Everything you know about STRETCHING IS WRONG! Today I and my friend, SCIENCE will tell you what you need to know about stretching and what are the REAL effects of stretching to a muscle that is about to be worked out or the one you are going to use in your main lift as well as the benefits of stretching IF DONE CORRECTLY.
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In a workout you need to utilize the maximum power or torque possible from your target muscle to generate the most intensity and therefore lead to the greatest possible results. A muscle must therefore be in the right condition for a CONTRACTION. A muscle must be able to:
CONTRACT WITH THE GREATEST FORCE POSSIBLE!!!
That mean it must be able to shorten (contract) without any problems – the fastest your muscle can shorten the more force – the less hindrances – the better.
Now what stretching does is LESSEN your muscle’s force output.
That is clearly common sense since anything that is stretched out ends up having reduced contractility. Take a rubber band for example. New bands that still contain their integrity can fly further when you fire them (like what you do when you were a kid) but after hours of playing with it and of constant abuse the same rubber band becomes loose and loses its force. That is why it is somewhat harder to urinate after hours of containing your piss – your bladder becomes stretched out for a while and becomes lose, therefore it cannot force out your urine for a while.
Your muscle is no different from rubber band – being stretched out for a while makes it lose most of its output leading to a sloppy workout performance – therefore lesser results; frustration; and
A HIGHER RISK FOR INJURRY
Since a muscle whose force output has been compromised cannot possibly help you keep your form correctly and is much more prone to damage (not the micro tear damage that you want) since it has become weak.
But if one is not satisfied by common sense here is an actual scientific research that proves this point:
Journal of Applied Physiology April 1, 1999 vol. 86 no. 4 1283-1291 This study demonstrated that RPS(Repeated Passive Stretching) of a muscle can cause considerable impairment of its force output. The mean reduction was 23.2%
From: Journal of Applied Physiology April 1, 1999 vol. 86 no. 4 1283-1291
So that means that the same muscle that is stretched will end up having a significantly reduced workout capacity 23.2% to be exact!! Therefore stretching your hams is not a good idea if you are about to work out your hams.
But that doesn’t mean that you MUST NOT STRETCH! Actually this study itself showed a caveat or a loophole – it will give you a clue as to what is the right way to do stretching. Take a look at the second part of the research paper:
In conclusion, a mechanism to reduce reflex sensitivity, which is known to be present in active muscle fatigue, can also be activated because of repeated and prolonged passive stretching of the muscle. The origin of this system is probably not the small-diameter afferents but rather the reduced activity of the large-diameter ones, resulting from the reduced sensitivity of the muscle spindles to stretch. It is suggested that in this situation of passive stretches the decreased spindle sensitivity is not chemical (metabolic accumulation or deprivation of energy substrate) in nature but mechanical, because of some modification (increased compliance) of the extrafusal and/or intrafusal fibers.
This means that stretching reduces the “Stretch reflex sensitivity” here is a very simple definition of Stretch Reflex Sensitivity from Wikipedia:
The stretch reflex (myotatic reflex) is a muscle contraction in response to stretching within the muscle. It is a monosynaptic reflex which provides automatic regulation of skeletal muscle length. When a muscle lengthens, the muscle spindle is stretched and its nerve activity increases. This increases alpha motor neuron activity, causing the muscle fibers to contract and thus resist the stretching. A secondary set of neurons also causes the opposing muscle to relax. The reflex functions to maintain the muscle at a constant length.
When you move or contract a muscle there is actually a “counter force” produced. This counter force is similar to the force you use in DYNAMIC TENSION: which is that the opposing muscle generates a stopping or limiting effect to the muscle you are working out.
In Dynamic tension you generate this counter-force consciously but actually you muscles generate an amount of “dynamic tension” automatically at a certain point of a muscle’s movement as a safety mechanism.
this image pretty much explains it: (click to enlarge)Follow @AboutLifting
For example while doing bench presses your back actually generates a counter force as you generate the bench pressing motion – therefore reducing your exercise output therefore that and the results from the above research tells us the correct way to do stretching:
STRETCH THE OPPOSSING MUSCLE PRE-WORKOUT and THEN
STRETCH THE TARGET MUSCLE AFTER ITS WORKOUT
Doing so will reduce the “counter-force” produced by the stretch-reflex of the opposing body part and will ensure that you are hitting your target muscle with the greatest intensity possible and doing so one would see to it that there will be no unnecessary reduction in your target muscle’s contractile potential – therefore target muscle keeps its force output and is capable for more since you reduced its opposing muscle’s sensitivity reflex. All of which leads to a better and a more intense workout – leads to a better body – better health – and more ladies staring at you.
Now dudes, can you share me your thoughts? Have you tried this method of stretching the opposing muscle? Do you do stretching at all as a lifter? How do you stretch? Eat your eggs, people!