FACT OT MYTH
STATIC STRETCHING-HELP OR HINDERANCE?
If you are, or ever have been, any type of athlete or even a week-end warrior there’s almost a 100% chance you’ve been told you need to stretch your muscles before exercise. That’s what people have been taught for decades.
Usually you were taught “static stretching”. Meaning you extend a particular muscle or muscle group, applying pressure or resistance using some other part of your body or an outside force and hold that stretch for 10, 20 or 30 seconds or longer.
Examples of static stretching
As it turns out, scientific results indicate that this form or stretching has little or no benefit and can, in many cases, actually be harmful in a variety of ways.
First, let’s look at reasons people do static stretching. Some seem totally logical in theory. But the science doesn’t support that logic.
1. To lengthen the muscle. Often this is with aesthetics goal in mind (“A long, lean appearance.”)
The problem is it doesn’t happen. Muscles are attached to bones at a fixed point. Once your bones have stopped growing your muscles are not going to get any longer.
Consider a heavy load or force pulling on a rope. The rope will stretch a little. But when the load is removed it goes back to its original length unless you do permanent damage to the fibers. It’s the same for muscles.
2. To stretch out a “tight” muscle. Coach Dean Somerset once said “Muscles are stupid creatures and they only do what they are told to do. The nervous system calls the shots and if it says it should contract, the muscle contracts”
The reasons are to produce movement, provide stability or to protect joints. In other words, if a muscle is “tight”, it’s tight for a reason. And trying to stretch it out may not be a good idea.
3. To Prevent Injury. Research published in the Journal of Sports Medicine states that static stretching shows no beneficial impact on injury prevention.
On the contrary, too much stretching in musculature around joints can actually add to the possibility of injury. Especially in individuals already prone to a high degree of flexibility in the joints.
4. To reduce soreness. In a review of 12 different studies researchers concluded that stretching after exercise does not reduce muscle soreness.
5. To Warm up. First of all, it takes a lot of static stretching to constitute a warm up. A few minutes of cardio to warm up your body is much more effective. Your warm up should do just that, warm up the muscle. Not stretch it.
And in a review of 104 previous studies, it was determined that stretching before you workout reduces strength by as much 17%, thus reducing the effectiveness of your workout. (Or competition)
So what should you do to combat sore or stiff muscles?
“Static” is the key word here. I’m not saying not to stretch or warm up. I’m saying there is a better and more effective way of stretching than static stretching.
1. Warm up your muscles using an active form of stretching where you are using your muscles. Both concentric and eccentric (extending and contracting) movement.
One such form of active stretching is called Active Isolated Flexibility/ Active Isolated Stretching (AIS). For more detailed information and videos read this.
2. Do warm up sets of movements you’ll actually be doing in your workout. See a prior article
I’m just following the science but I’m sure I’ll get a lot of disagreement about this article. That’s a good thing.
Send your comments, questions or requests for more information using the comment section below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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