By Elliot Fisher, MS, ATC, CSCS, PES
Injury prevention and rehabilitation is a big topic in the fitness industry. Most people get an injury at some point in their life or athletic career. Stretching and mobility exercises are popular for preventing injuries. I personally do not do much of any stretching or mobility exercises. This may seem counterintuitive because I am an athletic trainer and have worked in physical therapy before, where stretching and prehab exercises are strongly encouraged. In this blog I’ll cover my personal reasons for not stretching and go over why you may or may not want to stretch on a regular basis.
The reason mobility exercises are encouraged for injury prevention is because many injuries are caused by insufficient range of motion/mobility. If you can’t touch your toes you’re going to be more likely to pull your hamstring when running, playing sports, or during daily activity. This is because if you don’t have the range of motion and you try to put yourself into a position where you don’t have the range of motion the muscle can tear (pulling the muscle). Most people do not have adequate range of motion. For the general population stretching or doing mobility drills on a regular basis is a good idea and would prevent a lot of pain and tension.
Some general recommendations for mobility requirements may include:
Being able to touch your toes (about 90 degrees of hip flexion with legs extended at 180 degrees)
Being able to reach overhead completely (180 degrees of shoulder flexion)
Having full rotation of the shoulder (90 degrees of shoulder internal rotation and external rotation)
There are many other ranges of motion, but these are a few that are likely to benefit your life on a daily basis.
Mobility requirements are also important for sport or athletic requirements. I compete in powerlifting and have to have enough range of motion to squat, bench, and deadlift with good technique. This includes:
Squat:120 degrees hip flexion, 120 degrees knee flexion, some degree of hip external rotation, while maintaining a braced slightly extended spine
Bench: shoulder abduction of 90 degrees with scapular retraction
Deadlift: 90 degree hip flexion with slight knee flexion
This is not anything crazy to maintain. Lifting on a regular basis (about twice per week per exercise) keeps my tissues mobile. If I need to get into a squat on a daily basis I can do it without having to stretch or warm up. And since I don’t take much time off from the gym I never lose the range of motion. As I get older this might change and I might need to do some mobility exercises to keep my range of motion. However, for right now I have adequate range of motion and doing mobility or stretching wouldn’t have any additional benefit.
In conclusion, if you do not have adequate range of motion for your daily activities you should do some stretching or mobility work to improve your mobility and keep it. If you have the range of motion and use it on a regular basis you may not need to do any mobility work.