2023 World’s Strongest Man (WSM) Mitchell Hooper has a Master’s in clinical exercise physiology and knows a thing or two about how stretching does or does not promote a healthy lifting routine. There is a widely held notion that dynamic stretching before a workout and static stretching after a workout can benefit one’s training. But do lifters stretch too often?
On Sept. 16, 2023, Hooper published a video to his YouTube channel reviewing the benefits and – more importantly – the dangers of stretching. Check it out below:
The Stretching Stigma
Well-intentioned social media influencers might offer ill-informed, blanket-statement advice like always “stretch more.” However, Hooper believes that can cause more harm than good, explaining that if stretching and mobility were the ways to stay injury-free, the healthiest, most minor injury-prone sport would have to be gymnastics, but it’s not.
“Gymnastics incidents of injury is 12.3 per…1000 hours of participation,” says Hooper. “Compare that to professional soccer; it is 8.1 injuries per 1000 hours of participation.” So, being more mobile doesn’t result in less injury.”
The Stability-Mobility Continuum
Different body parts vary in stability and mobility. The more mobile a body part, the more at-risk it is to get subluxated or dislocated. For example, hips are more stable and rarely dislocate in young, healthy individuals. Shoulders are a different story.
“If we have more freedom for range of motion, we have more responsibility to own that range of motion and control that with strength and with stability,” Hooper says.
Hooper asks his clients why they want to become more mobile via stretching. Often, there’s no specific reason, though sometimes there are performance-based purposes. However, if somebody wants to increase their range of motion, this doesn’t directly correlate to a lower risk of injury.
Mitchell Hooper’s Mobility Routine
Contrary to popular belief, Hooper doesn’t typically stretch at all, nor does he warm up with a resistance band. Rather, he does plenty of sets at a lighter weight to prime his muscles and joints for the upcoming working sets.
“If you can push, pull, push overhead, carry, squat, and hinge all pain-free, to range of motion, there’s no obligation for you to stretch,” says Hooper. Stretching only loosens the range of motion for a short window of time, approximately 30-45 minutes — Hooper notes how dancers stretch all day to remain fluid.
Exercises like dumbbell pullovers and squats with a pause at the bottom of each rep (read: training the muscles in their fully lengthened position) can improve mobility without the need to directly stretch those muscles. Warmup sets of the same movement one is about to perform are typically all one needs to optimize their performance.
Featured image: @mitchellhooper on Instagram