train without exceeding your capacity to recover the more you’ll progress.”  Keeping with this theory, if you hurt yourself by throwing out your back or hurting your shoulder, then you will be “compromising your ability to recover.”  And nothing stalls your progress in the gym more than not being able to go as heavy or as hard as you need to, in order to keep seeing results – Period.

Enough talking – now go do some stretches.

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