OFFICIAL NEWSLETTER OF CB
"Flexibility: Facts, Science, and Suggestions"
"Advanced Recovery Techniques"
"How to use MEDLINE on the internet
to search through the science"
old flexibility is often touted as a key component in conditioning
programs and is defined as the range of motion (ROM) around
a joint. Searching "personal training literature"
will bring forth many supposed benefits of static stretching
(traditional reach and hold stretching) and it is believed
that an increased ROM may decrease the risk of injury while
increasing speed, agility, and power, thus contributing
to some authors, it is "written in stone" that without
static stretching the exerciser will be injured! It's probably
true that going from "0 to 60" (no warm-up to maximal
effort) has a greater chance of injury, and you won't get
arguments from strength coaches or therapists, but unfortunately
it's not possible to test in research. Finally, there is no
consensus on the best warm-up or stretching program.
stretching provide performance benefits and injury prevention?
To answer this, an interested reader might want to sit through
the 300-page "The Science of Flexibility". Man,
if you thought stretching was boring, try reading a book about
stretching. The authors state that no research has shown flexibility
training prevents injury. Furthermore, the only scientifically
established benefit of flexibility is that it allows the individual
to tolerate a greater magnitude of stretch.
arguments for stretching come from physiological theory and
anecdotal evidence. Based on anatomy and physiology, flexibility
should help athletes increase tissue compliance. Furthermore,
most people agree that stretched muscles feel more comfortable
and are quick to blame any injury on lack of stretching/flexibility.
In theory, stretching could prevent injury as tight or cold
muscles are more susceptible to strains.
an injury occurs, it is easy to say, "Could have been
avoided with stretching", but is that true? What about
when Michael Johnson pulled a muscle in the great showdown
with Donavan Bailey in 1997? Do you think Johnson neglected
to stretch? Can flexibility truly prevent against the violent
forces applied in sprinting and cutting? Is a 10-second hamstring
stretch the be-all and end-all of injury prevention? What
are the contributions of muscle strength or warm-up in injury
a lack of "hard science", most coaches recommend
that each muscle be stretched for approximately 10 seconds
after a thorough warm-up in order to prevent injury. Provided
the warm-up is adequate, there is no harm in stretching, and
it may serve to "psychologically prepare" the athlete
for training. For the greatest increases in flexibility and
ROM, there is science to support that stretching should be
performed after a training session and each stretch should
be held for up to 30 seconds. Do not stretch recently injured
areas, inflamed muscle, or if pain occurs.
stretching has been shown to increase tolerance to stretch
and "flexibility" (Wiemann and Hahn, 1997). Unfortunately,
stretching has not been repeatedly proven to prevent soreness
or injury, or increase strength, despite what "personal
trainers" believe. Other stretching options include PNF
(proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation), dynamic, and
ballistic stretching. Dynamic flexibility involves movement
through a full ROM to prepare the muscles and nervous system
for activity. Ballistic stretching is similar to dynamic flexibility,
but occurs at a much faster speed. PNF is a technique best
explained in person by a Certified Strength & Conditioning
popular myth on the stretching forefront is that training
with weights decreases ROM. Specifically, many people believe
that the concentric contractions in resistance training shorten
the muscle and thus flexibility training must be performed
in order to prevent contraction induced shortening.
if you are using a full ROM in the eccentric with both concentric
and eccentric movements, then there should be a balance in
shortening and lengthening of the muscle. Simply put, for
each shortening, you should have a lengthening in that muscle,
and thus no loss of flexibility. In fact, weight training
is simply "loaded ballistic stretching" or "loaded
dynamic stretching" (depending on contraction speed).
In fact, research shows that ROM can be increased after static
and ballistic stretching but that it remains unchanged after
resistance training (Wiemann and Hahn, 1997).
when the muscle is in a shortened state for extended periods
(threshold time unknown), such as the hip flexors while sitting,
should inflexibility be developed. Thus, for those in situations
where there is no muscle lengthening, flexibility training
is recommended. This may help alleviate lower back problems
and tight hip flexors for those that sit (i.e. office chairs)
for several hours each day.
stretching help performance? Well, maybe, but probably not
in the manner that most people would expect. Strength Coach
Charles Poliquin believes, "Stretching the antagonistic
muscle groups may benefit the performance of a lift using
the agonist muscles." For example, before bench presses,
the lifter would stretch the upper back by pulling on a pole
for a few seconds. Strength may increase using this method.
training may also assist multi-joint exercises that are limited
by a poor range of motion. For example, some lifters have a problem with their
heels rising during the squat exercise. Poliquin believes
this may be due to a tight hip flexor region, and thus it
is necessary to stretch the psoas and rectus femoris. Consistent
performance of the static lunge stretch could help dissipate
those are 2 reasons to include stretching as a vital component
to training, other claims are off the mark as fitness authors
claim that it helps speed the healing process. It's a nice
belief, but there is little evidence to back that up and it
hasn't reduced muscle soreness in a clinical setting. But
why would it? Even if you stretch pre-workout, muscle soreness
is due to the loaded contractions (predominately eccentric)
that occur during training. Flexibility has no impact. If
you are doing negatives with 120% of your 1 RM or if you are
running downhill, rule out flexibility as a muscle-soreness
prevention method. If you don't want sore muscles, don't train.
most absurd claim that has been given to flexibility is that
"fascial stretching" can actually build muscle.
A fact of physiology, stretching does not build muscle, unless
you consider the eccentric component of a repetition as stretching
(and technically, it is). Fascial stretching is claimed to
help growth by relieving the tightness of the surrounding
connective tissue and allowing the muscle fibers to stretch
out and grow. Unfortunately, the theory just doesn't translate
and this is not a limit to growth.
will definitely assist injury rehabilitation. Scar tissue
that occurs in response to injury might be rehabilitated with
stretching (and other techniques). Furthermore, a decreased
ROM can be combated with stretching. Simple static stretches,
using the guidelines below, should be able to increase range
of motion and function in injured joints and muscles, but
this type of program should only be instituted several days
after the injury has started the healing process.
not to stretch injured or inflamed tissue. As recommended
at the Society of Weight Training Injury Specialists (SWIS)
conference, there are several stages in the injury response
and stretching is advised against early, but then recommended
after about 3 days post-injury.
h = minimize injury
6-24 = minimize inflammation (inflammation can cause atrophy,
21-36 = avoid more injury
3-6 d = increase range of motion (increase tissue temp., slow
& prolonged stretching)
7-14d = increase strength
15d = increase function
best advice for all stretching programs is to avoid extremes.
Don't worry about becoming a human pretzel, but don't ignore
stretching (or a proper warm-up). For further rehabilitation,
injured individuals should consider alternatives, one of which
may be Active Release Techniques (a topic of a future newsletter).
K., and K. Hahn. Influences of strength, stretching and circulatory
flexibility parameters of the human hamstrings. Int J Sports
Med 18:340-346, 1997.
Always warm-up to increase the tissue temperature and blood
flow. A warm-up for the lower body could be as simple as
a 10-minute walk.
Isolate the muscle to be stretched in a relaxed, non-weight
Make the stretch slow and smooth to avoid a reflex contraction.
Do not overstretch. A slight tension should be developed
and this tension should subside during the stretch.
Hold each stretch (10 to 30 seconds).
Increase the length of the stretch when the tension resides.
Breathe regularly during the stretch to ensure relaxation.
When the stretch is over, come out of the position with
a slow and smooth movement.
Stretch consistently, especially if it is part of a rehabilitation
- ADVANCED RECOVERY TECHNIQUES
wonder why those guys that seem to train sporadically (3 times
per week, then a week off, then hard for 3 weeks then off,
etc.) seem to grow as well, and sometimes better than yourself?
What about guys who explode with growth when they take a week
off for a holiday where they lounge and binge-eat?
do these guys get more gains than you get even though you
train religiously 5 days per week 52 weeks per year? Well
unknowingly, these guys are actually training along a smarter
schedule, because their bodies are receiving enough rest.
If you incorporated more systematic recovery strategies in
your training regimen...your grains would go through the roof!
athletes underestimated the importance of rest and recovery
in their training plans. Quality rest includes adequate sleep
and rest days and allows for higher quality training sessions.
Rest can also be applied by the inclusion of a week of low-volume
training after a 4-6 week training cycle.
from the obvious increases in general rest, strength coach
and Ph.D. candidate Jonathon Fowles from the University of
Waterloo has some advanced athletic recovery techniques. According
to Fowles, fatigue is multi-factorial and chronic fatigue
can result in overtraining. Other factors in recovery:
1. Tolerance to fatigue (inflammation response)
2. Nutrition and hydration
3. Active Rest & Stretching
5. Relaxation & Emotional Support
training requires compensation and adaptation in response
to the stress imposed during exercise. According to Fowles,
one of the best ways to prevent inflammation and degradation
is to apply cold therapy and proper nutrition.
RECOVERY #1 - COLD BATHS
start recovery after intense lower body exercise, Coach Fowles
recommends 5-8 min in 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit water, submerged
up to the navel after a hard workout, and after a proper cool-down
and stretch. His theory is this:
(from the cold) of peripheral blood vessels helps to remove
blood from legs when the muscle-pump no longer active. The
cold also limits inflammation (by slowing metabolism) and
swelling responses post-exercise. "Free radicals"
are known to be prevalent after exercise, and the tub quickly
slows metabolism so recovery can start. In using this technique,
many athletes report to Coach Fowles that they suffer less
from "dead legs" and fatigue.
cooling has been used extensively in athletics for years.
In summary, the technique may reduce the inflammation response,
free radical damage, and metabolism after exercise so that
less fatigue and more recovery are possible.
- MEDLINE: HOW TO SEARCH THE INTERNET FOR SCIENCE
is one of the most visited websites for research scientists
seeking past information on their research topics. Simply
by entering a few keywords, you will have access to thousands
of journals and an infinite number of research abstracts on
literally any scientific topic. Go to the page:
here, refine your search using keywords, such as "muscle
soreness AND stretching". You can also limit your search
to date, human research, or review articles.
CB Athletic Consulting, Inc.