Option Variety: The Real Story Behind Stretching
One very common method utilized for warming up is stretching. Stretching is commonly assumed to add length to muscles, improve range of motion, and therefore improve performance. However, research has made it clear that adding any lasting length to a muscle requires stretching every hour of every day for a loooong time. This is why people so commonly say “it doesn’t seem to matter how much I stretch, I’m always tight!”
So if stretching isn’t effective for adding muscle length, is there any value in it?
How well we cope with any situation depends on how well our options are suited to the task at hand. If all we use are round pegs, we’re only prepared to cope with round holes. We’re not prepared for square holes, and forget about star shaped ones! Essentially, what happens when we lose awareness of our habitual movements is that we try to navigate the world using nothing but round pegs.
Stretching takes us into positions that we don’t reach with our day to day movement habits and therefore can remind us of some of the variety available. Having a variety of option gives us more pegs to work with.
Keep in mind that stretching is not a great way to acclimate to movement, so be sure to warm up.