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15 Static Stretching Mistakes

Written on February 12, 2013 at 2:01 pm, by Eric Cressey

One of the most debated topics in the strength and conditioning world in recent years has been whether or not static stretching is necessary and, if so, when it should be implemented.  While I don’t think everyone needs it, and that there are certainly are times when it is a bad idea to utilize, I’m still of the mindset that it can have some solid benefits when implemented properly. 

Unfortunately, like all training initiatives, some people do it all wrong. To that end, I wanted to devote today’s article to covering the top 15 static stretching mistakes I encounter.

Mistake #1: Stretching through extreme laxity.

This is the most important and prevalent one of all, so it comes first.  When I see someone doing this, this is pretty much how I feel:

We’re all have a different amount of congenital laxity.  Basically, this refers to how much “give” our ligaments have.  Some folks have naturally stiff joints, and others have very loose joints.  This excessively joint laxity is obviously much higher in females and younger populations, but, as Leon Chaitow and Judith DeLany discuss in Clinical Applications of Neuromuscular Techniques: Volume 1, it is also much higher in folks of African, Asian, and Arab origin.

When you take someone who is really lax and implement aggressive static stretching, it’s on par with having someone with a headache bang his/her head against a wall.  It makes things worse.

This is a tricky thing to understand, though, because many of these “loose” individuals will comment on how they feel “tight.”  Usually that tightness is just them laying down trigger points as a way for the body to create stability in areas where they are chronically unstable.  They’d be better off working on stability training to get back to efficient movement.

I think yoga has a tremendous amount of applications and we borrow from the discipline all the time, but I think this is where many modern yoga classes fall short; they have everyone in the class go to the same end-range on certain exercises. Folks with serious joint laxity should not only contraindicate certain yoga poses, but also modify others so that they’re training stability short of the true end-range of their joints. Unfortunately, most of the people you’ll see in yoga classes are hypermobile women; you see, they like to do the things they’re good at doing, not necessarily what they need to do.

How do you know if you’re lax, though? I like to use the Beighton hypermobility scale to assess for both generalized congenital laxity and specific laxity at a joint. The screen consists of five tests (four of which are unilateral), and is scored out of 9:

1. Elbow hyperextension > 10° (left and right sides)
2. Knee hyperextension > 10° (left and right sides)
3. Flex the thumb to contact with the forearm (left and right sides)
4. Extend the pinky to >90° angle with the rest of the hand (left and right sides)
5. Place both palms flat on the floor without flexing the knees

One of the biggest problems I see in today’s strength and conditioning world is that we assume all “big, strong” athletes are tight and need aggressive stretching.  As an example, take a look at this high Beighton score in a 6-3, 240-pound athlete.  We do very little static stretching with him – and absolutely none in the upper body.

If someone is really lax, nix the static stretching and instead spend more time on stabilization work.  If they still feel like they need to “loosen up,” tell them to do some extra foam rolling.  They’ll transiently reduce some of the stiffness they’re feeling, but they won’t be working through harmful end-range joint range-of-motion in the process.

Mistake #2. Substituting knee hyperextension for hip flexion in hamstrings stretches.

This comment piggybacks a little bit on mistake #1, as lax individuals (who probably shouldn’t be stretching their hamstrings, anyway) are the most likely to have problems with this.  Because the hamstrings are two-joint muscles (knee and hip), folks will often allow the knee to “give” extra because they are subconsciously trying to avoid an uncomfortable stretch at the hip – or they simply aren’t paying attention.  These are the same folks who have terrible hip hinges on toe touch tests, yet can touch their toes without a problem; they just go to knee hyperextension to make it happen.  As an example, this particular athlete scores really high on the Beighton hypermobility score, and he can actually put his palms flat on the floor with little to no posterior weight shift (the wall blocks him). 

How does he do it? Knee hyperextension. 

We’d much rather get a good hip hinge without resorting to excessive joint range of motion at the knee. You get good at what you train, so if you’re always doing your static stretching in a bad position, you’re going to be more likely to wind up in knee hyperextension on the field – and that’s where ACL injuries occur.

Mistake #3: Not creating stiffness at adjacent joints.

In a previous post, I talked about why stiffness can be a good thing, in spite of the negative connotation of the word.  Stiffness is a crucial part of keeping us healthy and enhancing athleticism.  “Good” stiffness allows us to overpower “bad” stiffness that’s occurring in the wrong places, and it helps to transfer force as part of the kinetic chain.  Static stretching can either be an opportunity to foster good stiffness or develop bad habits.

You see, we static stretch to transiently reduce stiffness (or true tissue shortness).  However, if we don’t stabilize (stiffen up) adjacent joints, it defeats the purpose. Let me give you an example.

Let’s say that I want to stretch my hamstrings in the supine position with not just a neutral position (center), but also a bias toward internal rotation/adduction (left) and external rotation/abduction (right).


 

 

 

Now, let’s see what happens to these stretches if one doesn’t engage the lateral core to prevent the pelvis from rolling toward the direction of the stretch on the ones that go out to the sides.

Mistake #4: Irritating the medial aspect of the knee with 90/90 hip stretches.

Most folks are familiar with doing 90/90 hip stretches or cradle walks as a way to improve hip external rotation in a position of hip flexion.  This is the position I commonly see people using at the point of maximal stretch:

The problem is that many folks crank excessively on the medial aspect of the knee by rotating the tibia (lower leg) instead of the femur (upper leg).  This actually parallels what happens during a McMurray’s Test for medial meniscus pathology:

It’s a pretty safe bet that static stretching into a position that replicates a provocative test is never a good idea – and it’s one reason we use 90/90 stretches very sparingly.  If you are going to use this stretch, however, I recommend that individuals grab the quadriceps on the stretching side to ensure that the majority of the pull into external rotation and flexion comes from the femur and not the tibia.  The opposite hand is simply there to support the weight of the lower leg.

Mistake #5: Substituting valgus stress at the knee for hip adduction/internal rotation stretching.

It’s really important than folks have adequate hip internal rotation, as a loss of hip internal rotation has been correlated with low back pain, and it can certainly predispose individuals to hip and knee issues as well. The knee-to-knee stretch is a popular approach for maintaining and improving hip internal rotation, and it’s also my chosen method for demonstrating how incomplete my goatee was at the time of this picture.  Sorry for teasing you with the view down thunder alley, too.

As you can see from the picture, this position can also impose some valgus stress at the knees if it isn’t coached/cued properly.  So, instead of thinking of letting the knees fall in, I tell athletes to actively internally rotate the femurs (upper leg).  The stretch should occur at the hips, not the knees.

In folks with a history of medial knee issues, we won’t use this static stretch.  Rather, we’ll use a kneeling glute stretch, which still gets a bit of stretch into adduction, which will still stretch several of the hip external rotators indirectly.

Lastly, keep in mind that the knee-to-knee isn’t a stretch most females will ever have to utilize because of their tendency toward a knock-knee posture (wider hips = greater Q-angle) at rest.

Mistake #6: Not monitoring neutral spine during hip stretching.

This point really works hand-in-hand with #3 from above, which talked about establishing stiffness at adjacent joints.  Certainly, maintaining neutral spine falls under the category of “good stiffness,” but because it’s such a common mistake, it deserves attention of its own.  When the hip flexes, you shouldn’t go through lumbar flexion. For this split-stance kneeling adductor stretch, notice the correct on the left and the incorrect on the right:

And, when it extends, you shouldn’t go through lumbar extension.  Again, the correct is on the left, and incorrect (hyperextended) is on the right:

Mistake #7: Not monitoring neutral spine during standing stretches.

Again, this is another point that piggybacks off of establishing good stiffness, but I see a lot of people doing upper extremity stretches – overhead triceps, lats, pecs – in terrible spine posture.  Perhaps the best example is the overhead triceps stretch with the lumbar spine in hyperextension, plus forward head posture further up.

Mistake #8: Stretching your lower back.

There may be times when a qualified manual therapist might want to do some mobilizations on your lower back. The rest of you really shouldn’t be stretching your spine out. Stretch your hips, and mobilize your thoracic spine (upper back), where it’s much safer for you to move. Focus on building up some core stability.

Mistake #9: Stretching your calves – and then wearing high heels the rest of the day.

There’s nothing wrong with the “stretching your calves” part; it’s the high heels part that makes me want to bang my head against the wall. Talk about a dog chasing its tail!

Mistake #10: Stretching a throwing shoulder into extension and/or external rotation (and creating valgus stress at the elbow in the process).

I devoted an entire video to this topic last week in my baseball-specific newsletter:

Mistake #11: Stretching through pain or neurological symptoms.

I honestly can’t think of a single reason why anyone should ever stretch oneself through pain. Sure, there may be times when physical therapists may push a post-operative joint through some uncomfortable ranges of motion, but that’s a trained professional making a educated decision.  You stretching yourself through pain is just throwing a bunch of s**t on the wall to see what sticks.  Don’t do it.

Sometimes, an indirect approach is better.  As an example, there is research demonstrating that core stability exercises can transiently and chronically improve hip internal rotation – even without stretching the joint.  If you’re hurting while stretching, see a qualified medical professional to help you devise a plan to work around the issue while reducing your symptoms.

On the topic of neurological symptoms, as an example, intervertebral disc issues with radicular symptoms into the legs may be exacerbated by stretching the hamstrings.  Similar issues can come about if folks with thoracic outlet syndrome perform aggressive upper body stretching. If nerves aren’t gliding the way that they need to be, the last thing you want to do is yank on them.

Mistake #12: Not tightening the glutes during hip flexor stretches.

I’ve written previously at length about how anterior (front) hip irritation is often caused the head of the femur (ball) gliding forward in the acetabulum (socket) during hip extension.  This femoral anterior glide syndrome (described in detail here), was originally introduced by physical therapist Shirley Sahrmann.  Effectively, the hamstrings have a “gross” hip extension pull – meaning that they don’t have a whole lot of control over the head of the femur.  Therefore, we need to have great gluteus maximus contribution to hip extension, as the glute max posteriorly pulls the femoral head back during hip extension so that the anterior hip capsule doesn’t get irritated.

What we don’t consider, however, is that if we stretch a hip into hip extension (osteokinematics), we also need that glute contribution to control the glide (arthrokinematics) of the femoral head.  This is a definite parallel to what I described earlier with respect to stretching a throwing shoulder into extension or external rotation; you don’t just want to do it carelessly. As such, whenever you stretch the hip into extension, make sure that you tighten up the glute:

Mistake #13: Stretching into a bony block.

There are a lot of things that may limit range of motion at a joint.  It could be muscular shortness/stiffness, capsular tightness, muscular bulk, swelling, or guarding due to injury.  In many cases, though, it simply has to do with the congruency of the bones (or lack thereof) at a joint.

In the case of a “fresh” bone spur or loose body at the posterior aspect of the elbow, aggressively stretching into extension could easily provoke symptoms.  Conversely, I’ve seen some elbows with flexion contractures that are a combination of bony blocks and subsequent tissue shortening and capsular tightening that can be stretched until the cows come home with no problem. 

Each case is unique – but at the end of the day, remember that you’re better off being too tight than too loose.  In other words, if you’re unsure about something, don’t stretch it.

Beyond just reactive changes like bone spurs and loose bodies, we also have folks who simply have different congenital or acquired bone structures.  Many individuals have retroverted (externally rotated) or anteverted (internally rotated) femoral carrying angles.  Those in retroversion will lack hip internal rotation no matter how much you stretch them, and those in anteversion aren’t going to be gaining external rotation no matter what you do.  Trying to power through these bony blocks will likely create hip discomfort as well.

We also see retroversion as an adaptation in throwing shoulders, where bones “warp” to allow for more lay-back during the extreme cocking phase of throwing.  This is why most throwers will have significantly less internal rotation on the throwing shoulder than on the non-throwing shoulder in-spite of the fact that they have symmetrical total motion (IR + ER) from side to side; they simply shift their arc.

Before you stretch, you better find out if it’s bone or soft tissue that is limiting you at end-range.  If it’s bone, you’re better off leaving things alone.

Mistake #14: Putting the band behind your head during hamstrings stretching.

This one drives me bonkers.  It screams “I know stretching isn’t hard to do, but I’m still too lazy to put any semblance of effort into doing it correctly.”  Why create forward head posture and neck stress when stretching the hamstrings?

Mistake #15: Not monitoring your breathing.

Nowadays, I’d say that we do just as much “positional breathing drills” as we do actual stretches. The more I learn (particularly from the Postural Restoration Institute school of thought), the more I realize that breathing in specific positions can have a dramatic effect on reducing tissue stiffness. For instance, here is one that all our right-handed pitchers do. 

The left femur is internally rotated and adducted, the left rib flare is “tucked,” right thoracic rotation is encouraged, the lumbar spine is flat, and the right shoulder blade is fully upwardly rotated with a bit of upper trap activation. We cue the athlete to inhale through the nose without allowing the rib cage to “fly up,” and then encourage him to exhale fully, allowing the ribs to “come down.”

We stretch to reduce tone, not increase it – and most athletes are in a constant state of inhalation, which corresponds to a big anterior pelvic tilt and lordotic curve. 

When the rib cage flies up like this, we lose our Zone of Apposition (ZOA), a term the PRI folks have coined to describe the region into which our diaphragm must expand to function.

In this extended posture, rather than effectively use their diaphragm, athletes will overuse supplemental respiratory muscles like lats, sternocleidomastoid, scalenes, and pec minor – and these are all areas where we’re always trying to reduce tone. Check out this great tutorial on apical breathing vs. apical expansion from Bill Hartman, as he hits the nail on the head and shows exactly what you’ll see:

Teaching athletes how to control their breathing during stretching – and paying particular attention to fully exhaling on each breath – goes a long way to help reduce sympathetic nervous system stimulation, get rid of unwanted tone in the wrong places, effective favorable changes to posture, and make the most of the stretches you’re prescribing.  I think the folks in the yoga and Pilates worlds have done a good job of drawing attention to the importance of breathing, and we should appreciate that with respect to how static stretching and dynamic flexibility drills are implemented.

Conclusion

There are really only 15 mistakes that were right on the tip of my tongue – to the tune of 2,800 words!  To reiterate, I have a lot of clients/athletes who do absolutely no static stretching, but that’s not to say that it can’t be of benefit to a good chunk of the population.  Just remember that each body is unique, so no two static stretching programs should be alike in terms of exercise selection and coaching cues. 

If you benefited from this article, please share it via Facebook or Twitter, as this is a very misunderstood topic in the world of health and human performance.  Thanks for your support!

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66 Responses to “15 Static Stretching Mistakes”

  1. Chris Says:

    One of your best posts Eric!

    Since I started therapy with a PRC therapist it seems like the majority of my mobility issues were due to malposition rather than any sort of tissue flexibility deficit. But he actually wants me to go into spinal flexion during my corrective exercise. Is there a difference between the flexion in PRI movements and what you were discussing in #8?

  2. Aaron Burkett, PT, DPT, MTC Says:

    Agree that way too many people feel ‘tight’ and think stretching is the answer. Very rare Situations in which I have any of my patients perform static stretching. I tend to see the same thing with people with neck pain and stretching the upper trap. The problems are stability and motor control more than a flexibility issue. Thanks for pointing out what I have been telling my patients for years. I will refer them to this post to read.

  3. Stefán Ólafsson PT Says:

    Great post Eric about a subject that is very poorly understood by many trainers. Stretching, core/glut activation and breathing should go hand in hand as I teach at various courses in Iceland. In the next post you might add hypertextension og lumbar spine during pectoral stretches, overstretching U trapezius compared to Levator and the posterior shoulder stretches and impingement during sleepers stretch. On my youtube site you can see those I prefer. The best book I have seen on stretching is by norwegians Evjenth and Hamberg and is called Autostretching.

  4. Adam Lloyd Says:

    Fantastic article that is grossly misunderstood by many athletes and fitness pros around the world. Always enjoy reading your work!

  5. Mitch Green, DC, DACRB Says:

    Excellent offering, Eric. There’s a lot of very useful material here, thanks!!!

  6. Eric Says:

    I never would of thought i could read and understand writings like this….the more i read,watch your videos and then do what i learn….it all comes together more and more each day. Thanks

  7. James Cipriani Says:

    That was one meaty post! And I learned some things :) First time seeing #14. Gees! So much here, might have to read it 2 or 3 times through.

  8. Brian Bochette Says:

    Great post Eric,

    Static stretching has been glorified and vilified so many times that it’s often tough for general population to know what to do. To make matters worse, it has been my observation that most individual’s will self-select the exercises that make them feel the most successful. This means that the hypermobile group gravitates toward activities like yoga while the hypomobile camp continues to reinforce their limitations by adding load to partial range of motion exercises. As conditioning and rehab professionals (I’m a PT) we are positioned to provide the critical role of steering these individuals into the activities that will correct rather than reinforce their limitations and promote long term health.

    p.s. enjoyed the Gang Starr playing in the background of your vid

  9. Julian Says:

    Great post Eric! Lot of things I see myself doing wrong.

    I think in Mistake #12 you meant “arthrokinematic” (I hope it’s the correct term in English) when talking about the glide and not osteokinematic again?

  10. christian Says:

    I use to stretch 2 hours each day for years. I’d always get momentary relief that was lost soon after. I think Eric hit the nail on the head here in regards to developing appropriate stiffness. I could quiet easily suggest static stretching is a waste of time based on my experience however I’ve come to realise it more that fact that my lack of success was the result of expecting stretching to work independently. ” tightness” is a symptom and not a cause. I think understanding what joints of the kinetic chain are inherently designed to do and implementing appropriate prescription of mobility/flexibility or stability based on this is integral. As is managing the body as a whole or at least in a joint above and joint below manner. Admittedly I don’t use much static stretching in my training anymore just based on time restraints (to effectively gain a change in muscle length you have to hold the stretch for too long) and for the fact that SMR and mobility works best for me. In saying that tho Ill often statically stretch at the end of a session to alter tension in tissue for recovery. I just realise now that by developing appropriate stiffness in my training my stretching/mobility work is justified and conducted with a purpose.

  11. Darryn Says:

    Outstanding post EC and a very timely reminder for some of the athletes I am currently supervising.

    Thanks!

  12. Ian Says:

    That’s the article that I always wanted to write but could never do justice. 2800 words well spent! So many trainers throw comments around like “stretch more” or “stretch your hip flexors/ pecs” without considering the above rationale and technique based approach. Great article.

  13. Eric Cressey Says:

    Thanks, Ian!

  14. Eric Cressey Says:

    Thanks, Darryn!

  15. Eric Cressey Says:

    Well said, Christian!

  16. Eric Cressey Says:

    Good catch, Julian; got typing a bit too fast. It’s corrected. Thank you!

  17. Eric Cressey Says:

    Thanks, Brian! You’re right; people will always gravitate toward what they’re good at!

  18. Eric Cressey Says:

    Great contribution, Stefan; thanks!

  19. Eric Cressey Says:

    Thanks, Aaron; couldn’t agree more!

  20. Eric Cressey Says:

    Chris,

    Remember that we are talking about the difference between flexion FROM neutral and flexion TO neutral. If you’re ultra-extended in your normal posture, flexion will take you back to neutral. It really depends on the person about which we’re talking.

  21. Kaushik Says:

    As always clear and precise. Thank you Eric for helping us love our profession even more each day

  22. Ed Says:

    Very interesting post Eric. Would you recommend static stretches of the lower body for individuals with patellofemoral syndrome/pain or just stick to foam rolling?

  23. Jake Johnson Says:

    Great post, Eric.

    As a college baseball player, I see #7 and #10 ALL THE TIME. Posture when static stretching seems to be greatly overlooked, and it’s something that needs to be emphasized to get the most out of stretching while minimizing injury risk.

    Thanks again for the post!

    Jake

  24. Dave Says:

    Excellent post.
    Especially the segments on proper breathing and spinal position, these are often the most overlooked aspects of stretching.
    Nice work

    Dave

  25. Mark P Says:

    Eric, excellent post! I can really relate to most of these mistakes. I’d love to hear more in the future about congenital laxity as I have some loose ligaments.

  26. Zak C Says:

    Eric,
    Great article. I had a question related to your first point, where you said, ” Usually that tightness is just them laying down trigger points as a way for the body to create stability in areas where they are chronically unstable”.

    I recently have been delving into trigger point therapy, and I noticed that doing very muscle specific lacrosse ball rolling would allow me to contract that muscle much more efficiently, and it improved quality of movement significantly. For example, after using the lax ball on my supraspinatus, infraspinatus, pec minor and major, traps and rhomboids, my shoulder no longer clicked and popped during overhead movement, and I had much more scapular control during rows. So I did the lax ball on basically my whole body, and I literally felt like a new man: much improved diaphragm breathing, glutes and hamstrings activating, pelvic control during squats, and the ability to get a MUCH stronger core contraction. I noticed I had much more proprioception at every muscle group I used the ball on.

    What is the mechanism behind this? Is it myofascial in origin? Mechanoreceptors in the muscles? And I am guessing that I should be doing some stability work when I am mobile like this? I guess my main question for training is this: how do you differentiate muscle imbalances from simply a lack of strength/stability?

    Thanks for your time and work with all of your articles.

  27. Personal trainer Oakville Says:

    One of my favorite posts thus far. A highly debated topic that has research showing both sides of the argument. I think you got it right though, some people need it, some people don’t. For #2, what could you do to block knee hyper extension? Would you just recommend having a slight microbend and focus on hip flexion? Thanks

  28. Jevan Smith Says:

    Very useful post Eric, most people don’t realize these mistakes. i will share with others.

  29. zach even - esh Says:

    EC

    Any videos / posts on the pec / arm pit region.

    This shyt is crushing me and have been doing a lot of work to it, I will do a search on your youtube page, but off the top of your head if U feel I need to rd a specific article say the word

    THNX!!

  30. Tom S Says:

    Eric:

    I like your points in #1 and #11. To many times, just like with programming, fitness and health professionals utilizes the “one size fits all approach”.

    Just like you have alluded to spending lots of time creating programs for each individual athlete, we all should look at our clients in the same manner. Some are more lax then others and we should be aware of their limitations where flexiblity is concerned. The days of “no pain no gain” are gone and the same is with stretching.

    I have a couple bootcampers who are diehard yoga practioners and was recently talking about how yoga instructors fail to realize not everyone is the same and pushing through a particular stretch is more harm than good.

    Over the years, I have seen the research or argument of static stretching before or after training. What do you think about this?

    Now, dynamic stretching is hugely the craze.

    Some folks believe in a proper warm-up should include static stretching, others believe nowadays static stretching is best suited post-workout, I am of this latter viewpoint and utlize the static stretching and myofascial release(foam rolling) if possible post-workouts where I feel you get the best flexiblity gains when the body has warmed-up and primed from training.

    In the early 90’s, before dynamic stretching was really talked about, I used to follow my old army fitness warm-up from FM 21-20 of jog/run for 60-sec to get the blood flowing, then do joint rotations (neck, shoulder, hip, and knee/ankle to get the synovial fluid going), then warm-up exercises depending on want training we would put our soldiers through, then static stretching, perform our training, followed by a cool-down phase that included static stretching again.

    So now, 20yrs later, I follow a similiar approach, but focus on the dynamic stretching or exercises before training and end with static.

    One thing that you mention in #7 about neutral spine, I totally agree and even try to reitorate to clients before, during, after training to follow or focus on three areas:

    1. Breathing
    2. Posture
    3. Form

    If your breathing goes or you don’t control it, then your posture goes and then you forget about proper form.

    Keeping ones breathing under control, monitoring our posture, and following perfect form as best as possible, all go a long way to not only training right, but being safe and the same can be said with our stretching and improving flexibility.

    Curious about your thoughts of how I put my clients through warm-up and cool-down above and appreciate any input.

    As always, excellent post and great points.

    Regards,

    Tom

  31. Andrew Says:

    Great Post Eric!

    I have been having an issue with my left hamstring feeling tight and have had pulled it before a few times while sprinting. I try to stretch it all the time, but I’m wondering if what I need to do is to increase stability in my left hamstring. Any thoughts or suggestions, I never had any problems with my right hammy.

  32. Mike D. Says:

    Eric,
    Great post,in mistake 13 you mention how those with hip retroversion and antiversion cannot do anything about their lack of hip internal and external rotation respectively from a stretching standpoint. I was wondering what are other approaches if any that you have for these clients to improve overall hip health. Thank you!

  33. Scott Gunter, ATC, CSCS Says:

    Eric,

    So many great points in this piece, but I’ll have to only pick a few. After seeing the Billy Madison reference for starter’s, I knew it was going to be a quality post!

    Although brief, excellent call on Mistake #9 about stretching then wearing heels. We saw Exhibit “A” as Misty May Treanor (An athlete accustomed to barefoot training and tennis shoes)ruptured her Achilles tendon while on Dancing With the Stars. Note that she tore when switching back to or training with normal tennis shoes after high-heel use.

    In reference to your video on ER stretching of the shoulder, it amazes me how these stretches are such common practice among baseball players (of all positions) even at the college level. Is there a reason for this? It’s interesting to point out that an external rotation stretch for the GH Joint is remarkably similar to the “Americana” shoulder lock used in Mixed Martial Arts to submit your opponent. In layman’s terms, the same stretch some people are performing to improve performance in one sport is used in another to cause your opponent pain in hopes that he taps out or endures to the point of an anterior shoulder dislocation.

    (For any interested, here’s a link to Netter’s anatomy of the anterior capsule, which does a good job at highlighting it’s vulnerability.)
    http://www2.ma.psu.edu/~pt/384shld5.gif

  34. Eric Cressey Says:

    Great contribution, Scott; thanks!

  35. Eric Cressey Says:

    Mike,

    Check out my response a bit further up in the comments section.

  36. Eric Cressey Says:

    Andrew,

    Get someone to assess you. My guess is that you’re in anterior rotation on the left side, so it’s a protective tension. Very common presentation I encounter.

  37. Eric Cressey Says:

    Zak,

    Great post, but unfortunately, we don’t know specifically why soft tissue work helps. I remember Thomas Myers saying that we only know 25% of what we need to know about the fascial system. Could be stimulation of the autonomic nervous system, changing fluid balance in the tissues, direct impact on scar tissue, etc.

  38. Patrick O'Flaherty Says:

    Eric,

    In the standing toe touch video, the person is able to put his fingers on the floor with his heels about 1 inch from the wall. If I try that, I fall over. What does it mean (this was attempted before Happy Hour in case you were wondering)?

  39. Daniel Says:

    In regards to knees hyperextension, what is the general cause of this. Is it lack of hamstring activation? Especially bicep tendinosis or is it more complicated?

  40. Serkan Says:

    Epic Post. I have never came across with so much info on a single post about this topic, so thank you so much Eric. It is nice to see you took time to point out about the hypermobility scale. Drives me crazy to see flexible women continue taking yoga classes 5 times a week without taking time to do a single weight lifting session; same as bodybuilders who are so stiff and inflexible and never ever stretch..

  41. Eric Cressey Says:

    Daniel,

    It takes quite a bit of joint laxity to be able to hyperextend your knees. Most folks will stop at neutral.

  42. Eric Cressey Says:

    Patrick,

    It’s actually not necessarily a good thing that he can accomplish this. Most folks can’t touch their toes from this position because there isn’t adequate room to allow for a posterior weight shift. He can only do it because of his excessive joint laxity at the knee (he substitutes knee hyperextension for hip hinging). Don’t worry!

  43. Scott Umberger Says:

    Great post…
    For the record, heels make my ass look great!

  44. Derrick Blanton Says:

    Masterful post, EC.

    Wanted to offer a possible explanation to Zak, #26:

    I derive the same wonderful results from SMR as you!

    In fact, the more medieval I make the pressure, the better results I get. For example, loading a barbell and parking it on my anterior delt, then pec minor, and flossing through the pain zone. This is Kelly Starrett’s barbell smash technique escalated much further.

    PVC rolling, as foam rolling is meaningless for me. Here’s my theory on the mechanism, and it only a theory:

    I think it’s a CNS downgrade. The body is masterful at dodging pain. This is where a lot of dysfunctional substitution patterns arise to begin with, as a way of compensating for pain in another joint. Placing intense pressure on the “trigger point” if you like, rather impolitely asks the CNS to tone it down over here. It’s like the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

    The CNS figures out that if it release some of this excessive signal/facilitation, then it relieves the pain. From this standpoint, it doesn’t really make a difference whether the pressure is directly on muscle or tendon. Just that the body relaxes the attached muscle to ease the pressure.

    This is pure bro-science, and I’m not sure how you would test it anyway. But the main takeaway is that it works, (for at least some of us).

  45. Patrick O'Flaherty Says:

    Eric,

    Well is it OK to static stretch pre-workout with senior citizens?

  46. Eric Cressey Says:

    Should be fine in most cases, Patrick.

  47. b.t.s. Says:

    Eric,
    Near the end of the article you allude to the sympathetic nervous system; “and paying particular attention to fully exhaling on each breath – goes a long way to help reduce sympathetic nervous system stimulation.”
    Do you have any links or suggested readings related to reducing the sympathetic nervous system stimulation?

  48. Eric Cressey Says:

    BTS,

    Check out http://www.posturalrestoration.com. Great stuff there on the breathing front.

  49. Danny McLarty Says:

    Great work, Eric!

    In Assess & Correct you have both the 90/90 seated mobilization and stretch in there as a “corrective” mob and a static stretch. Is that one of those situations where you look back and say, “if I could do that product over I would have not included those two.” ???

    Or is it more so, with the adjustment you point out in #4 (place the opposite hand there to support the lower leg), you’d still keep the mob & stretch in A & C?

    Again, I loved the piece, just not sure what to think about #4 with my clientele going forward. Maybe just stick with all of the other possibilites as options that you have in A & C when someone doesn’t pass the supine FABER test?.?

    Thanks.

  50. Eric Cressey Says:

    Danny,

    I think they’re both fine to use, but you just have to coach them appropriately and work more at the hip and less at the knee.

  51. FORCE Therapeutics Says:

    Great Post! Thanks for sharing the useful information

  52. Wei Says:

    That’s a lot to take in. Definitely needs more than one read. Never saw so much info on a single post about this topic. It is amazing how even professional athletes are just as confused about static stretching as the rest of us. I see some people spend more time stretching than their actual workout

  53. Rachel Says:

    Great article! Mistake #1 was especially triggering for me. In August of 2011, I completed 52 Hot Yoga classes in 13 weeks, and when I approached my instructor complaining of tightness in my right hip, I was given several static stretches to try at home. This only seemed to make matters worse. Within a matter of months, the pain was chronic and I couldn’t walk. In July of 2012 – almost a year later – I was finally diagnosed with a severe labral tear, and my hip scope was performed this past November. With all of the yoga injuries we hear about these days, I believe it’s imperative for instructors to be better informed. Thank you for writing this!!

  54. Jeff Ilg Says:

    Thanks for the fantastic information! Thanks to Body-improvments for reposting this for me to read.

  55. Eric Cressey Says:

    Wow, crazy story, Rachel. That’s really irresponsible of her. You should have been referred out for PT immediately. Hope you’re doing better!

  56. ROBBIE ROBINSON Says:

    i am a high school softball coach. the trainer is using a tens unit on my pitchers before they pitch. i do not like this. is this good or bad? we used the dynamic stretching and j bands. some still complain about tightness in front of the shoulder or back of the shoulder. i am a devout follower of your articles.

    any help or suggestions would be appreciated.

  57. Kisar Dhillon Says:

    I thought you covered a lot of information in this one post. My friend actually referred me to this article to get my take on it and It was a great read. I do a lot of stretching with my clients and have knee issues, you validated some of my concerns when it came to stretching the glutes and not using the lower leg as the mover, when the quadriceps (upper leg is a better choice). Thanks for the continuing education, it was great to learn a few extras from this post.
    Thanks,
    Kisar Dhillon

  58. Gary Martinez Says:

    Hello Eric,

    Mistake #10 I like the facing the bands stretch you suggested.
    I have a good subscapularis stretch supine of massage table I can email you and get your thoughts?
    Thank you!
    Gary

  59. Eric Schmidt Says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Eric.
    I have a question: if a trainee does not have symmetrical bilateral overhead extension in the shoulders, is he/she capable of doing overhead squats? because I watched a trainee with this exact condition do them on Friday, and it was U-G-L-Y. The lack of flexibility and thus, stabilization, carried downstream. His feet were doing a sort of pronation/supination/inversion/eversion hybrid. I could not believe the coach running the class had him continue. Thoughts? Thank you!

  60. Darren Says:

    Instead of looking at stretching from the comparison of dynamic versus static, have you tried looking at it as a comparison of active versus passive? Static isn’t really the issue, its whether a static stretch is done using active muscle contraction to go to a safe and controlled end range, or passively doing a dynamic or static stretch to an unstable range that the nervous system finds threatening and unpredictable. Also what about looking at things from the perspective of what muscles need to get better at shortening more, as opposed to which muscles are tight and need to be stretched. Maybe it’s not the fault of your tight hamstrings that you can’t touch your toes, but it’s that your trunk and hip flexors aren’t shortening enough to pull you into that position. Maybe muscle tightness is secondary to antagonist and/or synergist neuromuscular weakness. Food for thought.

  61. Alan mcnally Says:

    Eric, what a wonderful, article on stretching. I trained for over 25 years in karate, with some of the greatest Japanese karate master alive, and on every occasion, they always stated the importance of core positioning in stretching. They seemed light years ahead of their time and as I approach 50 I only understand a lot of what they taught me now. But in the modern world today, you to are years ahead of your time. Maybe some day, you might get to Belfast for a seminar.

  62. Tim Says:

    I am constantly amazed that professional athletes still static stretch before games, despite the evidence against it.
    Yoga has got a bad name both inside and outside the yoga community. Yoga has nothing to do with stretching! It is about eliminating dualism. Yoga teachers and practitioners keep trying to push the stretch limits even with the knowledge that that is not what it is about.It is quite common for gyms to perpetuate this myth and the damage it causes by promoting ‘yoga stretch’ classes.

  63. giannitsis stathis Says:

    thanks for all

  64. Lance B. Says:

    Excellent article!
    Now that my athletics are of a less organized nature, I’ve had very limited resources (and motivation) to address some physiological issues, most notably flexibility of certain joints. I have long suspected some of my shoulder rotation issues were rooted in bone/skeletal “abnormalities” but I have NEVER heard or seen any information to support my suspicions. Your short piece in #13 gives me enough reason to believe I may be right and enough motivation to look into it further… Especially so I stop trying to stretch the surrounding muscles which may not be the problem.

    Again, not being part of an organized fitness/sports association limits my easy access resources. What type of professional would be best to evaluate this? Orthopedic, PT, other? Most medical professionals I speak with these days only seem to evaluate issues for health concerns and not for impacts to athletic performance.

    Maybe not the right venue for this question but any suggestions would be appreciated.
    Thanks!

  65. slav Says:

    Great article!!!

  66. lisa Says:

    Thank you for the clarification to Chris. I have a posture stuck in lumbar hyperextension with tight erectors that looks similar to the pic under #15. I have been given corrective exercises in lumbar flexion (such as a hanging toe touch and plow) that “do” fix the posture, but after reading Stuart McGills book, “Lower Back Disorders,” and some of your posts, I got confused as to whether this was the best approach. Are there any contraindications as to “how” to best find neutral with this posture?

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