PT on the Net Research

Basic Stretches


Question:

I've noticed references to the "seven basic stretches" that everyone should do. Do you have an article on this for teaching purposes or maybe just the stretches organized together?

Answer:

I am not an advocate for stretching for the sake of stretching, and I don’t believe there is a basic stretching routine everyone should do. Flexibility is a good thing; however, over stretched muscles and hyper-mobility can decrease proprioception and joint stability, which in turn will decrease performance and increase chance of injury. This is not to say that stretching is not beneficial and you shouldn’t include flexibility training in your programs. I am a firm proponent of flexibility training. Flexibility training is not simply stretching. Flexibility training requires not only addressing the tight muscles, it requires strengthening the weak muscles that typically oppose the tight muscles. You notice I said “address” not “stretch” the tight muscles. These muscles can be addressed by dynamic, static or PNF stretching and they may also be addressed through working on the fascial system through the use foam rollers, tennis balls and/or a referral to a soft tissue therapist. Flexibility training should be integrated into your programs in order to maintain muscle balance, which in turn will produce efficient movement and peak muscle contractibility.

So with establishing and maintaining muscle balance being the aim of flexibility training, we must first identify muscle imbalances. Gray Cook’s Reebok Movement Screens are a great tool to identify areas of imbalance. (Editor's Note: In the instructions for Gray's video titled Advanced Functional Movement Screening, it states "The video set provides specific instructions in how to perform the 7 Test Functional Movement Screen and how to prescribe exercise progressions based on the weaknesses found during the testing.") Once you identify areas of imbalance, you can logically put together a plan of attack. To arm yourself for this mission, I would urge you to refer to the Author Symposium The Truth About Stretching. Good luck and happy learning!