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Fascia Stretching and Muscle Memory

Training discussion on Fascia Stretching and Muscle Memory, within the Bodybuilding Forum; I've always personally used fascia stretching since DC training. I swear by them. It's extremely painful, but IMO necessary for ...


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Old 02-13-2006, 06:28 PM   #1
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Lightbulb Fascia Stretching and Muscle Memory

I've always personally used fascia stretching since DC training. I swear by them. It's extremely painful, but IMO necessary for a slew of different reasons such as faster recovery, improved flexability, and increased muscle growth over time.

Doing loaded fascia stretches, it's very important to execute the 30-60 second stretch after working that muscle. For example, after I do 5x5 for flat bench, my chest is very pumped with blood. At this point is when I do the loaded stretch. Using DC training as another example, it has you do a 60 second loaded stretch after your one working set per bodypart. Stretching a worked muscle allows for a much deeper stretch...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Moore?
The hardest part of the training. One minute is a long time. The quickie explanation is extreme stretching causes microtrauma from forcing sarcomeres to produce tension at extreme length, where damage is most suspectible. By holding it for 30-60 seconds, you initiate the stretch reflex which increases the amount of tension in that area (and why DC is right in being so adamanat about *holding* it for 30+ seconds), thus boosting tension and therefore acute damage. There's some speculation about stretching activating gene expression with satellite cells. John Parrillo has the same beliefs in his training as well...
Here's a description of how to execute a loaded fascia stretch per bodypart..Descriptions courtesy of Dante over at intensemuscle:

CHEST: Flat bench 90lb dumbbells chest high--lungs full of air-- I drop down into the deepest flye I can for the first 10 seconds or so with my lungs full of air and chest out---then staying there I arch my back slightly and try to press my sternum upward --this is absolutely excruciating--the rest of the 60 seconds I try to concentrate on dropping my elbows even farther down (I try to but I don’t think they are going any lower--LOL)---the last 15 seconds I’m pretty much shaking like a leaf, I have tears in my eyes and I think about dropping bodybuilding and becoming a tap dancer on Broadway (ok that parts not true)--My opinion is people should use dumbbells that are a little over half of what your heaviest set of 6-8 reps would be. I cant state this enough--extreme stretching royally sucks!!! Its painful. But I have seen amazing things with people -especially in the quads.

TRICEPS: Seated on a flat bench-my back up against the barbell---75lb dumbell in my hand behind my head(like in an overhead dumbell extension)--sink dumbell down into position for the first 10 seconds and then an agonizing 50 seconds slightly leaning back and pushing the dumbell down with the back of my head I like one arm at a time in the bottom position of a dumbell triceps extension----going to the extreme stretch and then slightly pushing on the dumbell with the back of my head.

SHOULDERS: This one is tough to describe--put a barbell in the squat rack shoulder height--face away from it and reach back and grab it palms up (hands on bottom of bar)---walk yourself outward until you are on your heels and the stretch gets painful--then roll your shoulders downward and hold for 60 seconds.

BICEPS: Olympic bar in a power rack or squat rack about neck high---face away from it and reach back and put both hands over the bar gripping it----now either sink down with one leg forward/one leg back or better yet squat down and try (I say try because its absolutely excruciating) to kneel. Go down to the stretch that is almost unbearable and then hold that for 45 to 60 seconds. Your own bodyweight is the load. What I do is put the bar at a place on the squat rack in which I can kneel at a severe stretch and then try to sink my ass down to touch my feet. If its too easy I put the bar up to the next rung.

BACK: Honestly for about 3 years my training partner and I would hang a 100lb dumbell from our waist and hung on the widest chin-up bar (with wrist straps) to see who could get closest to 3 minutes--I never made it--I think 2 minutes 27 seconds was my record--but my back width is by far my best body part--I pull on a doorknob or stationary equipment with a rounded back now and its way too hard too explain here--just try it and get your feel for it.

HAMSTRINGS: Either leg up on a high barbell holding my toe and trying to force my leg straight with my free hand for an excruciating painful 60 seconds or another exercise I could only show people and not type here.

QUADS: Facing a barbell in a power rack about hip high --grip it and simultaneously sink down and throw your knees under the barbell and do a sissy squat underneath it while going up on your toes. then straighten your arms and lean as far back as you can---60 seconds and if this one doesn't make you hate my guts and bring tears to your eyes nothing will---do this one faithfully and tell me in 4 weeks if your quads don’t look a lot different than they used to.

CALVES: my weak body part that I couldn’t get up too par until 2 years ago when I finally thought it out and figured out how to make them grow (with only one set twice a week too) I don’t need to stretch calves after because when I do calves I explode on the positive and take 5 seconds to get back to full stretch and then 15 seconds at the very bottom "one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand etc" --15 seconds stretching at the bottom thinking and trying to flex my toes toward my shin--it is absolutely unbearable and you will most likely be shaking and want to give up at about 7 reps (I always go for 12reps with maximum weights)--do this on a hack squat or a leg press--my calves have finally taken off due to this.

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Old 02-13-2006, 06:30 PM   #2
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This is originally from abcbodybuilding, and seen at a couple other places. It explains the need and science for stretching and extreme stretching. Feel it burn.

Can You Use The Muscle Memory Phenomenon, Without Ever Having The Muscle?

Researched and Composed by Jacob Wilson

Introduction

Each of you has heard of the phenomenon known as muscle memory. It is the occurrence of insanely extreme and fast growth in a person who is regaining the lost muscle he has allowed to atrophy. Stories such as 40-50 pound muscle gains( in a short time span ) in regards to this subject are not uncommon. The question however remains, what exactly is muscle memory and what causes it to occur? I not only intend to address this question, but also to answer the title of this article in a very positive manner. You see, I believe that an athlete can literally mimic this tremendous phenomenon! Read on if you want to find out how!!!

Note: The following article discusses muscle memory, as a term to define a recapturing of past growth. The term however should not be used in a motor sense, as that 'memory' is actually in the nervous system.

What Exactly Is it that Occurs During Memory?

Lets say that you busted your behind in the gym and built a huge, massive pair of quads measuring 30 inches in circumference! Then for one reason or another you stopped training your legs. During the time off, your quadriceps atrophied( shrunk ) down to 24 inches. Determined to regain your lost mass you decide to hit the gym again with extreme ferocity! Only this time you are able to gain back those 6 inches in a matter of months, where as originally it took you years to gain that much mass! What happened?

Before I can answer that, I need to ask you a very important question. What surrounds, binds and holds every muscle group in place?

__________________________________________________

" Essentially all bets are off, due to the amount of room you will have to grow! "
__________________________________________________

If you answered connective tissue, you would have been exactly right! In order to further explain muscle memory it would behoove us to briefly review what exactly this connective tissue is( for a greater explanation read my article, the anatomy of a muscle fiber. It goes in great depth in what I am about to cover. So if it seems a bit confusing, you definitely need to consult this article. ). Simply put every muscle is made up of 1, 000s of muscle fibers. These muscle fibers are all individually wrapped with a connective tissue wrapping, or a sheath. This is called the endomysium. These individual muscle fibers are then organized in bundles( called fascicles ) which are covered by another connective tissue sheathe called the perimysium. These bundles or fascicles are then placed together in an orderly arrangement( which determines the shape and functionality of the muscle ) and held in place[/b] by a layer of connective tissue known as the epimysium. Finally each of these layers is held together by the deep fascia( a courser material ). The connective tissue of every muscle fiber acts like a girdle of sorts. Which means that it binds a muscle group together, and to its neighboring muscle in many cases. It also protects, organizes and allows the force of contraction generated by the thousands of muscle fibers in a particular group, to be harnessed with great efficiency!

The important thing to understand is this: Connective tissue is not only a tuff material but also hugs tight to its surrounding area, almost constricting it! What does this have to do with muscle growth you say? Ahh, that my friend, is where muscle memory comes in! Think about it for a moment. In order for a muscle to hypertrophy, what needs to take place if it is restricted by this tight binding girdle? The tissue must stretch and become more pliable right?! If this did not occur, then muscle growth would be hindered( you cannot grow unless there is enough room to do so)!

When you increased your muscle mass by building 30 inch wheels, you also ended out stretching and expanding the muscles encasing tissue. Therefore the manipulation of these protective sheathes was a major factor in your ability to stimulate hypertrophy! In the scenario painted, we also discussed you taking time off from training. So much so, that your lower body atrophied to a point in which 6 inches were lost off of your legs. However, even with this tremendous setback, you still had stretched the connective tissue to a great extent. When you came back to the gym and trained, you were no longer fighting the restrictions of tight, unpliable fascia, but rather a more elastic and pre-expanded connective tissue! Essentially all bets were off, due to the amount of room you had to grow! More room to grow enables more mass to be accumulated! This is one of the top theories held today for what we coin " muscle memory. "

How Can Muscle Memory Be Mimicked?

Mimicking this process would center around the manipulation of the connective tissue surrounding, organizing and binding a muscle. As mentioned it can literally prevent the expansion of growth. Therefore our goal will be to create an environment similar to one in which a muscle group had previously been larger. In essence you will have to stretch and expand the fascia, epimysium and other tissues. This, can certainly be done and done effectively! However, you need to understand that this is a tuff tissue, and expanding it can be a very complex process.

The question now is what will it take to accomplish such a goal. Perhaps the most recognizable figure in regards to this subject is the great John Parillo. He uses a technique called " fascia stretching. " This is a special procedure used that actually expands the fascia. One of the greatest scientists the sport of bodybuilding has ever known is D.J. Millward. He has made some of the most incredible break throughs Only D J Millward calls this revolutionary technique the bag expansion theory. You see, the connective tissue surrounding a muscle is often referred to as a bag, hence the title of the theory.

__________________________________________________

" By then you will be begging for mercy! "
__________________________________________________

Interestingly enough, before any expert or scientists began coining phrases, great athletes such as Tom Platz and Arnold Schwarzenegger were using techniques that would most certainly expand the fascia( discussed in greater detail in a bit )! However, I would credit the field of massaging with the earliest breakthroughs in fascial expansion. I believe their theories paved the way for one of the most extreme growth methods every presented in this brutal sport.

In particular I am referring to a woman named Dr. Ida P. Rolf. She invented a famous technique called rolfing. It is a special, extreme form of massage that as Ida puts it, manipulates deep tissue. She theorized that you could move around, loosen, expand, realign and strengthen this tissue with her great techniques! Interestingly enough, her techniques applied to Parillo and Millwards can not only drastically enhance muscle growth, but also increase separation between muscle groups. How incredible is that!?

From a physiological standpoint John Parillo believes that the deep fascia is the main concern of the bodybuilder to target, and Millwards research leads him to believe that the endomysium and perimysium are chiefly responsible for the restriction of muscle growth. The great news is that the same techniques for expansion of the fascia, work for the expansion of the endomysium and perimysium.

How To Expand The Fascia for Enhanced Muscular Size and Shape!

At this stage I am going to have to issue one of my essential warnings. If you do not have a high pain threshold I would not suggest reading any further. The methods discussed here are extremely painful, and only an athlete with the mentality of a warrior will have the guts it takes to apply the following principles! However, when the smoke clears, you will have a greater capacity for growth, a fuller muscle, and greater separation between body parts!

Again, our goal, as D J Millward puts it is to create a larger bag. In order to accomplish this feet we will need to stretch the connective tissue beyond its previous limits, cause damage and then allow it to heal in such a way that it grows back larger then it was previously. There are four factors involved in fascia stretching.

1. Heat

If you are intent on truly mimicking muscle memory, you must not only stretch the fascia, but you must do it in an absolutely perfect environment or you will not reap even near optimal results! The first factor mentioned above was heat. You see a cold muscle has a limited range of motion. Our goal is to stretch the fascia past its previous limits and this cannot take place if range of motion is limited. Therefore you must adequately warm up before performing the techniques discussed shortly.

2. An incredible blood pump

Everyone here understands the extreme power of fluid! Whole canyons have been carved from water erosion! The same principle is applicable here. A tremendous back flow of fluid in a muscle group will stretch the connective tissue that restricts muscle growth. In other words the greater the pump, the more direct and effective the stretch in the fascia, epimysium, and perimysium will be!

3. Insanely Extreme Stretching

The third and most painful step in fascia expansion, is to manually stretch it. This entails stretching the target muscle group with insane intensity! By doing this you will force the girdle which inhibits enhanced mass, and enable further growth in the myofibrils( the largest aspect of a muscle fiber ).

4. Recovery!

Unfortunately, like every aspect of bodybuilding, we must have enough will power to allow the area worked to recover. You see, the pump, combined with extreme manual stretching will damage the connective tissue. In order for it to grow back and be remodeled as Millard puts it, into a larger bag, it must have a significant enough time to recover. This is not only a painful process, but like any type of extreme training is also stressful, and needs significant time to recover.

Now that we understand the factors involved in fascia expansion, we must apply them in an organized fashion in order to reap incredible results!

Applying The Principles!

The absolute best way to describe how to apply these principles would be to take you through another training scenario. Lets say you are working your pectorals out and want to expand the fascia in the area. You would go through your normal warm up and then begin the process. The first key here is to use a training protocol that produces a maximum back flow of blood( pump ) into the pectorals. When I say maximum, I mean a pump that is literally so insane that the skin becomes tighter than a drum! For example, normally you can move a muscle group around with your hand when it is relaxed. It seems semi pliable until flexed. An optimal pump essentially fills the muscle with so much blood, that it almost feels contracted while in a relaxed position. Again, the skin should be tight and the muscle should be hard. In order to produce a pump such as this you need to perform a high repetition set, a massive superset, or a strip set. Lets say you decide to perform dumbbell bench presses. I would suggest performing a set of 12 repetitions, followed by a drop set of 12 repetitions, and if you feel the pump is not adequate, then finish it off with one more drop! At this point your pectorals should be so full of blood, that you literally cannot flex! Your arms should feel like led. I'm talking about a pump so extreme, that you can't take your shirt off to pose in the mirror. Its important to understand that the connective tissue is not only increased in temperature, but also being stretched extremely by this process!

Now is when the pain begins( as if producing a mind boggling pump wasn't insanely painful. )! You need to find a stretch that expands the fascia of the pectorals to a maximum. This muscle is responsible for pulling the humerus( upper arm bone ) across the midline of your body. It contracts when your arms move in and lengthens when your arms move backwards. A great stretch would be to simply extend your arms straight out to your sides as wide as possible and then extend your arms backwards, as if you were performing the negative on dumbbell flys! Now, when performing a facial stretch( as John Parrillo coins it ) you will need to stretch with applied pressure to the area. You need this, because the stretch has to be applied past the point of comfort in order to expand the connective tissue surrounding the muscle. Therefore you have a few options. Firstly you can have your partner grab your arms and pull backwards, secondly you can use a wall and apply your own body weight as resistance. For example, I may place both of my arms in a doorway and lean forward, to stretch the pectorals.

Lastly is my personal favorite way to stretch the fascia! In fact I usually never see athletes utilize this in the gym, but I believe it is the absolute most effective way to expound on the bag theory! You simply choose an exercise that stretches the muscle and hold it in the stretched position for the desired amount of time! Therefore I would use dumbbell flys and hold it in the bottom position of the exercise. Once you have decided what stretch to use, do the following procedure while the muscle is pumped( again it must be pumped or you will not maximally expound the tissue)! You will first slightly stretch the muscle. Do this by slowly extending your arms until you have reached a maximum stretch. It should feel just right( almost soothing ), now hold this for 10 seconds. Rest for about 5 seconds and then extend your arms all the way back until they are stretched to a maximum. This is a very painful and intense stretch! You will hold this for a total of 30 seconds( some athletes hold it till they literally cannot bare the pain, but I prefer 30 seconds), by then you will be begging for mercy, especially with the blood pump! Remember, you are getting a double stretching effect here, not only manually but with the back flow of blood.

Thought you could relax! Unfortunately that is not an option! While the connective tissue is pliable, we will want to get one final influx of blood into the target muscle to assist in the expansion process! Therefore you now need to flex the target muscle group as hard as possible for 30-60 seconds! For the pectorals you will cross your arms across your body and squeeze! Literally try and crush your pecs with your arms! By the end of this procedure you will be drenched in sweat and relieved that it is all over!
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Old 02-13-2006, 06:31 PM   #3
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Frequency And Recovery

How frequently should fascia stretching take place and what type of volume should be used within a workout? As with any training protocol, this is a much debated subject. Let me say this; frequency is determined by volume. In other words the more damaged caused, the more rest an athlete should take. A trainer like John Parillo believes that fascia stretching should take place after every working set. Therefore, if you performed12 sets for the pectorals, then you would implement deep fascia stretches between each and every set! Other trainers recommend a bodybuilder to implement this on the main pumping set of each exercise. For example, if you were to perform 9 sets of quadriceps exercise, the last set would emphasize an extreme pump and this is when you would expand the fascia. While still others will perform it within every segment of a workout for the particular body part. Lets say that you were working the biceps. If you performed 4 different exercises then you would manipulate the tissue on the last set of each exercise.

I personally believe that each has its success stories, and each should have a place in your program. You see I feel that as athletes, we should be open minded to different training protocols. Never allow yourself to stagnate with one philosophy. That said, I would recommend using a combination of these. Almost apply the principle of periodization if you will. Here is what I mean:

Week One: Run The Gambit! This means apply deep fascial stretching after every exercise. If you are into extreme volume however, then I would limit this to no more than 10-12 deep fascial stretches!

Week Two: Only use this technique once in the workout and do it on the set in which you are most pumped!
This will be enough to continue the process of bag expansion, but also relieve the stress placed on the body.

Week Three: Use Deep Fascial Stretching within each section of the workout. So if you use 4 exercises, apply this principle four separate times!

Week Four: Allow your connective tissue to recover fully.

Week Five: Begin The Process All Over Again!

HIT Style Athletes: For the athlete that utilizes HIT training, I would recommend one deep, deep, high intensity stretch at the end of each session. They would benefit greatly by doing this 4 weeks on, one week off.

Muscular Separation

One thing I notice in the masters division of bodybuilding is a lack of separation between muscle groups. For example, Robbie Robinson is still in phenomenal, phenomenal shape! I mean this guy is a freak! He is symmetrical, well balanced, massive and can out pose most athletes in the masters Olympia! The only aspect in my opinion that he really lacks compared to his older days, is that classic, literally unmatched separation between muscle groups. You see gravity and certain negative stresses that go along with weight training combined have a negative effect on muscular separation, in that they cause muscle groups to literally stick together. If you talk to any great deep massage therapist, they will tell you that the fascia on neighboring muscle groups, almost glues together over time.

Connective tissue manipulation, via hardcore stretching will pull these muscle groups( or the fascia surrounding them ) apart, clearly enhancing separation. In fact you will see incredible separation, such that you never thought genetically possible! There is not an athlete in this sport, that does not understand the benefit of this. And it applies to each bodybuilder. If you feel you have achieved maximum separation, and haven't incorporated this technique, then I can guarantee you, that you have not even come close to reaching your full potential!

The key is using a variety of angles in your program. Do not simply use one stretch! For example for a basic quadriceps stretch, you would kneel down and plant your knees firmly on the ground. Then you would slowly lean back, using your bodyweight as the applied pressure, necessary for expanding the fascia. For maximum separation you would change angles. For the first stretch, have the knees close together. On the second stretch spread them out wider to hit the inner thighs. See the point? Like your exercises, you need to use a variety of stretches. Another example would be the utilization of free weight stretches. I personally like to use the dumbbell fly in the bottom position for a stretch. For maximum separation of the upper and lower pectorals, I will also incorporate incline dumbbell flys and pullovers( of course, these are lowered to the bottom position and held for 30 seconds, to emphasize the stretch)!
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Old 02-13-2006, 07:44 PM   #4
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Excellent information!
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Old 02-13-2006, 08:26 PM   #5
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great post 0311
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Old 03-11-2006, 10:26 AM   #6
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I've been experimenting with some of these stretches to see if I could find a better way. Most of them good the way they are, but here are a few things I have been doing.

Chest: I have been doing the pullover option that the JW article mentions as well. A pullover stretch in the cross-bench position is a great torso and chest stretch. After a full-body workout or abs this is a good idea. If you straighten or slightly bend your arms you'll get a slightly different stretch. You can get a good stetch in the abdominal wall this way too. Of course, the flyes are my main chest stretch.

Biceps: No complaints about the bicep stretch as is. However, swinging the hips to one side or the other (slowly) and holding improves the intensity and seems to get the "outside" area of the bicep better. Of course this is unilaterall so you have to switch it off.

Back: The back is by far the most difficult to get a good stretch. It's more than one muscle and you can't stretch them all effectively at once. A few observations: At the end of a pulldown set, while holding on to the bar in the stretched position lean forward slightly and force your neck down, hard. This gives a good stretch of the upper, inner rhomboid area (I got the idea for this from that Venuto article of Anuj's that I "loved" so much, thanx Anuj).

Also, at the end of a pulldown set, in the same stretched position and a fairly close grip, lean back slightly, the idea being to lift the stack slightly and have it pull against your lats. With the knees still locked, swing your hips to one side of the other, effecting a sort of sideways bend in your torso. Do it until you feel the painful stretch in your lats and you'll get the idea. You'll be able to lift your butt slightly and use your bodyweight, being stretched now from two directions if you do it right. Don't get me wrong, a dead hang with maybe some weight added is great, but this gives me more control and allows my to increase the depth and intensity of the stretch more easily.

Another idea, maybe after barbell rows or some such, is to grab the loaded barbell in the lowered row position with a very close grip and let it hang, relaxing your back and feeling the muscle stretch outwards horizontally. Just do it and you'll get the feel for it. Keep you lower back "naturall". You can do this unilaterally also, with heavy loaded dumbells.

The general stretch that I am using is more or less a yoga stretch. I say more or less because I don't know if I am doing it in the classically correct way. Sit down of the floor with you legs straight out if front of you. Bend one knee and bring the foot up towards your buttocks, keeping it flat on the floor. Now cross that foot over you straight leg. Place the elbow opposite your bent leg on the outside of your bent knee and push. Hard. Concentrating on getting a stretch in your back. This allows you to use your own strentgh to make the stretch as painful as you want. And its a good overall loosening stretch for the back. This obviously doesn't allow for added weight and a progression in that sense but it's a good stretch and painful enough in its own right once you get the feel for it.

Most of these, once you hit the right position, theres no guess work involved.

Quads: With all due respect to its originators, I hate the quad stretch above. After a brutal leg workout, I want to stretch the quads, not play a game of limbo. I will say, however, that it is probably a little more healthy way for the knee than my way. What I do is use a racked barbell or something to hold onto and bring the end of a bench up in front of it. Facing the barbell, I hold onto it so the the end of the bench is against the back of my thighs. Bend one (or both if you choose) foot behind you and hook it on top of the bench. Now lean back while forcing your knee down. I then place one hand behind me so that I can lean back as far as possible, forcing the bent knee downward all the while. The hand is not there for support, just balance. I allow my body weight to work against the quad. Try it, you'll feel it. You can do both legs at once, but I prefer to do it unilaterally. It takes longer of course but I feel I get a better stretch in each quad. If you have a training partner, have them push down on your knee...

***

These are just my ideas. I hope they help, though.

The only other thing I will say about the fascia stretching in general is the same thing I said before when an article was posted. When I see words like extreme and excrutiating I have to throw up a red flag. I understand why these words are used, to get the kind of stretch they are talking about, it needs to be painful as hell. I'm used to stretching and have a very high pain threshold so I have to push extremely hard to make it seem "excruciating" even if I have a full blood pump.

So that begs the question: at what point am I just making the fascia stretches effective and at what point have I taken leave of my common sense?

Owing to the point that I have lots of stretching experience and also that I have actually injured myself though overzealous forced stretches, I know the difference in the kind of pain. It would be hard to describe. You have to learn it yourself. The only point I would make is the the pain should not be extemely sharp and seemingly concentrated to one area (say just the tendon).

For people who have never bothered to stretch at all, I would recommend moving into this slowly and getting to know the basic static stretches (the kind they taught you in gym class). And getting a "feel" for stretching in general. And above all, just use basic common sense. I've been using these and I think they work great. My chest alone seems to have gotten a sudden surge in growth. And I push them to the limit. But there is a fine line between "the limit" and stupidity.

Last edited by EricT; 03-20-2006 at 02:11 PM.. Reason: improved explanations

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If you act sanctimonious I will just list out your logical fallacies until you get pissed off and spew blasphemous remarks.
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Old 03-27-2006, 12:21 PM   #7
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Here I go again on this. I know this will go largely ignored but I wanted to post it anyway.


Although I've preached caution on this "extreme stretching" I STILL believe that it is something worth doing and can have defitnite benefits. Do I believe that the fascia or other connective tissues are something you can stretch like a piece of silly putty and then have it wait around for you to fill it in with muscle? No.


The problem I have with all this is not the statement that the stetching can facilitate more muscle growth. It is with the bag theory. The more I read that, the more problems I had with it. To be truthful, it sounds completely ridiculous and simplistic to the point of absurdity. It dos NOT fit the definition and the role of connective tissues.

I attempted a LOT of reasearch on this in the past week or so. There is not much to be found. But the bag theory is just not credible. It is nothing more than an assumption.

Now, I am not one who thinks that science and research are always the answer. If something works, it works. And I trust the experience of those who are infinitely more advanced and invested in bodybuilding than I. However, believing the bag theory, and subscribing to this as the explanation for the phenomenom known as muscle memory, could lead us to do things that are unnecessay or even dangerous. That's right, I said dangerous. And anyway, the bag theory is supposed to be science, so there.

You CAN hurt yourself stretching even without it being ballistic type stretching or without someone applying sudden force. Why do you think the stretch reflex exists? For one, it is to keep you from stretching to the point of damage. It kicks in faster during dynamic or ballistic stretching, yes. But is kicks in during static or loaded stretching, also. This we well know.

The fascia, including the tendons, and other connective tissues are not infinitely flexible. It is possible to stretch the fascia to the point of rupture. To me, the fascia is not a "bag". This makes it sound like a plastic sack with your muscle stuffed into it. It is tightly bonded to the tissue it surrounds. What do you think would happen if it were badly ruptured? The muscle belly would come poking through it. In fact, in the link I will provide, someone talks about this happening.

Muscle memory? Fascia and other connective tissues don't function independently of muscle. They are what allows muscle to perform it's function and apply force on the bone. The idea that you can expand it like a bag and have it REMAIN EXPANDED for some prolonged period of time while the muscle atophies and then expands to fill it again -- give me a break. Your skin doesn't even work that way normally. And when you do expand your skin to the point where it is no longer elastic enough to recover, um, well, this is a BAD thing. If the fascia was able to expand in this way it would effect the function of the muscle in a very negative way. To me this is common sense.

When I first started seeing this, I recognized some of it as coming from the experiment with weights being hung on birds wings. I think they were chickens. It is mentioned in the article I posted: "Hyperplasia vs. Hypertrophy.

Here is a good discussion of it. There are links to studies provided that I think will help illuminate why this works.

FortifiedIron Fascia Stretching Discussion

I am going to keep stretching. But I'm going to further my reading on this to try and figure out what is absolutely necassary.

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Old 03-27-2006, 06:37 PM   #8
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More info from Sweatmachine over at intensemuscle.com. Article found here.

"Why to DC Stretch"

Each of you has heard of the phenomenon known as muscle memory. It is the occurrence of insanely extreme and fast growth in a person who is regaining the lost muscle he has allowed to atrophy. Stories such as 40-50 pound muscle gains( in a short time span ) in regards to this subject are not uncommon. The question however remains, what exactly is muscle memory and what causes it to occur? You see, an athlete can literally mimic this tremendous phenomenon! Read on if you want to find out how!!!

Note: The following article discusses muscle memory, as a term to define a recapturing of past growth. The term however should not be used in a motor sense, as that 'memory' is actually in the nervous system.



What Exactly Is it that Occurs During Memory?
Lets say that you busted your behind in the gym and built a huge, massive pair of quads measuring 30 inches in circumference! Then for one reason or another you stopped training your legs. During the time off, your quadriceps atrophied( shrunk ) down to 24 inches. Determined to regain your lost mass you decide to hit the gym again with extreme ferocity! Only this time you are able to gain back those 6 inches in a matter of months, where as originally it took you years to gain that much mass! What happened?

What surrounds, binds and holds every muscle group in place?


If you answered connective tissue, you would have been exactly right! In order to further explain muscle memory it would behoove us to briefly review what exactly this connective tissue is( for a greater explanation read my article, the anatomy of a muscle fiber. It goes in great depth in what I am about to cover. So if it seems a bit confusing, you definitely need to consult this article. ). Simply put every muscle is made up of 1, 000s of muscle fibers. These muscle fibers are all individually wrapped with a connective tissue wrapping, or a sheath. This is called the endomysium. These individual muscle fibers are then organized in bundles( called fascicles ) which are covered by another connective tissue sheathe called the perimysium. These bundles or fascicles are then placed together in an orderly arrangement( which determines the shape and functionality of the muscle ) and held in place by a layer of connective tissue known as the epimysium. Finally each of these layers is held together by the deep fascia( a courser material ). The connective tissue of every muscle fiber acts like a girdle of sorts. Which means that it binds a muscle group together, and to its neighboring muscle in many cases. It also protects, organizes and allows the force of contraction generated by the thousands of muscle fibers in a particular group, to be harnessed with great efficiency!

The important thing to understand is this: Connective tissue is not only a tuff material but also hugs tight to its surrounding area, almost constricting it! What does this have to do with muscle growth you say? Ahh, that my friend, is where muscle memory comes in! Think about it for a moment. In order for a muscle to hypertrophy, what needs to take place if it is restricted by this tight binding girdle? The tissue must stretch and become more pliable right?! If this did not occur, then muscle growth would be hindered( you cannot grow unless there is enough room to do so)!

When you increased your muscle mass by building 30 inch wheels, you also ended out stretching and expanding the muscles encasing tissue. Therefore the manipulation of these protective sheathes was a major factor in your ability to stimulate hypertrophy! In the scenario painted, we also discussed you taking time off from training. So much so, that your lower body atrophied to a point in which 6 inches were lost off of your legs. However, even with this tremendous setback, you still had stretched the connective tissue to a great extent. When you came back to the gym and trained, you were no longer fighting the restrictions of tight, unpliable fascia, but rather a more elastic and pre-expanded connective tissue! Essentially all bets were off, due to the amount of room you had to grow! More room to grow enables more mass to be accumulated! This is one of the top theories held today for what we coin " muscle memory. "

How Can Muscle Memory Be Mimicked?
Mimicking this process would center around the manipulation of the connective tissue surrounding, organizing and binding a muscle. As mentioned it can literally prevent the expansion of growth. Therefore our goal will be to create an environment similar to one in which a muscle group had previously been larger. In essence you will have to stretch and expand the fascia, epimysium and other tissues. This, can certainly be done and done effectively! However, you need to understand that this is a tuff tissue, and expanding it can be a very complex process.

The question now is what will it take to accomplish such a goal. Perhaps the most recognizable figure in regards to this subject is the great John Parillo. He uses a technique called " fascia stretching. " This is a special procedure used that actually expands the fascia. One of the greatest scientists the sport of bodybuilding has ever known is D.J. Millward. He has made some of the most incredible break throughs Only D J Millward calls this revolutionary technique the bag expansion theory. You see, the connective tissue surrounding a muscle is often referred to as a bag, hence the title of the theory.


Interestingly enough, before any expert or scientists began coining phrases, great athletes such as Tom Platz and Arnold Schwarzenegger were using techniques that would most certainly expand the fascia. However, I would credit the field of massaging with the earliest breakthroughs in fascial expansion. I believe their theories paved the way for one of the most extreme growth methods every presented in this brutal sport.

In particular I am referring to a woman named Dr. Ida P. Rolf. She invented a famous technique called rolfing. It is a special, extreme form of massage that as Ida puts it, manipulates deep tissue. She theorized that you could move around, loosen, expand, realign and strengthen this tissue with her great techniques! Interestingly enough, her techniques applied to Parillo and Millwards can not only drastically enhance muscle growth, but also increase separation between muscle groups. How incredible is that!?

From a physiological standpoint John Parillo believes that the deep fascia is the main concern of the bodybuilder to target, and Millwards research leads him to believe that the endomysium and perimysium are chiefly responsible for the restriction of muscle growth. The great news is that the same techniques for expansion of the fascia, work for the expansion of the endomysium and perimysium.

How To Expand The Fascia for Enhanced Muscular Size and Shape!
At this stage I am going to have to issue one of my essential warnings. If you do not have a high pain threshold I would not suggest reading any further. The methods discussed here are extremely painful, and only an athlete with the mentality of a warrior will have the guts it takes to apply the following principles! However, when the smoke clears, you will have a greater capacity for growth, a fuller muscle, and greater separation between body parts!

Again, our goal, as D J Millward puts it is to create a larger bag. In order to accomplish this feet we will need to stretch the connective tissue beyond its previous limits, cause damage and then allow it to heal in such a way that it grows back larger then it was previously. There are four factors involved in fascia stretching.

1. Heat

If you are intent on truly mimicking muscle memory, you must not only stretch the fascia, but you must do it in an absolutely perfect environment or you will not reap even near optimal results! The first factor mentioned above was heat. You see a cold muscle has a limited range of motion. Our goal is to stretch the fascia past its previous limits and this cannot take place if range of motion is limited. Therefore you must adequately warm up before performing the techniques discussed shortly.

2. An incredible blood pump

Everyone here understands the extreme power of fluid! Whole canyons have been carved from water erosion! The same principle is applicable here. A tremendous back flow of fluid in a muscle group will stretch the connective tissue that restricts muscle growth. In other words the greater the pump, the more direct and effective the stretch in the fascia, epimysium, and perimysium will be!

3. Insanely Extreme Stretching

The third and most painful step in fascia expansion, is to manually stretch it. This entails stretching the target muscle group with insane intensity! By doing this you will force the girdle which inhibits enhanced mass, and enable further growth in the myofibrils( the largest aspect of a muscle fiber ).

4. Recovery!

Unfortunately, like every aspect of bodybuilding, we must have enough will power to allow the area worked to recover. You see, the pump, combined with extreme manual stretching will damage the connective tissue. In order for it to grow back and be remodeled as Millard puts it, into a larger bag, it must have a significant enough time to recover. This is not only a painful process, but like any type of extreme training is also stressful, and needs significant time to recover.

Now that we understand the factors involved in fascia expansion, we must apply them in an organized fashion in order to reap incredible results!

Applying The Principles!
The absolute best way to describe how to apply these principles would be to take you through another training scenario. Lets say you are working your pectorals out and want to expand the fascia in the area. You would go through your normal warm up and then begin the process. The first key here is to use a training protocol that produces a maximum back flow of blood( pump ) into the pectorals. When I say maximum, I mean a pump that is literally so insane that the skin becomes tighter than a drum! For example, normally you can move a muscle group around with your hand when it is relaxed. It seems semi pliable until flexed. An optimal pump essentially fills the muscle with so much blood, that it almost feels contracted while in a relaxed position. Again, the skin should be tight and the muscle should be hard. In order to produce a pump such as this you need to perform a high repetition set, a massive superset, or a strip set. Lets say you decide to perform dumbbell bench presses. I would suggest performing a set of 12 repetitions, followed by a drop set of 12 repetitions, and if you feel the pump is not adequate, then finish it off with one more drop! At this point your pectorals should be so full of blood, that you literally cannot flex! Your arms should feel like led. I'm talking about a pump so extreme, that you can't take your shirt off to pose in the mirror. Its important to understand that the connective tissue is not only increased in temperature, but also being stretched extremely by this process!

Now is when the pain begins( as if producing a mind boggling pump wasn't insanely painful. )! You need to find a stretch that expands the fascia of the pectorals to a maximum. This muscle is responsible for pulling the humerus( upper arm bone ) across the midline of your body. It contracts when your arms move in and lengthens when your arms move backwards. A great stretch would be to simply extend your arms straight out to your sides as wide as possible and then extend your arms backwards, as if you were performing the negative on dumbbell flys! Now, when performing a facial stretch( as John Parrillo coins it ) you will need to stretch with applied pressure to the area. You need this, because the stretch has to be applied past the point of comfort in order to expand the connective tissue surrounding the muscle. Therefore you have a few options. Firstly you can have your partner grab your arms and pull backwards, secondly you can use a wall and apply your own body weight as resistance. For example, I may place both of my arms in a doorway and lean forward, to stretch the pectorals.

Lastly is my personal favorite way to stretch the fascia! In fact I usually never see athletes utilize this in the gym, but I believe it is the absolute most effective way to expound on the bag theory! You simply choose an exercise that stretches the muscle and hold it in the stretched position for the desired amount of time! Therefore I would use dumbbell flys and hold it in the bottom position of the exercise. Once you have decided what stretch to use, do the following procedure while the muscle is pumped( again it must be pumped or you will not maximally expound the tissue)! You will first slightly stretch the muscle. Do this by slowly extending your arms until you have reached a maximum stretch. It should feel just right( almost soothing ), now hold this for 10 seconds. Rest for about 5 seconds and then extend your arms all the way back until they are stretched to a maximum. This is a very painful and intense stretch! You will hold this for a total of 30 seconds( some athletes hold it till they literally cannot bare the pain, but I prefer 30 seconds), by then you will be begging for mercy, especially with the blood pump! Remember, you are getting a double stretching effect here, not only manually but with the back flow of blood.

Thought you could relax! Unfortunately that is not an option! While the connective tissue is pliable, we will want to get one final influx of blood into the target muscle to assist in the expansion process! Therefore you now need to flex the target muscle group as hard as possible for 30-60 seconds! For the pectorals you will cross your arms across your body and squeeze! Literally try and crush your pecs with your arms! By the end of this procedure you will be drenched in sweat and relieved that it is all over!

Frequency And Recovery
How frequently should fascia stretching take place and what type of volume should be used within a workout? As with any training protocol, this is a much debated subject. Let me say this; frequency is determined by volume. In other words the more damaged caused, the more rest an athlete should take. A trainer like John Parillo believes that fascia stretching should take place after every working set. Therefore, if you performed12 sets for the pectorals, then you would implement deep fascia stretches between each and every set! Other trainers recommend a bodybuilder to implement this on the main pumping set of each exercise. For example, if you were to perform 9 sets of quadriceps exercise, the last set would emphasize an extreme pump and this is when you would expand the fascia. While still others will perform it within every segment of a workout for the particular body part. Lets say that you were working the biceps. If you performed 4 different exercises then you would manipulate the tissue on the last set of each exercise.

I personally believe that each has its success stories, and each should have a place in your program. You see I feel that as athletes, we should be open minded to different training protocols. Never allow yourself to stagnate with one philosophy. That said, I would recommend using a combination of these. Almost apply the principle of periodization if you will. Here is what I mean:

Week One: Run The Gambit! This means apply deep fascial stretching after every exercise. If you are into extreme volume however, then I would limit this to no more than 10-12 deep fascial stretches!

Week Two: Only use this technique once in the workout and do it on the set in which you are most pumped!
This will be enough to continue the process of bag expansion, but also relieve the stress placed on the body.

Week Three: Use Deep Fascial Stretching within each section of the workout. So if you use 4 exercises, apply this principle four separate times!

Week Four: Allow your connective tissue to recover fully.

Week Five: Begin The Process All Over Again!

HIT Style Athletes: For the athlete that utilizes HIT training, I would recommend one deep, deep, high intensity stretch at the end of each session. They would benefit greatly by doing this 4 weeks on, one week off.

Muscular Separation
One thing I notice in the masters division of bodybuilding is a lack of separation between muscle groups. For example, Robbie Robinson is still in phenomenal, phenomenal shape! I mean this guy is a freak! He is symmetrical, well balanced, massive and can out pose most athletes in the masters Olympia! The only aspect in my opinion that he really lacks compared to his older days, is that classic, literally unmatched separation between muscle groups. You see gravity and certain negative stresses that go along with weight training combined have a negative effect on muscular separation, in that they cause muscle groups to literally stick together. If you talk to any great deep massage therapist, they will tell you that the fascia on neighboring muscle groups, almost glues together over time.

Connective tissue manipulation, via hardcore stretching will pull these muscle groups( or the fascia surrounding them ) apart, clearly enhancing separation. In fact you will see incredible separation, such that you never thought genetically possible! There is not an athlete in this sport, that does not understand the benefit of this. And it applies to each bodybuilder. If you feel you have achieved maximum separation, and haven't incorporated this technique, then I can guarantee you, that you have not even come close to reaching your full potential!

The key is using a variety of angles in your program. Do not simply use one stretch! For example for a basic quadriceps stretch, you would kneel down and plant your knees firmly on the ground. Then you would slowly lean back, using your bodyweight as the applied pressure, necessary for expanding the fascia. For maximum separation you would change angles. For the first stretch, have the knees close together. On the second stretch spread them out wider to hit the inner thighs. See the point? Like your exercises, you need to use a variety of stretches. Another example would be the utilization of free weight stretches


Vital Nutritional Aspects In Deep Tissue Manipulation!

In order to maximize this process you will need to heighten both recovery and the pump! A massive pump must take place during the workout or you will not accomplish your desired goal, therefore you must emphasize this nutritionally. This is why fascial stretching is suggested implementing on bulks and not emphasizing this procedure on a cut. You simply will not get maximized gains. You need to be carbed completely up, or the pump will not be sufficient. Recommend is 4-6 carb rich meals a day for this process. If you are on a low carb diet, then carbing up before your workout will also suffice. Creatine and glutamine further assist the pump dramatically! Hydration is also a must. You need to drink water like it is going out of style. Lastly, drink a huge post workout shake, chalk full of sugar immediately after training to refill glycogen stores.

A well balanced diet will speed recovery, and so will vitamin C! This gem has been shown in several studies to increase the healing process of connective tissue. Seeing how this is the goal, it would behoove you to take a minimum of 2-3 grams a day, not including post workout.
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Old 03-27-2006, 07:21 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 0311
More info from Sweatmachine over at intensemuscle.com. Article found here.
I didn't read the entire thread, but there's nothing new in the initial post. This was the same thing is posted all over the place, and I think it is the initial post at the link I provided at Fortified Iron.

This is what Dan Moore has to say about it:

Quote:
Growth factors are released in both collagen material and muscle cell material as a result of injury (wounding), his theory on fascia stretching is flawed. The connective matrix will grow in response to strain but not without concommitant increased muscle growth as the same strain is applied to whole muscle, tendon to tendon, therefore there is no "space", this is as absurd as saying my skin is too tight so I can't grow muscle unless I stretch it first.

Muscle memory, basing it on the fascia as a controlling factor is a flawed assumption. This has more to do with muscle isoform changes. See the studies I posted about FI's question on MHC isoforms. Also read the work Myosin heavy chain IIX overshoot in human skeletal muscle. Muscle Nerve. 2000 Jul;23(7):1095-104.

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Old 03-27-2006, 07:47 PM   #10
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Furthermore:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Moore
Mechanical LoadingRole of Extracellular Matrix in Adaptation of Tendon and Skeletal Muscle to

This is probably one of the best reviews that I have read when it comes to the role of ECM Structure and Muscle Reponse to Mechanotransduction, it definately puts the light on. After reading this you decide how relevant fascia streching is and whether you can selectively stretch the ECM without a concommitant strech of the myofibril.
In other words, what he is saying, as I tried to point out above, is that it makes no sense that the fascia can be manipulated independently of the underlying fibers.
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