It is also worth mentioning that many people are born with an excessive amount of joint and muscle flexibility. There are many people who can, while standing, touch the palms of both hands to the floor without any prior stretching or practice. These people in short do not need to pursue stretching as a form of exercise: they would be much better off working on core strengthening through activities such as pilates. Women are more likely than men to fall into this category.
A second danger arising from excessive stretching involves not the muscles, but the ligamentous structures that support the joints. Clinically speaking, this is a more serious problem for the reason that joint structures respond to over-stretching differently than muscles do. Muscles that are too long can be retrained to work at a more ideal length. Exercises to shorten lengthened muscles will be demonstrated later in this chapter in detail.
The ligaments and cartilage that protect joints are likened to to the plastic that surrounds a six pack of beer: once you have stretched out that plastic by pulling a can out of the six pack, there is no turning back. The plastic will forever remain in the stretched out position, just as the joint and the ligament develop permanent length changes.
As an example, let us use the hip joint in relation to stretching of the hip flexor muscles. As many of you know, the hip flexors are the muscles located in the front portion of the upper thigh, some of which originate on the lower spine and front of the pelvis. These muscles allow us to lift our leg and help to stabilize various bodily positions.
For most individuals with ideal muscle health, when the leg is lowered to the horizontal position to the table ( in a 2 joint hip flexor stretch, I couldn’t download the photo!!!), a light stretching sensation may be felt in the front portion of the hip and thigh. In this position, the muscles in the front of the hip encounter a stretch. This limit in the muscle length blocks the hip from further extension.
Now consider what would happen if you focused a great amount of time and energy on stretching out your hip flexors to the point where you could lower your knee considerably below the horizontal position of a 2 joint hip flexor test.
If the leg is brought down far enough, the ligaments that support the front portion of the hip joint are now placed under a stretch. Many people often misinterpret this ligament and joint capsule stretching as muscle stretching, and, therefore, consider it a good thing. Nothing could be further from the truth. Over time, we are left with muscles that are too long to support the joints correctly AND joints that have been irreparably stretched out.