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I don't what it is.
It may be getting older, it may be becoming a dad and having the honour of watching my kid grow, it may just be that I'm getting more comfortable with being me.
I seem to come close to having an emotion every now and then....not quite, but almost.
I listened to the Baz Lurhmann track Sunscreen the other day.
You know the one where he doles out good advice over a nice beat. I remember hearing it when it first came out and it was alright.....I was too busy finding pubs to stagger home from as I was at university at the time (doing the first stage of becoming a dropout).
But the other night I thought it was fantastic and wished I'd been smart enough to heed it's advice 20 years ago.
Check it out here if you're wondering what I'm banging on about.
But there's a great piece of advice that I think dear ol' Baz missed out.
And that's to stretch.
Man I wished I had stretched more often.
I also wish that I knew how to stretch and to get the most out of the stretch.
Feeling tight seems to hit most folks at some point after the age of 28. But why?
Why do we feel tight and what the fish can we do to improve things?
In my experience muscle tightness is just about never to do with a muscle being truly short.
The muscle doesn't lose length but instead increases in tone.
In plain English, the body starts to feel that a joint or area of the body is unstable so acts to protect it self. The nervous systems cranks up the tension in the muscle to hold things in place.
Tightness is just the body trying to find a solution to a problem.
Now before you run of and start tying yourself into a pretzel there are a couple of things to consider first.
The first is general stretching is not for everyone.
Some people are born with looser connective tissues than others. This often means they can move like a bendy straw.....often they'll gravitate to activities like dancing and gymnastics as they can hit all the funky positions.
Often they'll feel tight and really really want to stretch......even though their limbs can hit some crazy ranges of movement.
They feel tight because the muscles are holding on for dear life to try and keep things together.
To see if this applies to you, use the Beighton Laxity Scale. (Despite it's name this isn't a constipation cure.)
The tests are demonstrated in the picture below.
The sawn off version is if you can bend forward and touch your palms to the floor with straight legs, extend your ring finger so that it's almost pointing to the ceiling and/or bring your thumb back towards your forearm then you have some laxity present.
The best way forwards would be to focus on strength training activities.
Make the muscles stronger, therefore better able to support and stabilise and you'll feel less tight.
Stretching a hyper mobile joint will really mess with your chi.
The next considerations are the simpler things you can do right now to help things move better.
Such as drinking enough water.
If your connective tissues are dehydrated they're going to get tighter and move poorly.
Think of it as putting WD40 on creaky old door hinge.
This has been an absolute game changer for me.
Ab muscles which aren't as strong as we need them to be can cause havoc on the rest of the body.
I've lost track of the amount of times I've been able to improve a clients range of movement in their legs by getting their core muscles switched on.
The ab muscles attach to your pelvis, as do many of the muscles from your legs.
If the core is weak then the legs have a weak foundation to move on. Therefore the body restricts the movement possible.
The body can even start to use the leg muscles as stabilisers for the pelvis and causes even more tightness.
Personally I've improved the movement of my shoulders and cleared up some long term pain by getting my core into the game more.
It doesn't need to be anything fancy. Some ab-plank variations are a great place to start.
Something that looks a little like this.
I like to think of the core as a peg in a tents guide rope. Without it you can't hold anything in place.
You can stretch your hips all you like, but if there is nothing to hold things in place, no stability at the pelvis then the body will just go back to as it was.
It still has the same problem to solve and it will use the same solution as before.
You need the strength at the abs to make the stretch permanent.
Let's Get Stretchy
I said at the start that I thought stretching was mucho important. I didn't say that I liked it.
At best I'd describe my relationship with stretching as "it's complicated".
If you train at a gym you can start by choosing exercises that involve a stretch.
An example of this is a split squat.
The front of the thigh on the rear leg goes through a stretch whilst the muscles on the leading leg get put through their paces.
For bonus points keep the butt on the rear leg tensed and firing hard.
If you really want to hate life a bit more you can elevate the back leg slightly on a step block.
But get used to regular split squats before doing this, otherwise it may feel like you're trying to detach something that would rather not be detached.
Dumbbell pullovers are another example.
They get length into the lat muscles whilst getting the abs to fire hard when performed well.
Focus on keeping the lower back in touch with the bench, don't allow it to arch away. Elbows stay nice and long as you reach back.....you should feel your abs having a fine ol' party.
Finally we have regular ol' stretches, you can do these guys at home and it takes nothing more than placing enough value on your body to spend a couple of minutes doing them.
You don't even need to do a dedicated stretching session.
You could make a deal with yourself to do one each time you stand up from the desk, couch or where ever you spend a decent amount of time.
My favourite cover all bases stretches are....
Half kneeling hip stretch - the hip flexors tend to get a little gritty. Tension in these guys can contribute to back and knee pain (which ain't ideal).
This stretch is performed in most gyms and absolutely murdered with poor technique which makes it at best ineffectual.
Squeeze the butt on the kneeling side as hard as you can, the whole time. Don't try to extend your knee a meter behind your body as I assure you, you will only be cranking on your back and doing zero for your hips.
Check out this video to avoid the pitfalls.
The lats are another area that can cause mucho issues all over the body due their attaching to the shoulders and the pelvis (The only muscle to do so).
A good option to keep these chaps happy can be found here.
Finally the dear old pecs need some lovin'.
I love stretching them out on a foam roller. It's effective and you get to lie down....what more could you want.
If you take the arms straight out to the sides in a T position, you'll hit more of the pec major. Moving the arms into a Y position (think about the YMCA moves), goes for the pec minor.
Both need some care. But move between the two and see where you feel the most tension, then just hang there and let gravity do the work.