Should you stretch before and after your workout? Clients often ask me this question. While the general answer is yes, here's the truth: You could probably be stretching a lot more effectively.
This spring, I traveled to Colorado for the functional range-conditioning certification led by Dr. Andreo A. Spina, a chiropractor whose research and methodology has proven instrumental for both rehabilitating injured clients and improving athletes' performance across many professional sports teams. There, I learned so much about how to move better and prevent injury, not just for athletes but for everyday people.
While I think yoga is a fabulous use of an active recovery day, I have a proposition: Try functional range-conditioning instead.
Taking control of your mobility.
Can you use your body in the end range of your stretch? Probably not. Mobility is a grossly overused and misused term—but in its strict sense, and in the context of functional range conditioning (FRC), it means having active control over your end range of motion to simultaneously expand your range of motion, teach the nervous system to control it, prepare tissue and prevent injury, and create fluidity of movement. FRC helps you do that.
In the last few months of consistent practice, the addition of controlled articular rotations (CARs) and progressive and regressive angular isometric loading (PAILs and RAILs) into my program, and the programs of my clients, has led to a new personal record in a variety of strength movements: back squat, bench press, pull-up, overhead press, and deadlift. Yep, this recovery method also leads to massive strength gains.
Building strength and control through motion.
Instead of just becoming more "flexible" and reaching larger ranges of motion and larger angles in stretches, FRC helps you build control and strength in new ranges of motion so you can squat with more depth and weight, keep proper form, and stay injury-free as you press more weight overhead.
The main difference between the casual shoulder circles you may see people doing at the gym and a shoulder CAR is the use of a principle called irradiation, or ramping up tension throughout the body to perform the movement using contraction and control, as if you were moving your arm through mud or, progressively, wet concrete. Still wondering what a CAR or PAIL looks like?
Here's an example:
Functional range conditioning is a game changer, and once you realize how much more mobility you have, you'll wonder why you weren't doing it to begin with. Just as a word of warning: So much of proper recovery through FRC starts with proper cueing and building the body awareness to control your movement in your end ranges, so if you can work with a professional before taking on any videos you see on Instagram, please do!
If you're located in New York, current classes are offered at SoHo Strength Lab, Lululemon Hub, City Row, and more. If you're a non-NYC resident, check out your local CrossFit gym—many of them offer FRC classes as a form of recovery!
Want more recovery ideas? Read up on the decades-old recovery practice that athletes and dancers swear by.