Brooklyn, NY

A Technique Better than Passive Stretching


By Amanda Jane Snyder

If you walk into any modern gym or dance room prior to class, the first thing you will see is people stretching as a warm-up. There are entire sections of gyms dedicated solely to stretching. Heck, these days there are even specific classes designed JUST for you to be passively stretched by a stretch therapist.

But is passive stretching even helpful?

Oftentimes, I talk to clients and they tell me how tight their muscles are, or how they can never seem to release them. No matter how much they stretch, they never seem to improve or get more flexible.

Could it be the lack of time dedicated to stretching? Or is it the actual stretch technique itself that is causing more harm than good? In some cases, it may not be causing harm, but it certainly isn't improving flexibility, reducing pain, or lengthening tight muscles.
stop passively stretchingAmanda Jane Snyder

Passive stretching essentially only improves your flexibility, passively. Go figure. If you are ONLY passive stretching, you will continuously need to use assistance to get into those certain positions. Think about it. You can improve any choreographed turn or position where your leg is isometrically in the air by isometrically LOADING IT in a stretch. In other words, we need to gain strength within the stretch so that it can get into those positions and hold them comfortably without assistance.

So how can we improve flexibility and mobility to mitigate the risk of injury and to improve performance?

Let's first break down the difference between flexibility and mobility.

Flexibility is your PASSIVE range of motion (ROM), whereas mobility is dynamic and active, it is your ROM while moving through any given position.

I'll take you through the steps so you can actually start to see improvements in your flexibility and, more importantly, in your mobility. This technique can be used in any stretch or any muscle group that needs mobility improvement.

1. Passively stretch the desired muscle for 2 full minutes.

Studies are showing that 2 minutes is neurologically the minimum time needed for our muscles to actually recognize the stretch and not just bounce right back where it started. Stretching for 30 seconds might feel good, but we're not creating change with just a 30-second stretch.

As you wait for the 2 minutes, you can explore and scan your body in this position to find the area where you feel the greatest stretch. Hinge forward and create bowing around the muscle so you are sure to target that specific muscle group. For example, if you round forward, you are really creating a stretch in your spine; if your leg is perfectly straight, you will feel it through your calf as well, rather than targeting the hamstrings.
Amanda Jane Snyder

2. Build strength in the stretch.

After you stretch the desired muscle for 2 full minutes, we'll want to start building strength within the stretch. You can do this by creating isometric tension.

Start pushing down into the ground or bar and start isometrically loading up by slowly increasing the tension. Imagine your heel pressing into a scale and watching the scale slowly inching up in weight or percentage.
Amanda Jane Snyder

3. Deepen the position.

To actively deepen this position, we will want to reverse the tension by lifting away from the ground or the bar. We are still hinged forward, so our leg might not even move at all. It's all about creating that internal effort to increase our ROM that we will use in the future during our leg extension, turn, or leap.

Hold this for 10-30 seconds. You might experience cramping, and that's okay!
Amanda Jane Snyder

4. Relax into the stretch.

Relax into the stretch. You should feel yourself able to deepen the stretch without rounding forward.

You are slowly training your muscles to accept these new positions by building that strength. This should take a total of 3-5 minutes to complete. One round on each side is acceptable. Perform once a day for optimal results!

Amanda Jane Snyder is a certified FRCms from which the ideas in this article stem. She is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Corrective Exercise Specialist, Certified Personal Trainer, and Mindset Coach living in Brooklyn, NY. She has been vegan for 4 years. She specializes in Strength and Conditioning for Actors, Singers, and Dancers.

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Amanda is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Certified Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor and Lifestyle/Mindset Coach! In the midst of the ever-changing fitness industry chock full of fad diets, Amanda uses her program ForeverFit to help clients find true success through habit change, routine, and making health and fitness apart of their LIFESTYLE! Amanda is powered by plants!

Brooklyn, NY

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