On the efficacy of dynamic stretching / mobility work & static stretching

freeflowme

Triple-Digit Post Count
Hey all,

Something I've been really pondering is whether it's worth my time to do dynamic warm ups before PTTP and some static stretching afterwards. I've owned both Super Joints & Relax Into Stretch for many years now, although I happen to currently be following a dynamic warm up by Greg Everett and using a selection of static stretches from Yuri Elkaim.

I'm someone who's had chronic mobility / pain problems in their right shoulder & scapula for years (throwing a ball is out of the question, brushing teeth causes burning pain, etc.) and has herniated their L4/L5 multiple times over the years according to an MRI, so I figured I'd play it safe. However, I've recently seen a lot of talk about Barbell Medicine and the research they compiled that say shows that dynamic and static stretching don't really accomplish anything and are just a waste of your time. Mark Rippetoe seems to agree with this philosophy in general. His response to a similar question I posed on the SS forums was:

"If you are sufficiently flexible to perform the lifts and your sport through a full ROM, you don't need to stretch. If you are not, you need to stretch until you can. That is all."

In a way, I think Pavel agrees with this, talking in Relax Into Stretch about not everyone needing great degrees of flexibility before diving into talking about how to actually improve your flexibility if you want / need to.

So, I guess where I'm at is - does increasing flexibility actually help reduce pain and/or help you prevent injury on lifts. Barbell Medicine seems to say no. Rippetoe seems to say do the minimum you can get by with to do your lifts. If I'm looking for pain reduction and injury prevention, am I wasting time doing dynamic warm ups? Why does Greg Everett do them, then? He seems pretty knowledgable in the world of moving weight. Barbell Medicine and Rippetoe seem to say that strengthening yourself through the range of motion is what actually reduces pain and risk of injury (i.e. just get under the bar, warm up with the bar, and do the workout - don't waste time stretching).

I've been feeling better since I started PTTP, but it takes me about an hour to do the workout because it takes about 20 minutes before lifting to follow Greg Everett's foam rolling & dynamic warm ups and about another 20 minutes afterwards to do static stretches. My body feels great afterwards, but would it feel just as good just from moving the weight? I feel like the only way I'll know for sure is to stop doing any warm ups / cool down stretches and see how I feel, but I also hate the feeling of being tight all the time (although Barbell Medicine would say that doesn't really exist), and I feel like I've made a lot of progress doing these warm ups and cool downs for 4 months now.

So... thoughts, anyone?

@Pavel - I would love to hear your thoughts if you have the time. Thank you.
 

Anna C

More than 5000 posts
Elite Certified Instructor
Looks like you've correctly interpreted the opinion of the experts. Now you need to experiment and see which opinion serves you.

Why not just do one PTTP session without all the stretches, and see if you detect a difference in 1) your ability to do the lifts, 2) your recovery, and 3) anything else (other than time saved)?

I'll say that I can tell when I start moving by how my body feels if I need any "mobility" work before training. But it took me a while to get to that point of knowing. If I do spend time on it, it's rarely more than 5 minutes. As for static stretching... same thing, except that I might spend more time on it occasionally. I just feel when I need it or when it feels good (which I usually interpret as the same thing). It's not often, and only about half the time is it after training. The rest of the time it's in the morning when I wake up, or in the evening when I'm reading or something.
 

freeflowme

Triple-Digit Post Count
Looks like you've correctly interpreted the opinion of the experts. Now you need to experiment and see which opinion serves you.

Why not just do one PTTP session without all the stretches, and see if you detect a difference in 1) your ability to do the lifts, 2) your recovery, and 3) anything else (other than time saved)?

I'll say that I can tell when I start moving by how my body feels if I need any "mobility" work before training. But it took me a while to get to that point of knowing. If I do spend time on it, it's rarely more than 5 minutes. As for static stretching... same thing, except that I might spend more time on it occasionally. I just feel when I need it or when it feels good (which I usually interpret as the same thing). It's not often, and only about half the time is it after training. The rest of the time it's in the morning when I wake up, or in the evening when I'm reading or something.
My body generally feels crappy when I wake up, or if I sit for too long, or (since I'm a violinist) after holding my arms in an upright and outstretched position for hours a day. After I do a 15-20 minute foam roll and dynamic stretching warm up, I feel like a million bucks and my body feels "centered" - like all the imbalances have been worked out, at least as well as they can be in a short time frame. Likewise, stretching after lifting weights feels great - like I'm really able to get deep into stretches and push my RoM.

I think I just see the world too black and white - like someone's got to be right and someone wrong, right? I will say when I look at the SS boards there's tons of people complaining of injury, which I feel like is partially to do with a linear progression model that encourages you to work yourself to failure week after week at a certain point, and perhaps partially because dynamic warm ups and static stretching are looked down upon.

And are we saying that the work of Kelly Starrett and others just has no real value (referring to the bulk of his stuff that's SMRT)? Or that lifters don't need to do it past the point of being mobile enough for their lifts?
 

Bill Been

More than 500 posts
You sorta answered your own question.

Both BBM and the larger cadre of Starting Strength Coaches will tell you that - if you want to stretch because it makes you feel better- have at it.

But, as evidenced by your own issues, it’s not going to change anything in any incrementally improving way, nor in anything like a permanent way. In other words, you’ve been doing quite a lot of this stuff and you wake up feeling like hot hammered horsecrap every day. It hasn’t *fixed* ANYTHING. But, if doing it helps you get under the bar to do something that actually DOES cause permanent change- more power to ya.

Without examining the above fact too closely, you then assume lots of people get hurt on the Novice Linear Progression rather than the actual fact that - like you - most people show up for a Novice LP in various stages of “already hurt”. The people that post about their dents and dings in that forum do so because they know they’ll get actual help there, rather than “go see a doctor and if he tells you to quit lifting- go see a different doctor”.
 

North Coast Miller

More than 2500 posts
So, I guess where I'm at is - does increasing flexibility actually help reduce pain and/or help you prevent injury on lifts.
Increased mobility definitely helps, I'm not so sure about increased flexibility.

The general advice is to warm up before exercise and stretch afterward, this has helped me a great deal when I stick with it and I notice when I let it slide. I use stretches that target problem areas, far from comprehensive but enough to keep me moving easy.

For stretching I exhale into as deep a stretch I can go, and repeat with 8-10 exhales, resetting back maybe 20% of the ROM from the furthest depth when I inhale. I stopped stretching to a count years ago and now use only exhales. For a warmup I will use anything that warms up the entire body.
 

Anna C

More than 5000 posts
Elite Certified Instructor
My body generally feels crappy when I wake up, or if I sit for too long, or (since I'm a violinist) after holding my arms in an upright and outstretched position for hours a day. After I do a 15-20 minute foam roll and dynamic stretching warm up, I feel like a million bucks and my body feels "centered" - like all the imbalances have been worked out, at least as well as they can be in a short time frame. Likewise, stretching after lifting weights feels great - like I'm really able to get deep into stretches and push my RoM.
Sounds like you should do it if you have the time. But someday when you don't have time, try going without and then you'll have some information. Or cut it in half and keep experimenting to find your personal "minimum effective dose".

I think I just see the world too black and white - like someone's got to be right and someone wrong, right?
"There is no truth. There is only perception." - Gustave Flaubert

I will say when I look at the SS boards there's tons of people complaining of injury, which I feel like is partially to do with a linear progression model that encourages you to work yourself to failure week after week at a certain point, and perhaps partially because dynamic warm ups and static stretching are looked down upon.
I tend to think it's because they're attempting to do a very hard program without a coach. I did that program, with a coach, and had no injuries, and did no warm-ups or stretches. (See my training log March 2018-May 2018).

And are we saying that the work of Kelly Starrett and others just has no real value (referring to the bulk of his stuff that's SMRT)? Or that lifters don't need to do it past the point of being mobile enough for their lifts?
Everyone has to make up their own mind on this. I think it's overblown but has some nice ideas. I see too many people in the gym spending a ton of time on foam rollers and other mobilizing. My opinion is that they're wasting their time, that (as Barbell Medicine says), there is no scientific proof that it helps lifting performance, recovery, or anything else. But if it feels good, have at it. Sometimes I do.

Or that lifters don't need to do it past the point of being mobile enough for their lifts?
That is what Starting Strength generally says. I agree that doing the lifts gives you the mobility to do the lifts, and doing the lifts is pretty good overall mobility. Personally I like to have some additional mobility (Cossack squats are a good example that make my hips feel great). But it all depends on what you want to "own" as far as movement. Generally more is better, but not if you aren't ever going to use it -- in that case, it too is a waste of time.

You ask good questions, so I don't mind coming up with some answers... but understand a lot of this is just my opinion, as is the opinion of experts.
 

freeflowme

Triple-Digit Post Count
I agree that doing the lifts gives you the mobility to do the lifts, and doing the lifts is pretty good overall mobility. Personally I like to have some additional mobility (Cossack squats are a good example that make my hips feel great). But it all depends on what you want to "own" as far as movement. Generally more is better, but not if you aren't ever going to use it -- in that case, it too is a waste of time.
I think part of my problem is that I'm approaching the lifts from the perspective of someone with a lot of repetitive injury / a high level of residual tension, so I can't really fathom even starting to warm up with an empty barbell without getting myself mobile enough to squat an empty bar without pain first ROFL.
 

Glen

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
Think most points have been hit on the head already by Anna,

Couple of other points to add to the thought process

1- Olympic lifting and powerlifting are worlds apart in terms of mobility required - hence Gregg being a bigger proponent. The point Mark makes about enough to do the movement is a lot easier to obtain for a low bar squat than it is for a deep Snatch receiving position. If you look at quinn henoch and his opinion he often proposes just do more of the movemt at lighter loads until mobility has hit the point required
2- bench, dead, press, bench are all fairly sagittal plane - often frontal and transverse plane movements are not challenged. As a former powerlifter who did the bare minimum of mobility to do the lift I can tell you my mobility in the other planes sucked (as well as some movements/joints in sagittal which are held still throughout the movement)

Typically you need a buffer on your movements - if you can only just barely hit parallel in a squat doing some mobility to be a bit past this will be a good thing, working towards achieving rock bottom squat won't benefit most people.

In my opinion do enough to give/ maintain you the mobility required which maybe very little and any other areas which don't get taken through a range some focus to maintain general good range of movement through the body.

Starrett and his work are typically focused if you have an issue, then the targeted work becomes a god send. If there's no issues do enough to keep you moving - weighted movements count as mobility so strength training through a good range of movement will do a lot on its own.
 

Steve Freides

Forum Administrator
Staff member
Senior Certified Instructor
Strength is not the only goal. Flexibility indicates the ability to relax your muscles - if you can't relax, IMHO, you have a problem you should solve, just as if you're weak, you have a problem you should solve.

If how you stretch doesn't make you feel better, become a student of it, just as you would if your strength training wasn't making you stronger. (I learned how to do splits because improving my flexibility made my bad back feel better, not because it helped me do any lift better.)

-S-
 

WhatWouldHulkDo

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
I'm still working through my own thoughts on this topic, but my 2 cents:

After having a bout of nagging back pain in the early part of 2018, I've spent a lot of time over the last year working on mobility and flexibility. In general I'm more focused on developing strength at longer ROM, as opposed to ability to relax muscles, but I am doing some work on both.

In my case, I think the back pain was a symptom of poor lifting technique brought about (in part) by limited mobility - so, improving mobility improved technique, and I seem to have successfully mitigated my back pain. Hooray.

I feel like the mobility work has improved my general resiliency - my ability to keep training regularly without accumulating nagging repetitive injuries. I suspect that the underlying mechanism is that increasing strength in compromised positions improves the body's ability to protect itself when you have a technique fault.

Plus, I can just sit in a squat now for as long as I need when catching for my son's baseball pitching practice. Real-life useful mobility that I didn't have last year. Finding an application for improvement definitely helps maintain motivation.

So, in my mind, the mobility/flexibility experiment has totally been worth the time, and I don't plan to give it up any time soon.


But, with all that said... aside from the absence of chronic pain, I'm not convinced I've improved my baseline feeling of "wellness". I still have the occasional random pain in ankles, elbows or hips. My back feels "brittle" when I wake up in the morning, more often than I'd like. It's frustrating, even disheartening, to still have to deal with that stuff in spite of the progress I feel like I've made. And I've wondered a lot if there's really anything I can do about it, or if that's the a consequence of being a 40+ year old athlete. Will additional mobility/flexibility ever make it so I could roll out of bed in the morning and immediately roundhouse kick a 6-foot man in the head, should the need arise? Don't know.
 

Steve Freides

Forum Administrator
Staff member
Senior Certified Instructor
I'm more focused on developing strength at longer ROM, as opposed to ability to relax muscles
You will eventually figure out that these are the same thing. Your body won't let you relax a weak muscle.

And if you do manage to figure out how to do that, you will have increased your flexibility at the cost of having increased your risk of injury - the greater the difference between your active and your passive range of motion, the higher your risk of injury.

-S-
 

WhatWouldHulkDo

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
You will eventually figure out that these are the same thing. Your body won't let you relax a weak muscle.

And if you do manage to figure out how to do that, you will have increased your flexibility at the cost of having increased your risk of injury - the greater the difference between your active and your passive range of motion, the higher your risk of injury.

-S-
I believe both points completely. I presume that the tendency is for passive ROM to outstrip active ROM. It leads one to wonder, then, why anyone would ever try to increase their passive ROM, widening that gap further. Unless somehow that's the path to improving a baseline feeling of wellness.
 

Ryan T

More than 500 posts
I can't speak for the lifts aspect, but I have a nagging left "hip snapping syndrome" anytime I put the hip into flexion. For me foam rolling and stretching before bed are really helpful. Gives me some relief and the more consistently I do it, it seems to lessen or minimize the discomfort that results from hip flexion in general.
 
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