In this post we discuss the flawed concept that you should strengthen some muscles and stretch others.
This idea is still pervasive in both the rehab and fitness world.
It proposes that some muscles are prone to weakness and others are prone to tightness. Hence you should strengthen some and stretch others.
Oh and you can tell which is which by simply looking at someone.
Not only that but you can base treatment and training decisions on what you see.
This leads to generic rehab programmes and glaring weaknesses can be missed.
For example, almost everyone will walk away from a rehab appointment with an external rotation exercise for their aching shoulder.
Nobody will be given one for their internal shoulder rotators.
Everyone with a knee problem will be given exercises for their hip abductors (the muscles that take your leg out to the side).
Nobody will be given exercises for their hip adductors (the muscles that do the opposite).
You’ll be given a bunch of exercises for the muscles that straighten your knee (quadriceps) but nothing for the muscles that bend it (the hamstrings among others).
I could go on but I think you get the picture.
There’s a bias towards strengthening some muscles, whilst others are either ignored or stretched. And these are the same muscles for everyone.
Surely all our muscles are important or we wouldn’t have them. That’s how evolution works right?
Why rehab doesn’t work sometimes
When people come to me for assistance it’s usually because they’ve been following some type of programme on this theme.
In extreme cases they’re afraid to perform exercises for these ‘bad muscles’ for fear they will tighten up and do something terrible to them.
If I sound particularly piqued by this it’s because I used this approach for years until I saw it for the nonsense it is.
Incredibly I helped lots of people during this time. Largely because the human body is so intelligent you can add strength anywhere and it will put it to good use.
There were always people that didn’t respond however and this is one of the reasons why.
Providing you train muscles within their current tolerance for force (don’t go too heavy) and within a range of motion you can comfortably achieve, you can’t go wrong.
Your body will thank you for it and you’ll have less pain and more freedom of movement.
There aren’t particular muscles you should strengthen and others you should stretch.
This way of viewing the body is misleading.
Train as many joint motions as you can in a sensible and progressive manner and you will benefit.