Workout of the Day

Is Stretching Making You Weak and Injured?


Imagine taking a rubber band and regularly stretching it to its limits and holding it there. What changes would you expect to see over time? For one, the rubber band will have a longer starting point. You can also bet that it will lose some elasticity, and the band would get weaker, too.

The good news: you’re not a rubber band, and so your body is capable of more complex adaptations than a little strip of rubber.

The bad news: if you do too much stretching and not enough of the other stuff, your results may not be much better than those of the rubber band.

If I may backpedal for a moment…

Flexibility is important. This is especially the case in our modern world where the window of the average person’s flexibility is rapidly shrinking as we spend 14+ hours a day seated with poor posture in a desk chair, car, dinner table, couch, and slumped over a cell phone. Flexibility is one of the ten physical skills which we prioritize in our training. But even more important is mobility. Mobility includes flexibility, but also covers your body’s ability to function in its end ranges. Someone who is flexible can do the splits. Someone who is mobile can do the splits and has stability and strength in these end-ranges of their hips.

Back to stretching…

Stretching is one ingredient in the dish. Serve up a plate full of dry flour when your guests expect a blackberry pie, and you’re going to have something of a mess on your hands. Stretching is neither bad nor good, it is an ingredient or a tool, and like any other tool it needs to be balanced with the use of other tools and appropriately matched to your individual needs. Stretching unaccompanied by other tools such as strength training in end ranges, movement repatterning, stability training, or dynamic mobility can leave you just like an overstretched rubber band: injured and weak.

Now, enough with the doom and gloom and on to solutions. What should you do? The real answer is: it depends. Everyone will be different. Some people -- particularly the very inflexible among us -- may benefit from a hefty dose of stretching. Others may need little to no “stretching” in the traditional sense, and time would be better spent with dynamic mobility, strength, or stability drills, for example.

The general answer is twofold.

First, understand why you are so inflexible. Perhaps it’s your postural habits. Perhaps it’s a muscular imbalance. You can stretch ‘til the cows come home and not make any lasting change in your functional range of motion if you never resolve why you’re inflexible in the first place. Address the cause, not the symptom. This can be challenging to do, but individualized assessment and programming from your coach can certainly put you on the right track.

Second, pair your flexibility training with strength training in your newly gained ranges of motion. How and what to do will be clear if you can answer question number one above, but a simple example is this: if you stretch your hips enough to add 2” of depth when you sit in a squat, but nothing changes in your squat depth when you put a heavy barbell on your back, have you really made any productive change? That “new” range of motion you’ve gained needs to be trained. It is uncharted territory for your hips to carry a barbell down that low, and so you’ve got work to do in order to catch them up to speed.

Let’s sum it up this way: you can likely should stretch, sure, but understand why you’re doing it, and make sure you take care of the other important things, too.

- PS


  • Sandbag reverse lunge - 5x10 (5/leg)


  • 4 rounds:

  • AMRAP 3

    • 10 SB squats (AHAP)

    • 50’ SB front carry

    • 10 SB deadlift

    • 50’ SB front carry

  • Rest 1 min