The Importance of Stretching and Joint Mobility
You know you’re supposed to stretch. And if you’re a client of mine, it’s written into your program that you should. But if you’re anything like most people, especially if you’re short on time, you might stretch a few times a week. Maybe. Or you could justify not stretching by thinking, “Oh, I’ll just schedule a massage in a few weeks. It’s fine.”
While that may work for you for a while, your central nervous system and other systems in your body do not agree. And unless you’ve done rounds of PT, or work in the field, you’ve probably never thought about that in the weight room and how lack of proper joint mobility will impact your aesthetic progress as well.
Pain is your warning that something is wrong. We all understand that. But to your subconscious mind and your nervous system, discomfort is also interpreted as pain. So while you might get through a workout if you just don’t do free weight heavy overhead press, your body is saving that information as “prevent full range of motion of shoulder and compound pressure on spine because injury will likely happen.” But we all love to push ourselves in the gym, we all want to be strong, and we all want to improve our physique. And for many people, that means they will push past pain or try to find some way to maneuver around it. Maybe it’s with pain-killers, supplements, straps and braces, or simply just bearing it because “no excuses, gotta get it done!”
Even if you’re pushing through the pain or discomfort, your body is going to make adjustments to avoid injury. Other muscles will start to take over to get the movement done while avoiding the damaged or tight muscles or tissues as much as possible. It’s very easily seen in women who have very large quads but hardly any shape to their glutes. They’ll do squats, lunges, step-ups all the time with minimal activation from the glutes. They could be even throwing in kickbacks and glute bridges to isolate the glutes with a degree of success. But ultimately, they’re always struggling with the quads. And in time they develop knee issues.
In short, her body compensates from improper training, poor posture, and muscular adhesions that have caused it to move in an abnormal pattern. Most of the muscles through her trunk and lower body are so tight, her only option is to make her quads do all the heavy lifting. She’s even probably feeling them in her hip thrust! So the only way for this woman, and anyone dealing with movement and muscle compensations to bring their body into alignment, get out of pain and grow the muscles they want to grow, is to get the body to quit hitting the brakes on proper movement.
The fast path to getting your body moving again is alignment and release therapy. Chiropractic care at least once every 6-8 weeks for most people. And sports massage. Depending on your body and the level of pain you’re in, you may need Graston/ Gua sha, Cupping, ART, or more gentle myofacial release treatment. You could talk to a professional in this area about what is right for you. You’ll also maintain your muscles with dynamic stretching pre-workout and static stretching after your workouts. You should stretch each muscle minimum of 60 seconds, but ideally 2 minutes.