Are you ever confused about the difference between strength training or stretching? This is a question I ask most of my clients when they are showing me the stretches they have been doing. Although my intent is not to make fun of what they are doing, but to have fun and teach them why what they are doing is not working so well. Too many times the stretches we have been taught since grammar school are actually strength training. I never like to just say, “That will not work.” I prefer to explain why and give you a chance to better understand how to do the stretches better.
Why Were You Taught Incorrectly?
The people who taught were not trying to hurt you. They were only doing what they were taught themselves. Every stretch I have ever been in, stretching is taught the same way. Even they have confused the difference between strength training and stretching. They may use some new gadgets, but the end result is all the same. From the patient, or client, standpoint, it seems correct because that is what they have always heard too.
It can be maddening, especially when I tell you something that is completely different. You have no reason to just believe what I say, especially when so many professionals are in agreement about how they do it. That is why I ask you to show me so we can break it down and you can feel the difference.
So, What is the Difference? Is it Strength Training or Stretching?
The difference between Strength training or stretching is about that in strength training you are working through boundaries, making yourself lift more, pull harder, and push beyond where you thought you could go. With strength training, your mind is resisting because you have never made that move before or lifted that much weight. Even then, you must gradually move up in weight and reps. You cannot just go to the top of the weight stack to begin. Some people try to increase their weight training too fast and that is when they get hurt.
Stretching is a different animal. Unlike strength training, you are letting go of the tension in the muscles, not increasing it. Stretching is about breathing out as you stretch, feel the muscle letting go, and gradually you will improve your range of motion. Stretching is an everyday event, whereas strength training is every other day. Strength training creates little micro-tears in the muscle which makes it grow. The muscle needs 24 hours to heal. Stretching can be done every day as there are no tears to the muscle, or should say, shouldn’t be any tears if done correctly.
What Does My Brain have to Do with Stretching?
The brain has everything to do with stretching. Think of your muscles as the ‘Emotional Fingers of your Brain.” When a person is sad their posture is very different than when they are happy. What happened? By changing your thoughts, the brain changed the muscles to match the emotional state. The brain’s job is to keep you alive and prevent pain. When it anticipates pain, it sets off the “fight or flight syndrome.” This is why when stretching, remember to breathe out as you stretch the muscle to relax the brain. However, if you pull too hard or too long, the brain reacts to the pain and begins contracting the muscle. The harder you pull or the longer you hold it, the brain continues to contract no different than if you were lifting a weight.
The reason for stretching every day is due to our emotional states. Some people a hectic life and are on the go, things seem to be crashing around them, and they never seem to be able to catch up. This is stress that will cause the muscles to tighten daily. Stress is also when you have several meeting dates each day or deadlines to hit constantly. The muscles will still tighten. Some people feel they have no stress, but everyone has some element of stress and that is not a bad thing, you just don’t want it to get out of hand.
Muscle will tighten from movement as well. Every move you make like picking up a glass of water, walking to the kitchen, or any movement in your life will cause the muscles to tighten. if you have a pet, watch how many times they stretch each day. When you see them stretch, you should too. Don’t think of stretching like a fitness thing. Think of it more like a relaxation thing. It allows you to take little 10–15-minute breaks during your day to soften or lengthen your muscles while relaxing your mind. Once you stop working so hard and learn how relaxing it can be, you will loolk forward to stretching every day and it will no longer feel like a chore.
Stretching can be done anywhere, anytime. Many times, I stretch my neck while sitting at a stoplight or soften my thighs while driving down the road. I can sit cross my leg and stretch my inner thigh while talking to friends. I have even stretched my forearms while standing on stage speaking to more than hundred people. One of the audience members made the comment that he didn’t have time to stretch. I showed him that I was stretching my forearm while listening to his comment. that got a laugh from the audience, but the point is, don’t make it difficult.
Don’t Forget the Tennis Ball Massage!
Softening your hips and back is easy when you sue the tennis ball. Just lean against the wall and apply enough pressure to feel the painful area. The temptation is to press harder but resist it. Instead, breathe out and allow the muscle to soften under the ball. Then move to another spot and repeat. I remember doing this at the Tampa Airport when a woman approached me to ask what I was doing. When I told her she asked if she could try? Then two other people came over and did it too. We had a good time, but I had to hide to soften my own body without interruption.
Learn About Stretching
Hopefully, you now know whether you are strength training or stretching. Learn more when you SUBSCRIBE to view all the videos that demonstrate Stretch n’ Release exercises to prevent running injuries and reduce pain.
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About The Muscle Repair Shop
Drawing upon his personal experience as a former competitive athlete turned wheelchair, obese and chronic pain sufferer, Muscle Repair Shop Founder Butch Phelps decided to take his health into his own hands when at the age of 36 he was told he might not make it to his 40th birthday. Applying balanced nutrition advice from his doctor along with a sound exercise program, he went from 315 lbs. to 180 lbs. Motivated by his experience, he then acquired degrees in advanced therapeutic massage and aging sciences to help people eliminate chronic pain. This included applying his expertise in how people age, including the effects of dementia, anatomy, psychology, and the day-to-day struggles living as an older person to his practice and development of The Muscle Repair Shop’s one-of-a-kind Stretch n’ Release Technique.
Available through in-office and virtual coaching treatment sessions, this unique combination of stretching and breath work teaches the brain to release the emotional side of muscle tension and pain allows clients to find lasting relief and healing from stiffness, aches, injuries, and chronic pain. The at-home exercises come with customized instructional videos and virtual or in-office support, allowing clients to enjoy and experience life and sports as they did before limitations slowed or curtailed activities.