It takes more than 30s to develop!
Okay, so what is this post actually about I hear you ask yourself?
Well it could apply to many things: physical qualities, yourself etc. etc. However, it was actually fueled by a conversation about stretching with Dean Benton at the global coaches house. Dean is the Performance Director for the Brumbies Rugby team in Australia and a heck of a smart guy. I was really impressed with his talk on recovery and regeneration.
Anyway, back to stretching! I was talking to Dean after his session and asking him about his programme set-up and we got on to talking about stretching. I’ve been an advocate of having designated separate training units for developmental stretching for a long time now and I was pleased that Dean agreed with me on it. When I was working with GB Rowing around 5 or 6 years ago I got really frustrated with the notion of a 5 minute full body stretch at the end of the session to compliment your strength and power training and hoping to improve posture and movement in the rowers with this gesture.
To me that’s a joke! If you spend 45 minutes lifting then 5 minutes stretching whats that going to do? Nothing to develop flexibility that’s for sure!
So with the rowers we started doing long postural stretches, low intensity 3-4 out of 10 on the discomfort scale for several minutes at a time to actually get some changes in the muscle length. Guess what, it worked! The sessions were long and tough but it improved people’s posture significantly over a period of 4 weeks and more. Since then I’ve been more into programming separate developmental stretching sessions for my athletes.
If you’re looking to develop flexibility the classic 30 seconds just does not cut it when the goal is actually to develop length of the muscle fibres. It takes 10 seconds to get into the right position at least, and 10 seconds you’ll be coming out of it, so that’s really 10 seconds of stretch. No good! How I like to do it now is minute at a time rather than seconds. The minimum is 1 minute! I like 1-3 minutes for pure static stretches.
Partner passive stretching is by far the best way to develop change combined with PNF variations. 1 minute sets work really well in partner format.
Wall stretches are also really good and I use these a lot. I like wall stretches as gravity acts as your partner by pushing down and you can get nicely into hip rotators, hamstrings, glutes, hip flexors, quads and more using the wall.
Before you tell me that you’re athletes will never engage in the session, you can make the sessions more engaging by incorporating yoga sequences, martial arts type holds, it doesn’t have to be boring for your athletes at all.
We train and train our athletes for strength, conditioning, power etc. Many times actual movement and performance improvements come through mobility and flexibility changes in combination with our classic performance work.
Give some more focus to developmental stretching, just remember it takes more than 30s!
Here’s to being mobile!