Growing up skating, the mentality is anti-athletic and rebellious. That works well and good when you're 15 and invincible. But when you're 20 and start feeling pains in your legs, you have to do more than just skate. If you love skating and can't see your life without it, you need to stretch.
– Paul Rodriguez
Stretching can be good, your cat does it on the regs. Stretching can form a part of your efforts to restore the balance in our unnatural lifestyles of jumping down stairs, sitting for hours and sacking ourselves on handrails, although you might be looking for stitches instead of stretches for that last one.
However, in the skate world stretching is hailed as the holy grail that's going to solve all our problems. From my experience a decent majority of skaters mention stretching as the number 1 thing we should be doing off our boards to stay on point. After all it's hardly uncommon to hear skaters complaining about feeling stiff and inflexible, so stretching has to be the solution, right?
Wellll, not really. Although stretching can help you out with stiffness and inflexibility, these issues are much more complex and can have many different causes. Muscular imbalances and weakness are commonly involved with stiffness and lack of flexibility, so even if you stretch as much as your cat, if you aren't combining it with exercise like resistance training you might not get the results you're after.
Alongside this when it comes down to stretching to improve how you skate, most people get it wrong and do the classic kind of stretching where they hold positions. Read on to find out what you should be doing instead.
There are many different types of stretching you can do and doing the wrong one at the wrong time can actually do you over more than help you. For example, static stretching - the type of stretching that most skaters that do warm-up do - is actually the not the best type of stretching you can do before you skate as it can temporarily lower the strength and performance of your muscles. On the other hand, dynamic stretching does the opposite; improving the performance and reaction time of your muscles, preparing your body for a skate.
when to stretch.
before you skate.
The type of stretching you want to do before you skate is dynamic stretching - stretching that uses movement to stretch a muscle.
This type of stretching increases power, endurance, coordination, vertical jump height and balance, amongst other things. When you skate you do a lot of fast and powerful movements and going into it with cold and stiff muscles makes doing tricks require more energy and well, just harder; we all know those sessions that take about x7 more energy than normal to pop your board and where warming up seems to never end.
Warming up with dynamic stretching helps destroy these sluggy starts and prepares your body for the movements you're going to do when you skate. It also keeps your body temperature up which is what you want when you warm-up, hence the name... Whereas sitting around on the floor doing static stretches will do nothing but chill your willy.
Go to the warm-up for skateboarding page where you'll find a list of dynamic stretches to do before you skate.
Photo: Lani Finer 2013 © | Torey Pudwill stretching
after you skate.
Although stretching won't help you recover, if you enjoy doing it and it helps you chill after your session then the type of stretching you can do after you skate is static stretching - this is the classic kind of stretching where you hold a muscle in a stretched position without moving.
Some studies on football players showed a loss in ankle range of motion over the football season in players that didn't stretch, but a maintenance of range of motion in those that did. So even though stretching doesn't have any benefits for recovery in the moment, getting some stretching in throughout the week might help you maintain a more balanced body.
for maintenance, ROM or flexibility.
A lot of people think that they're just born inflexible and there's nothing they can do about it but this is just one of those myths that won't go away, like the idea that carrots have always been orange, yeh, they were once purple - everything you've been told is a lie. Nearly everyone is born flexible but due to their lifestyle - things like sitting down most of the day and not taking the body through a wide range of movement on a regular basis - lose it.
Our muscles and other tissues adapt to the position they spend most of their time in, if this is a shortened and contracted position they'll gradually become accustomed to this length, remain tight, and lose their ability to move so freely. On the other hand the muscles that remain in a stretched position can become weak.
To picture this, imagine someone sitting down, hunched over working on a computer. The front of their bodies are in a shortened position whilst the muscles on the back of the body are lengthened. Repeat this everyday with no resistance training to counteract these positions and it's very possible you'll end up with muscular imbalances that can lead to feeling stiff, pain, or with poor posture at some point.
Stretching can be a useful tool to work on muscular imbalances but it's only one tool, and without resistance training, mobility work and other exercises that retrain your body to work in the right position, you won't be getting the best results.
There's research comparing full range of motion resistance training with stretching and their influence on flexibility and they found no difference between the two. So considering the overwhelming benefits of resistance training, I would recommend putting most your efforts there if your goal is flexibility.
On top of stretching and strengthening, reducing the thing that's causing your body to go out of balance is gunna make a big difference. You know I'm talking about sitting... Combine strengthening and less sitting with whatever else you need to improve your mobility, then mate, you'll have the hips of a frog in no time.
And remember, how flexible you need to be and how much range of motion you need is totally relative to what you want to do. For example, you don't need to be able to do the splits to skate and flexibility past what's necessary for regular movement won't make you any healthier.