Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Stretching is Not Enough

If you feel like you've been stretching a tight muscle forever and not making progress, you're not alone.  Most people do static stretches and some myofascial release (foam rolling), either on their own or in stretching or yoga classes.  These are valuable techniques but they may not be enough to get the results you want and may not target you individualized needs.


Muscles become tight from extended periods of sitting and repetitive motion.  Remember isometric exercises?  Exercises where you hold a muscle in a contracted position to strengthen it?


Sit in front of a computer for extended periods of time and you're doing isometrics.  Literally strengthening and shortening the hip flexors, upper trapezius, chest lats, and anterior shoulder muscles.  At the same time, you're stretching and lengthening the glutes, middle trapezius and rhomboids and shoulder external rotators.


If a muscle is tight and short, the antagonist or opposite muscle is extended and relatively weaker.  That's why static stretching and myofascial release is not enough.  A flexibility programs needs to include active stretches and eccentric (negative phase) strengthening of the tight muscles and strengthening of the antagonist muscles .


The charts below show some examples of complete flexibility programs for common complaints.  Additional illustrated programs are available on my website at programs.caryraffle.com


Unlike classes which take a one-size-fits-all approach, when we work together, we can personalize a program to your specific problem muscles, needs and goals.  We also will ensure proper form and exercise selection.

Contact me if you have any questions or want to set up some sessions to develop your personalized program.


Tight Calves - Plantar Fascitis - Achilles Tendinitis
Myofascial Release
  • Calf with foam roller, medicine ball, barbell, other implements
  • Bottom of foot with lacrosse ball or frozen water bottle
Static Stretch
  • Calf
Active Stretch - Eccentric Strengthening
  • “Reverse calf raises” or heel drops - emphasize the “eccentric” or negative phase and isometric contraction
Reciprocal - Antagonist Strengthening
  • Heel raises to strengthen the anterior tibialis (opposite or antagonist muscle to the calf)


Tight Hip Flexors - Often with Arched Back and Knee Pain
Myofascial Release
  • Quads and hip flexors foam roller and medicine ball especially at the inguinal crease (hip)
Static Stretch
  • Quadriceps and Psoas, kneel with raised arm to lengthen Psoas
Active Stretch - Eccentric Strengthening
  • “Butt Raises” on floor or stability ball -  emphasize the “eccentric” or negative phase and isometric contraction
Reciprocal - Antagonist Strengthening
  • “Butt Raises”
  • Glute strengthening exercises including single leg press and squats, hip extension, lunges


Rounded Shoulders - Often with Shoulder or Neck Pain
Myofascial Release
  • Chest/pectorals, anterior (front) of shoulders and lats with foam roller or medicine ball
Static Stretch
  • Chest stretches
Active Stretch - Eccentric Strengthening
  • Unweighted reverse fly, weighted reverse fly -  emphasize  “eccentric” or negative phase and isometric contraction
Reciprocal - Antagonist Strengthening
  • Scaption and Reverse fly - ensure shoulders are retracted, on reverse fly emphasize the negative phase when retracted
  • Shoulder external rotation
  • Close grip row, emphasize the “eccentric” or negative phase and isometric contraction when retracted
  • At least a 3:2 ratio of back to chest exercises


Elevated Shoulders - Often with Shoulder or Neck Pain
Myofascial Release
  • Upper Trapezius, Lats, Rhomboids with Roller or medicine ball
Static Stretch
  • Neck Stretch - Sternocleidomastoid, Levator Scapula
Active Stretch - Eccentric Strengthening
  • Scapular Depression - “Reverse Shrugs” on a seated dip machine or dip bar.  Keep elbows straight, raise and slowly lower the shoulder carriage.  emphasize the “eccentric” or negative phase and isometric contraction at the bottom
Reciprocal - Antagonist Strengthening


Tight Low Back - Often with Arched Back
Myofascial Release
  • Hip flexors, quadriceps, lower back, lats, piriformis
Static Stretch
  • Lats, cobra for abdominals, piriformis
Active Stretch - Eccentric Strengthening
  • “Butt Raises” on floor or stability ball -  emphasize the “eccentric” or negative phase and isometric contraction
Reciprocal - Antagonist Strengthening
  • “Butt Raises”
  • Glute strengthening exercises including single leg press and squats, hip extension, lunges
  • Reduce “Crunches” instead incorporate planks, single leg exercises and other deep core strengthening exercises


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