We do Yoga. We stretch. We work our mobility. We do all of these things and more and generally with a few of the same basic ideas in mind. We want to improve our range of motion and reduce our chance of injury.
Davis’ Law is details how our soft tissue (tendons, ligaments and fascia) adapt under stress and lack of stress. As it was originally stated by Henry Gassett Davis in 1913:
“Ligaments, or any soft tissue, when put under even a moderate degree of tension, if that tension is unremitting, will elongate by the addition of new material; on the contrary, when ligaments, or rather soft tissues, remain uninterruptedly in a loose or lax state, they will gradually shorten, as the effete material is removed, until they come to maintain the same relation to the bony structures with which they are united that they did before their shortening. Nature never wastes her time and material in maintaining a muscle or ligament at its original length when the distance between their points of origin and insertion is for any considerable time, without interruption, shortened.
As it applies to our flexibility and mobility, it basically means if we don;t use it we lose it. Take a moment and look at a baby or a toddler, most of us would envy their flexibility. When we are young we have good flexibility and like it was stated above, we weren’t using it so nature didn’t waste her time. We get to be a few years older and then realize how important that mobility was and now we are fighting to get it back.
The good news is that by working on our flexibility through working various mobility drills and even yoga. By intermittently stretching and working to promote elongation our soft connective tissues begin to increase in length. They also will become denser and thicker as a means of “protecting” the tissue against over elongation.
A couple of key things when it comes to working on flexibility
Learn proper techniques for stretching. You don;t want to just reach until it hurts and hold it. This also includes knowing the right posture so that the right elements are receiving the right stimulus. Good Mornings are a great hamstring stretch, but not if you round your back out just for the sake of going further down
Warm up first. You don’t want to stretch cold. Spend a few minutes to work up a little sweat beforehand. This is one reason why stretching after a workout makes so much sense. You are already warm, and now it has the added benefits of helping to reduce inflammation and soreness later. By that same token, stretching before a work out can actually be counter productive. For a period of time immediately after elongating a soft tissue you will have decreased ability to produce power. This is almost like the difference between pulling on a rope and pulling on a bungee cord. If I am lifting or sprinting I want the force applied by my muscles to be carried by my connective tissues across a joint to create force. If those tissues have been elongated there will be a reduction of force transfered from the muscle to the joint.
and lastly. As always consistency is the secret. Doing a 1000 different stretches once a month will get you no where. But being consistent and working several different stretches each day or at least several days of week will yield much better results. When working our movements, always work to go the full range of motion. It will increase your overall strength and help keep up your range of motion.
Davis’ Law – the only way to be flexible is to keep trying to be flexible.