Every night before bed, my youngest son asks me to scratch his back. Naturally, I start by scratching his head. “NO Daddy! My Back!”
Which leads me to say to him, “You want to scratch my back? OK!”
“No Daddy. YOU scratch NATHAN’S back!”
I finally get around to scratching his back and I ask him why is he so itchy. “I’m not itchy, it just feels good!”
It just feels good. That got me thinking about stretching. There might not be a better feeling than getting out of the car after an hour’s ride and arching your back with your hands thrust in the air.
But what else does stretching do for you? Some people use stretching as a warm up activity. Think of salt-water taffy. Grab a piece out of the box, unwrap it and tug on both ends. Next do the same thing, but before you pull, hold a match under the center for a couple of seconds. Which way is easier to pull the taffy? Back to your muscles, you need to warm them up before you stretch. The best way to warm up is to do your preferred activity at a lower intensity.
There is also ample evidence that stretching prior to competing actually weakens your muscles! I am not a gifted athlete, so doing something that will make me even less gifted doesn’t make sense.
Some people stretch to prevent injuries. In actuality, most sports injuries happen within the normal range of motion, meaning having greater flexibility doesn’t do anything to prevent injuries!
I guess the thing to ask yourself is this: What are you doing that requires greater flexibility? Do you do splits to clean under the bed? Are all of your cupboards mounted two feet above your head? Stretching does feel good, but many of our long held beliefs about why we stretch don’t hold up under the bright light of science. So, if it feels good, do it! (just don’t expect it to make you stronger, more supple, or less prone to injury!)
Post by a former Vertex Fitness Staff Member