What is stretching?
Many of us feel that touching our toes and doing splits elongates our muscles, but that’s not true. Stretching mobilizes and lengthens the connective tissues surrounding your muscles, allowing them and your joints to move freely. All the muscle groups have individual muscle cells and there’s fascia that covers them, then all these muscles together are covered with even more fascia. The fascial covering is a connective tissue that is ubiquitous webbing that’s around everything in the body, including the muscles. When you don’t stretch, fascia moulds your muscles like an immovable cast that keeps your muscles from functioning to their full capacity. Stretching makes the fascia more pliable, elastic and free-moving. When you do the same types of movement over and over again without counterbalancing them via stretching – you end up feeling tight. Stretching allows you to transition from a limited range of movement to an uninterrupted one.
A consequence of not stretching
When your joints are not moved in the whole range of motion, you might end up pulling the fascia and hurt your joints. For example, cyclists and runners with tight hip flexors may experience knee injuries. While runners and cyclists who know they are predisposed to having tight hips and stretch them, manage to keep off injuries easily.
This makes all the hamstring, quad, chest stretches so important. Stretching is about moving your body in the most diverse way so that fascia knows how to support each movement. Stretching is like priming your body so that you can move it easily the way you like.