You won’t find me using the word ‘stretching’ a lot in my articles. I call it relaxation. I hope this article helps you understand the link between the two.

Only & only when we move a muscle through its full range of motion can it exert maximum force with least energy expense. And any movement is the work of multiple muscles working together. Therefore, it can never be about training a few muscles.

 

 


The primary requirement in any sport is smooth, effortless, fluent action. Whether it is hitting a cross court backhand in tennis or badminton or bowling 160 km/hour in cricket or baseball, the first and foremost requirement is to effectively move through an action. After this comes strength, flexibility, nutrition, power etc. etc. Right?

neck 5It is not always possible to replicate anybody’s action however the fundamentals of a movement is same for everyone. Therefore attending to these fundamentals and training to master (to the best adaptation by your body) these fundamentals is the key to training in sports.

After looking at these big players, do you think that there is a need to work on the movement in sports? Do you think two players from the same sport might be using/hurting their muscles differently?

 

Do we treat movement as the key to success in sports? Surely we should. However, after looking at the injuries to sports persons all over the world – baseball pitchers, cricketers, tennis/badminton players, footballers, or hockey players, I don’t think we fully understand the intricacies of a movement or movement training. Maybe we have given away some key elements of training to adjust more?

Ironically most sports today are backed by top IT/technology with heaps of data, researches, load measuring tools/experts, and whatever else it takes to build a robust sports infrastructure. However the  number of injuries have only increased in the last 10 years. Why? Here is my comment on somebody’s post recently which is related to this and perhaps self explanatory:

The more we are trained to respond to certain signals, the better we set the tone for the whole circuit to respond. Unlike electricity, the electrical signals (neurotransmitters) in our body don’t  work on a constant threshold and instead there are multiple threshold points in any movement. Example: An electric wire with multiple plug-ins in different velocity stabilizers before the final output. It is high time we start looking at movement as an electric circuit and NOT just keep coiling certain junctions via strength.

Elbow injury to a baseball pitcher is the prime example.

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There are multiple ways to train a movement however stretching to me is one of the most critical aspects which is ignored heavily in today’s sports world. Why? What makes stretching so unimportant? Just because a few researchers decided to take a few subjects of certain background coming from certain sport in certain conditions and prove that static stretching doesn’t help? Really? How can we be so ignorant towards our body mechanism? How do we forget the basic anatomical structure of our body?

 

IRONY: It is a shame that we Indians have forgotten our ancient old science of ‘Yog’ that has enlightened the world and safeguarded millions. Strength & conditioning world is fascinated by Central Nervous Training (CNS) or cardiovascular training today whereas attention/focus/breathing is the ancient basic fundamental in Yog. S&C world is enthralled by eccentric training today whereas our Yog gurus explained and took care of eccentric training via hundreds of postures centuries ago.

Today we hire overseas coaches to train these aspects to our sportsmen. You see the irony there?

Because ‘Yog’ as is  may not be useful to all sports persons. Yes, it is not suitable because of the imbalances they cause to their own body! But that doesn’t make its science a waste. What if we try and understand the fundamental science which forms the basis of Yog and tweak it to suit our sports persons? To work on CNS, focus, breath and flexibility? I call it relaxation. No training is complete by itself. Be it strength & conditioning, movement science, endurance, flexibility, nutrition, yoga or anything else. Any form of training needs to be adapted to a sport and so does stretching. Even our minds need to be trained as per the sport’s requirement. We need a mix of it all.  

I welcome anyone – professional sports persons, coaches or amateurs, to join me in my training program. I will show you the positive impact of mixing ‘stretching’ and how it translates to bettering our performance in any sport across all domains including strength, mobility, action, flexibility, and power. Although I have demonstrated this a few times earlier across different sports over the years,  however we can do a recorded version this time.

I am selecting a few random pictures from my catalogue for this article and I want you to test yourself out by doing these very basic, simplest, and most deserving human body exercises. Let me know if you or your player manages to do all without a niggle or uneasiness. Regardless of your sport, you would need your body to perform these exercises to improve your sporting performance.

 

 


Why do we struggle to do something so basic? Something our body is actually designed for?  Why??? There are several hundred versions of these exercises that I create depending on the props available and the environment we’re in. All of them attending to the same muscle group and their functions. How difficult could this be to practice? But do we practice?

Yes, any stretch can become physically exhausting because we use our body in a certain manner in the sport we play or otherwise. But the bigger question we must ask is: Do these stretches help our body? Let me ask you – how could they not?

 

 

I’ve read research studies on the subject of training, also read a few articles that state that static stretches are no good before a warm-up. The inference? Stretching is not beneficial for physical performance. Really? How in the world can anyone make such a rule? And worse…why do trainers follow this without fully understanding the reasoning of such a rule?

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Sorry folks…if you don’t understand why our body needs to arch back after staying in forward bend all day; then you need to re-learn human anatomy from scratch, regardless of what level you are.

 

 

Some muscles shorten and become tight due to overuse, a few become inactive, a few overactive & fatigued, and some are made redundant in practice. Do you think this can cause imbalance in our body? Oh yes…100%.  What do we do about it? Do we even understand why we should activate an inactive/inhibited muscle?

Indeed these research studies are carried out by using highly sophisticated tools in a controlled environment monitoring everything. But ironically we often ignore the most obvious principle of applying a research – the conditions/environment/sport/time of the year/condition of players etc. Do the subjects in America for any research respond in a similar manner to a subject/player in India? What about their background, nutrition, sleep, what they do on the field, genes, home facilities/environment, their body type, their current condition, their current role? All of this matters.

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Human body principles don’t change but their functioning behaviour does on the basis of how we treat our body. Fluency in a movement comes naturally if our body is trained for it.

Reminds me of my latest study in nutrition where I found top scientists of the world tearing each others research apart on which substrate out of fat & carbs is best for us. Both have promising arguments with science backed research and therefore, they can’t be completely wrong. Irony is that nobody wants to accept that our body factually require both substrates the way it is designed. How much of each? Now that’s what the researchers should be working on and not just sticking their gun out at the other.

Similarly in training we must understand how the human anatomy is built and not just how we can exhaust it. Give our body what it requires and it will give you back what we are chasing.

Static stretching is not recommended before warm-up/training?

Why? Who decides that?

Players and their physical condition on that morning is my take. What’s yours?

I have tested this on my players where I would start a warm up with static stretches sometimes and incidentally players find their response to training better than other days. In fact, they found it the best! They felt light through out the session as am told by players. Why?

Because they gave their body what is required and NOT what is written in the book.

Conclusion: Going by the book and research studies is good to understand the reasoning behind a practice. If that reasoning does not coincide with our circumstances, which it never does, then we must evaluate what is right for players.

Swearing by any practice would not do any good to your players and instead it will only injure players which is the case right now.

A warm-up should depend on your players body condition that morning and how they have used their muscles in the last 24/48 hours and NOT how big coaches warm up their teams. If one feels stiff, then by all means, get involved in light stretches before you bring your muscles under the hammer again. And if you feel stiff everyday then do something about it….seek an expert’s help.

Your body tells you everything that an outsider can’t!

Lastly, find time to incorporate stretching in your training regime if you want your players to stay injury free.

Stretching is more important than data.

PS: If you find any of the above mentioned references interesting then you can read an article about the same subject from my page. I think I have covered most of the subjects that we can think of in fitness up until this day so surely you should find one article of your subject choice. Understanding human body is an endless science in my reading so far and I continue to dive deeper into it.

Simplifying training….

Umesh Chhikara

Sports Scientist