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Fitness — Static Stretching is it the best option?

Did you know that there is a proper way to "warm up" and activate your body for golf or other activities?

 

Stop Stretching if you want more Mobility

The fitness world has some very ingrained paradigms. These ideals are engraved in people's emotional memory and even though disproven by scientific research, they still persist. One of the most persistent and difficult fallacies to re-program in the population's set of beliefs is the idea that static stretching does not produce good results when it comes to mobility.


First, let's understand mobility as the amount of ACTIVE range of motion you have. The length of your backswing is an example of active mobility. How far can you take the club slowly. Or your ability to squat or squat on your toes.


Man Stretching his hamstrings
Traditional Stretching may actually cause more harm

There are several ways to stretch: passive and active or static and dynamic.

Passive is when someone exerts an external force trying to increase the range of motion of the joint while you relax.

Active is when the subject uses his mobility to reach maximum amplitude consciously. With "Static", this maximum amplitude is maintained but with no muscle action for a few seconds. Whereas with "Dynamic", the musculature contracts and expands to go to the maximum amplitude and return, without stopping the movement.


Woman skipping
Active warm ups like a few minutes of skipping can actively engage your muscles for physical activity

We know that to perform a swing with quality the body needs mobility and stability in the joints. That is, lumbar, hips, shoulders, etc., must have a good range of motion and at the same time be strong enough to withstand the forces that act to generate power in the shot. When a joint is not strong enough, does not have stability to maintain the integrity of the tissues, the brain creates a very efficient unconscious defense mechanism. It automatically decreases active mobility.


The result is that even though we have more natural mobility, we were unable to access it at that moment because insecurity in the system was detected. If this joint is unsafe, but during sporting movement it happens to be taken to the extreme, the chance of injury increases exponentially. But what creates this insecurity in our body? What are the factors that trigger this movement reduction mechanism?


Stress: Emotional factors like anxiety or fear release cortisol and contribute to our limitation, as well as other external stressors. A heavy diet or alcoholic beverages in excess.


Fatigue: Physical fatigue causes unconscious changes in our movement pattern. The sporty gesture so decorated in our mind, changes considerably when our brain detects excess lactic acid. Our muscles stop receiving normal nervous stimuli and start to act in "half light" trying to conserve energy. With the musculature inactive, our range of motion decreases.


Pain: Pain is a chemical response received in the brain as a result of micro tissue injuries. Pain is a warning that must be understood and evaluated as soon as possible. With pain, our body tries to protect itself, starts using accessory muscles to spare the affected area and logically decreases mobility. Everything to warn you that it is time to stop and treat the affected area.


Compensations:

Sitting for hours daily or poor chronic posture will inevitably contribute to the shutdown of certain muscles (usually glutes and abdomen) and hyperactivity of others such as the hip flexor and spinal erectors. In the long run this pattern called Anterior crossed syndrome becomes chronic and affects your upright posture, your mobility and the ability to swing with good technique and your general health.


Addressing the problem:

The first thing that crosses our mind when we feel the decrease in mobility is — I need to stretch! But, most people do not even know how to stretch the correct areas properly, thinking that the traditional static stretch will translate into muscles being more flexible, instead it ends up having the opposite effect, making your muscles less flexible.

Diagram illustrating muscle contraction and relaxation
Notice how the muscles work in tandem when loading
 

Movement is created by contraction of the muscles and relaxation of opposite muscles when those same muscles were purposely "switched off" to protect the region, stretching is counterproductive. We are fighting against our natural defense mechanism, going against our brain instead of listening and trying to understand in order to take the necessary action.


Ok, if I've managed to convince you that stretching an inhibited muscle is not the preferred solution, then it is only natural to ask what can we do? The correct answer is it DEPENDS.


Physiotherapy with the use of resistance bands
Trained physiotherapists understand the proper techniques to assist you in recovering from injury

We must first understand the reason for the decrease in mobility. If it is fatigue, then rest and food may be the solution followed by a muscle activation workout. If it is pain, the solution should be to understand the origin of the pain and treat the area with traditional physiotherapy to reduce pain and reestablish harmony and symmetry.


If the problem is compensation (or sometimes thought of as "overcompensation"), the training should serve as a daily "repair" of the damage that the sitting routine causes. Each individual is different though, so some people experience greater wear and tear and need more frequent maintenance, others have a lighter lifestyle and adjustments may be less frequent.


Most importantly, what needs to be understood is that an acute decrease in mobility is caused by individualized responses and static stretching, being local and objective, does not help with movement but often is more harmful, leaving the joint more unstable.

 

Africa Madueño Alarcón

Africa Madueño Alarcón has been living in Brazil since 1992. She attended the University of Sao Paulo (Brazil), graduating with a degree in physical education. She has been a pioneer in the physical fitness and training field, particularly with professional and amateur golfers since 2005. Africa was the physical trainer for the Brazilian Golf Federation (Confederação Brasileira de Golfe). She is a TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) certified Level 3 – Fitness trainer and has completed her TPI level 2 Medical Certification.

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