Stretching and Flexibility
05-12-2006, 05:36 PM
Join Date: Jul 2005
Stretching and Flexibility
[FONT=Verdana] by Brad Appleton
Version: 1.42, Last Modified 98/06/10
[FONT=Verdana] Copyright (C) 1993-1998 by Bradford D. Apple
Last edited by EricT; 05-12-2006 at 05:50 PM.
05-13-2006, 04:58 PM
Section: A.1 Recommendations
My best recommendations are for ‘Sport Stretch’ and ‘Stretching Scientifically’, followed by ‘Health & Fitness Excellence’, ‘SynerStretch’, or ‘Stretch and Strengthen’. ‘Mobility Training for the Martial Arts’ also has quite a bit of valuable information and stretches. ‘The Health for Life Training Advisor’ has a lot of information about stretching and muscle physiology, but it is not strictly about stretching and contains a ton of other information about all aspects of athletic training and performance (which I find to be invaluable). If you don’t want to get into too much technical detail and are looking for a quick but informative read, then I recommend ‘Stretching Without Pain’. If you really want to delve into all the technical aspects of stretching, including physiology, neurophysiology, and functional anatomy, then you must get ‘Science of Stretching’. If you want to know more about PNF stretching, then ‘Facilitated Stretching’ is the book to get. If you are looking for yoga or active stretches you simply must take a look at ‘ExTension’ (also your local library probably has quite a few books and/or videotapes of yoga exercises). If you want to know more about muscle anatomy and physiology but don’t have a lot of technical interest or background in those two fields, ‘The Muscle Book’ is highly recommended.
Many of the other books don’t have as much detail about stretching and what happens to your muscles during a particular stretch, they just present (and illustrate) a variety of different exercises. Also, most of the stretches presented in these books are to be performed alone. ‘Sport Stretch’, ‘SynerStretch’ (both the videotape and the book), and ‘Mobility Training for the Martial Arts’ present stretches that you can perform with the assistance of a partner.
In general, ‘Health For Life’ (also known as ‘HFL’) and ‘Human Kinetics Publishers’ have a tremendously wide variety of technical, no-nonsense, exercise related books and videotapes. I would highly recommend contacting both organizations and asking for their free catalogs:
Human Kinetics Publishers
1607 North Market Street
P.O. Box 5076
Champaign, IL USA 61825-5076
Health For Life
8033 Sunset Blvd., Suite 483
Los Angeles, CA USA 90046
Section: A.2 Additional Comments
Here is a little more information about some of the references (I haven’t actually read or seen all of them so I can’t comment on all of them):
This book has a very thorough section on all the details about how stretching works and what different stretching methods to use. It also contains over 300 illustrated stretches as well as various stretching programs for 26 different sports and recreational activities. Each stretching program takes about 20 minutes and illustrates the 12 best stretches for that activity. In my humble opinion, this is the most complete book I was able to find on the subject of stretching (however,
‘Science of Stretching’, by the same author, is even more comprehensive). Some of you may prefer Kurz’ book to this one, however, since it is more devoted to increasing flexibility.
‘Science of Stretching’
This book explains the scientific basis of stretching and discusses physiology, neurophysiology, mechanics, and psychology as they all relate to stretching. The book makes thorough use of illustrations, charts, diagrams, and figures, and discusses each of its topics in great detail. It then presents guidelines for developing a flexibility program, including over 200 stretching exercises and warm-up drills. I suppose you could think of this book as a “graduate-level version” of ‘Sport Stretch’.
This is an excellent book that goes into excruciating detail on just about everything you want to know about stretching. It also contains a variety of stretches and stretching programs and is geared towards achieving maximal flexibility in the shortest possible amount of time. The only problem I found in this book is that some of the discussion gets very technical without giving the reader (in my opinion) sufficient background to fully understand what is being said. I believe that ‘Sport Stretch’ does a better job of explaining things in a more comprehensible (easily understood) fashion.
Most of the reading material that is devoted to PNF stretching is highly technical. This book attempts to break that trend. It tries to explain the history and principles of PNF without getting too technical, and shows how to perform PNF techniques that are appropriate for healthy people (complete with illustrations and easy-to-follow instructions). This book also contains a chapter which discusses the role of PNF techniques during injury rehabilitation.
According to the publisher:
The stretches in ‘Facilitated Stretching’ are known as CRAC (contract-relax, antagonist-contract) stretches. CRAC stretches are the safest PNF stretches because there is no passive movement - the athlete performs all of the stretching. ‘Facilitated Stretching’ contains 29 CRAC stretches, which address most of the major muscle groups: 18 are single-muscle stretches, and 11 use the spiral-diagonal patterns that are the heart of PNF stretching. Once readers have learned these stretching techniques, they will be able to design additional stretches for almost any muscle or muscle group. The book also features many self-stretching techniques that athletes can use to maintain their gains in range of motion.
This is a “course” from HFL which claims that you can achieve “total body flexibility in just 8 minutes a day.” It explains and presents two excellent stretching routines: one for increasing flexibility and one for maintaining flexibility. It was the only work that I found which discusses the importance of performing certain stretches in a particular order. It is important to note that there is a significant difference between the printed and videotape versions of this course (aside from price): The printed version has a much more thorough discussion of theory, exercise selection, and exercise order; whereas the stretching routines presented in the videotape are better explained, and more “up to date”.
‘Stretch and Strengthen’
This is very good, but the author makes a few mistakes in some places (in particular, she seems to equate the stretch reflex, reciprocal inhibition, and PNF with one another). The book is devoted to static stretching and to performing strengthening exercises of the muscles stretched. Each exercise explains what to do, what not to do, and why. There is also a separate section for diagnosing and correcting some problems that you may encounter during a particular stretch.
‘Health & Fitness Excellence’
Simply put, this is one of the best books available on overall health and fitness. It has two chapters devoted to flexibility training that explain and provide several static and PNF stretches (although it refers to the PNF stretches as “tighten-relax” stretches). This is not a “fad” book! It uses sound, proven, scientific principles and research (explained in simple terms) to present programs for: reducing stress, strength and flexibility training, nutritional wellness, body fat control, postural vitality, rejuvenation and living environments design, and mind and life unity. I highly recommend this book.
This is a fantastic book of yoga exercises. Each exercise is very well explained along with instructions on what to do if you don’t seem to feel the stretch, or think you are feeling it in the wrong place. It is chock-full of useful information and is very well written.
‘Stretching Without Pain’
The author, W. Paul Blakey, is a practicing Osteopath, and former international ballet dancer. The book is very similar in format and content to this document, only it has well over a hundred illustrations, and also covers some additional material not found in this document (such as mental and emotional aspects to stretching and “stretching warzones”). It is one of the best quick, easy, and up-to-date stretching introductions that you will find. I can’t think of any other book that is under a hundred pages that covers as much as this book does (including isometric and PNF stretches). For more information about this book, contact Twin Eagles Educational and Healing Institute at ‘http://www.sunshine.net/www/0/sn0016’. You can also reach the author by e-mail at ‘TEEHI@sunshine.net’.
‘The Muscle Book’
The author, Paul Blakey, is a practicing Osteopath, and former international ballet dancer. He has written and illustrated this book to help everyone who needs to know more about their own muscles, and how to look after them. The book clearly identifies the major surface muscles of the human body, and shows how they work. For each muscle there is straightforward information about first aid by massage, and an indication of particular dangers to watch for. All students of physique, and in particular dancers and gymnasts should find this book useful. For more information about this book, contact Twin Eagles Educational and Healing Institute at ‘http://www.sunshine.net/www/0/sn0016’. You can also reach the author by e-mail at ‘TEEHI@sunshine.net’.
‘Mobility Training for the Martial Arts’
This book is also quite good and quite comprehensive, but not as good (in my personal opinion) as ‘Sport Stretch’ or ‘Stretching Scientifically’.
This book is a little old but is wonderfully written (although it could be organized a bit better). It contains information at just about every level of detail about stretching, increasing and maintaining suppleness, and preventing the loss of suppleness. There is also a glossary of terms and concepts near the end of the book.
A lot of people like this one. It presents a wide variety of stretches and stretching routines and does a good job of explaining each one. It does not go into too much detail about stretching other than just to present the various stretches and routines.
Last edited by EricT; 05-13-2006 at 05:05 PM..
05-13-2006, 05:11 PM
Section: Appendix B Working Toward the Splits
The following stretching routine is tailored specifically to the purpose of achieving the ability to perform both front splits and side splits. It consists of the following exercises:
1. lower back stretches
2. lying buttock stretch
3. groin & inner-thigh stretch
4. seated calf stretch
5. seated hamstring stretch
6. seated inner-thigh stretch
7. psoas stretch
8. quadricep stretch
9. lying ‘V’ stretch
DON’T FORGET TO WARM-UP YOUR BODY BEFORE PERFORMING ANY OF THESE EXERCISES.
See Section 4.1.1 [General Warm-Up].
Warning: This stretching routine contains exercises that, depending on your physical condition, may be hazardous to your health. Consult with your doctor before attempting any of these exercises. It is also important that you use great caution when performing these exercises since improper performance could result in injury.
PERFORM THESE STRETCHES AT YOUR OWN RISK! I CANNOT BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FORANY INJURY WHICH MAY RESULT FROM YOU PERFORMING ANY OF THESE EXERCISES! See [Disclaimer].
The details on how to perform each of the stretches are discussed in the following sections. Each section describes how to perform a passive stretch, and an isometric stretch, for a particular muscle group. On a given day, you should either perform only the passive stretches, or perform only the PNF stretches, in the order given (see Section 3 [Types of Stretching]). If you perform the PNF stretches, don’t forget to rest 20 seconds after each PNF stretch, and don’t perform the same PNF stretch more than once per day (see Section 3.7 [PNF Stretching]). The isometric stretches described do not require the assistance of a partner, but you may certainly use a partner if you so desire. The order in which these exercises are performed is important because the entire routine attempts to employ the principle of synergism by stretching a muscle fully before using that muscle as a “supporting muscle” in another stretch (see Section 4.8 [Exercise Order]).
As with all stretches, you should not stretch to the point of intense pain! A tolerable amount of discomfort should be more than sufficient. You do not want to pull (or tear) your muscles, or be very sore the next day.
Section: B.1 lower back stretches
These stretches work mostly the lower back, but also make some demands on your abdominals, and your external obliques (sides).
Lying down with your back on the floor, straighten one leg, while bending the knee of the other leg, and try to bring the thigh of your bent leg as close as possible to your chest. Hold it there for 10-15 seconds. Then cross your bent leg over your straight leg and try to touch your knee to the floor (while trying to keep both shoulders on the ground). Repeat this same procedure with the other leg. Then, bend both knees and bring both thighs up against your chest (keeping your back on the floor). Hold that for 10-15 seconds. Then, put both feet on the ground but keep the knees bent. While trying to keep both shoulders on the ground, roll your legs over to one side and try to get your knees to touch the floor beside you. Hold for about 10-15 seconds and then do the same thing on the other side. Now repeat the same stretch, but this time begin with your feet off the floor so that your leg is bent at the knee at about a 90 degree angle.
As for isometric stretches for the back, I don’t recommend them.
Section: B.2 lying buttock stretch
This mainly stretches your buttocks (gluteal muscles) but also makes some demands on your groin and upper inner-thigh area. You must be very careful not to apply any stress to the knee joint when performing this stretch. Otherwise, serious injury (such as the tearing of cartilage) may occur.
Lie on your back again with both knees bent and in the air and with your feet on the floor. Take your right foot in your left hand (with your hand wrapping under your foot so that the fingertips are on its outside edge) and hold your leg (with your knee bent) in the air about 1-3 feet above your left breast (relax, we haven’t started to stretch the buttocks just yet). The leg you are holding should be in much the same position as it is when you start your groin stretch in the next exercise, only now it is in the air because you are on your back (see Section B.3 [groin and inner-thigh stretch]). Exhale and slowly pull your foot over to the side and up (toward your head) as if you were trying to touch your outstretched leg about 12 inches to the outside of your left shoulder. You should feel a good stretch in your buttocks about now. If you feel any stress at all on your knee then stop at once. You are probably pulling “up” too much and not enough to the side. You may wish to use your free hand to support your knee in some way. Hold this stretch for about 20 seconds (and stop if you feel any stress in the knee joint). Now repeat this same stretch with the other leg (using the other hand). Remember that the leg you are not holding should have the sole of its foot on the floor with the knee bent and in the air.
To make an isometric stretch out of this, when you are performing the passive stretch (above) and feel the stretch in your buttocks, continue trying to pull your foot to the outside of your shoulder while at the same time resisting with your leg so that it pushes agains your hand. No actual leg motion should take place, just the resistance. Stop immediately if you feel any undue stress to your knee.
Section: B.3 groin and inner-thigh stretch
This mainly stretches your groin and upper inner-thigh area, but also makes some demands on your lower back. It is often called the “butterfly stretch” or “frog stretch” because of the shape that your legs make when you perform it.
Sit down with your back straight up (don’t slouch, you may want to put your back against a wall) and bend your legs, putting the soles of your feet together. Try to get your heels as close to your groin as is comfortably possible. Now that you are in the proper position, you are ready to stretch. For the passive stretch, push your knees to the floor as far as you can (you may use your hands to assist but do not resist with the knees) and then hold them there. *This can be hard on the knees so please be careful*. Once you have attained this position, keep your knees where they are, and then exhale as you bend over, trying to get your chest as close to the floor as possible. Hold this stretch for about 20 seconds.
The isometric stretch is almost identical to the passive stretch, but before you bend over, place your hands on your ankles and your elbows in the crooks of your knees. As you bend over, use your elbows to “force” your knees closer to the floor while at the same time pushing “up” (away from the floor) with your thighs to resist against your arms. Once again, please be careful since this can place considerable strain on the knees.
Section: B.4 seated leg stretches
These include three different stretches performed for the calves, hamstrings, and inner-thighs, but they are all performed in very similar positions and I do all three stretches (in the order given) for one leg before performing them for the other leg. You will need an apparatus for this stretch: a bench, or a firm bed or couch (or you could use two chairs with your butt on one chair and the heel of your foot on the other) that is at least 12 inches off the ground (but not so high that you can’t sit on it with out your knees bent and the sole of your foot solidly on the floor).
The bench should be long enough to accommodate the full length of your leg. Sit on the bench and have your leg comfortably extended out in front of you (your heel should still be on the bench) and the other leg hanging out to the side with the leg bent and the foot flat on the ground.
Section: B.4.1 seated calf stretch
With your leg extended directly in front of you, face your leg and bend it slightly. Place your hands around the ball of your foot and gently pull back so that you force yourself to flex your foot as much as possible. Hold this stretch for about 20 seconds (don’t forget to breathe).
Now for the isometric stretch: in this same position, use your hands to try and force the ball (and toes) of your foot even further back toward you while at the same time using your calf muscles to try and straighten your foot and leg. You should be resisting enough with your hands so that no actual foot (or leg) motion takes place.
Section: B.4.2 seated hamstring stretch
Now that our calf is stretched, we can get a more effective hamstring stretch (since inflexibility in the calf can be a limiting factor in this hamstring stretch). Still sitting on the bench in the same position, straighten your leg out while trying to hold onto your outstretched leg with both hands on either side as close as possible to your heel. Starting up with your back straight, slowly exhale and try to bring your chest to the knee of your outstretched leg. You should feel a “hefty” stretch in your hamstring and even a considerable stretch in your calf (even though you just stretched it). Hold this stretch for about 20 seconds.
Now for the isometric stretch: when you have gotten your chest as close as you can to your knee, try and put both hands under the bench by your heel (or both hands on opposite sides of your heel). Now grab on tight with your hands and try to physically push your heel (keeping your leg straight) downward “through” the bench, the bench will provide the necessary resistance, and should prevent any leg motion from occurring.
Section: B.4.3 seated inner-thigh stretch
You should still be sitting on the bench with your outstretched leg in front of you. Now turn on the bench so that your leg is outstretched to your side, and you are facing the leg that is bent. You may perform this next stretch with either your toe pointing up toward the ceiling or with the inside edge of your foot flat on the bench with your toe pointing forward (but flexed), or you may try this stretch both ways since you will stretch some slightly different (but many of the same) muscles either way. I prefer to keep my toe pointed towards the ceiling because I personally feel that the other way applies to much stress to my knee, but you can do whatever feels comfortable to you.
Note: If you are using two chairs instead of a bench, the first thing you need to do is to make sure that one of the chairs supports your outstretched leg somewhere between the knee and the hip. If the support is being provided below the knee and you try to perform this stretch, there is a good chance that you will injure ligaments and/or cartilage.
Place your hands underneath the bench directly under you (or you may keep one hand under the portion of the bench that is below the knee of your outstretched leg) and pull yourself down and forward (keeping your back straight) as if you were trying to touch your chest to the floor. You should be able to feel the stretch in your inner-thigh. Hold this for about 20 seconds.
For the isometric stretch, do the same thing you did with the hamstring stretch: keep both hands underneath you as before and try to force your foot downward “through” the bench.
Section: B.5 psoas stretch
This stretch is sometimes called the “runner’s start” because the position you are in resembles that of a sprinter at the starting block. It mainly stretches the psoas muscle located just above the top of the thigh.
Crouch down on the floor with both hands and knees on the ground. Put one leg forward with your foot on the floor so that your front leg is bent at the knee at about a 90 degree angle. Now extend your rear leg in back of you so that it is almost completely straight (with just an ever so slight bend) and so that the weight of your rear leg is on the ball of your rear foot with the foot in a forced arch position. Now we are in the position to stretch (notice that your rear leg should be in pretty much the same position that it would assume if you were performing a front split).
Keeping your back straight and in line with your rear thigh, exhale and slowly try to bring your chest down to the floor (you shouldn’t need to bend much further than the line your front knee is on). You should feel the stretch primarily in the upper thigh of your rear leg but you should also feel some stretch in your front hamstring as well. Hold this position for at least 15 seconds. If you wish to also stretch your rear quadricep from this position, you can shift your weight back so that your rear leg makes a right angle with your knee pointing toward the floor (but don’t let it touch the floor). Now, without bending your rear leg any further, try to force your rear knee straight down to the floor.
Now repeat the same stretch(es) with your other leg in front.
For an isometric stretch, you can do this same stretch in front of a wall and instead of putting your hands on the floor, put them in front of you against the wall and then push against the wall with the ball of your foot (without decreasing the “stretch” in your psoas).
Section: B.6 quadricep stretch
For this stretch you will need one (or two) pillows or soft cushions to place between your knee and the floor. You must be very careful when performing this stretch because it can be hard on the knees. Please be advised to take it easy (and not overdo) while performing this exercise. If you have problems with your knees, you may be better off not performing this stretch at all.
Put the pillow under your rear knee and let your knee rest on the floor. Lift up your rear foot and grab onto your foot with the opposite hand (grab the instep if possible, but if you can only reach the heel, that is okay). If you have trouble grabbing your foot, then you may need to sit (or shift) back onto your rear leg so that you can grab it, and then shift forward into the starting position (with your hand now holding your foot). Now, exhale and very gently, but steadily, pull your foot toward its buttock (butt-cheek) and lean toward your front foot (you may also wish to twist your waist and trunk towards the foot you are holding). You should feel a tremendous stretch in the quadricep (top right thigh) of the foot that you are pulling. If you begin to feel stress in your knee, then discontinue the exercise (but let your foot down slowly - not all at once). Hold this stretch for about 15 seconds. When you are finished, shift your weight slowly back onto your rear leg and let your foot down while you are still holding onto it. Do not just let go and let your foot snap back to the ground - this is bad for your knee.
Now for the isometric stretch: Get into the same position as for the passive quadricep stretch, but as you lean forward and pull on your foot, resist with the leg you are holding by trying to push your instep back down to the ground and out of the grip of your hand (but no actual movement should take place).
Now do the same stretch with your other leg in front.
Stop the stretch immediately if you feel pain or discomfort in your knee.
Section: B.7 lying ‘V’ stretch
This stretch is very good for working toward a side (chinese) split (see Section 4.13.3 [The Side Split]). This exercise should be performed after you have stretched each of these areas individually with prior stretches (like the ones mentioned above).
Start by lying down with your back flat on the ground and your legs straight together in the air at a 90 degree angle. Try to have your legs turned out so that your knees are facing the side walls more than they are facing your head. Slowly bring your legs down to the sides, keeping your legs straight and turned out. When you reach the point where you cannot bring them down any further into this “lying” side split position, leave them there.
Now for the stretch: With your feet both flexed or both pointed (your choice) use your arms to reach in and grab your legs. Each arm should grab the leg on the same side. Try to get a hold of the leg between the ankle and the knee (right at the beginning portion of the calf that is closest to the ankle is almost perfect). Now, exhale and use your arms to gently but steadily force your legs down further and wider (keeping the legs straight) getting closer to the lying side-split position (where, ideally, your kneecaps would be “kissing” the floor). Hold this position and keep applying steady pressure with your arms for about 20 seconds.
For the isometric stretch, you do the same thing as the passive stretch except that, as you use your arms to force your legs wider, use your inner and outer thigh muscles to try and force your legs back up together and straight (like a scissors closing), but apply enough resistance with your arms so that no motion takes place (this can be tough since your legs are usually stronger than your arms). You may find that you get a much better stretch if you use a partner (rather than your own arms) to apply the necessary resistance.
05-13-2006, 07:42 PM
Section: Appendix C Normal Ranges of Joint Motion
According to Kurz, the following tables indicates the normal ranges of joint motion for various parts of the body:
Section: C.1 Neck
Flexion: 70-90 degrees
Touch sternum with chin.
Extension: 55 degrees
Try to point up with chin.
Lateral bending: 35 degrees
Bring ear close to shoulder.
Rotation: 70 degrees left & right
Turn head to the left, then right.
Section: C.2 Lumbar Spine
Flexion: 75 degrees
Bend forward at the waist.
Extension: 30 degrees
Lateral bending: 35 degrees
Bend to the side.
Section: C.3 Shoulder
Abduction: 180 degrees
Bring arm up sideways.
Adduction: 45 degrees
Bring arm toward the midline of the body.
Horizontal extension: 45 degrees
Swing arm horizontally backward.
Horizontal flexion: 130 degrees
Swing arm horizontally forward.
Vertical extension: 60 degrees
Raise arm straight backward.
Vertical flexion: 180 degrees
Raise arm straight forward.
Section: C.4 Elbow
Flexion: 150 degrees
Bring lower arm to the biceps
Extension: 180 degrees
Straighten out lower arm.
Supination: 90 degrees
Turn lower arm so palm of hand faces up.
Pronation: 90 degrees
Turn lower arm so palm faces down.
Section: C.5 Wrist
Flexion: 80-90 degrees
Bend wrist so palm nears lower arm.
Extension: 70 degrees
Bend wrist in opposite direction.
Radial deviation: 20 degrees
Bend wrist so thumb nears radius.
Ulnar deviation: 30-50 degrees
Bend wrist so pinky finger nears ulna.
Section: C.6 Hip
Flexion: 110-130 degrees
Flex knee and bring thigh close to abdomen.
Extension: 30 degrees
Move thigh backward without moving the pelvis.
Abduction: 45-50 degrees
Swing thigh away from midline.
Adduction: 20-30 degrees
Bring thigh toward and across midline.
Internal rotation: 40 degrees
Flex knee and swing lower leg away from midline.
External rotation: 45 degrees
Flex knee and swing lower leg toward midline.
Section: C.7 Knee
Flexion: 130 degrees
Touch calf to hamstring.
Extension: 15 degrees
Straighten out knee as much as possible.
Internal rotation: 10 degrees
Twist lower leg toward midline.
Section: C.8 Ankle
Flexion: 45 degrees
Bend ankle so toes point up.
Extension: 20 degrees
Bend ankle so toes point down.
Pronation: 30 degrees
Turn foot so the sole faces in.
Supination: 20 degrees
Turn foot so the sole faces out.
for some standard passive flexibility tests. This could all help you determine what muscles are unusually tight for you.
Last edited by EricT; 06-06-2007 at 11:55 AM..
05-19-2006, 02:15 PM
Don't do static/passive streches before you weight train.
Do them after. He is one reason why:
Reduced strength after passive stretch of the human plantarflexors.
Fowles JR, Sale DG, MacDougall JD.
Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8S 4K1.
The purpose of this study was to assess strength performance after an acute bout of maximally tolerable passive stretch (PS(max)) in human subjects. Ten young adults (6 men and 4 women) underwent 30 min of cyclical PS(max) (13 stretches of 135 s each over 33 min) and a similar control period (Con) of no stretch of the ankle plantarflexors. Measures of isometric strength (maximal voluntary contraction), with twitch interpolation and electromyography, and twitch characteristics were assessed before (Pre), immediately after (Post), and at 5, 15, 30, 45, and 60 min after PS(max) or Con. Compared with Pre, maximal voluntary contraction was decreased at Post (28%) and at 5 (21%), 15 (13%), 30 (12%), 45 (10%), and 60 (9%) min after PS(max) (P < 0.05). Motor unit activation and electromyogram were significantly depressed after PS(max) but had recovered by 15 min. An additional testing trial confirmed that the torque-joint angle relation may have been temporarily altered, but at Post only. These data indicate that prolonged stretching of a single muscle decreases voluntary strength for up to 1 h after the stretch as a result of impaired activation and contractile force in the early phase of deficit and by impaired contractile force throughout the entire period of deficit.
05-19-2006, 02:22 PM
Bill Hartman, P.T., C.S.C.S., Men's Health
Before we get to the rules, it's important to understand the basic—but typically misunderstood—science of stretching. First, a couple of definitions. There are two major types of stretching: static and dynamic.
You're probably more familiar with the former. For instance, a static stretch for your hamstrings is what you think it is—a movement in which you lean forward until you feel a slight discomfort in the target muscle, then stretch the muscle by holding that position for a few seconds.
Although it's often prescribed as an injury-prevention measure, static stretching before a workout might be the worst of all strategies. Because it forces the target muscle to relax, it temporarily makes it weaker. As a result, a strength imbalance can occur between opposing muscle groups. For example, stretching your hamstrings causes them to become significantly weaker than your quadriceps. And that may make you more susceptible to muscle strains, pulls and tears in the short term.
Static stretching also reduces bloodflow to your muscles and decreases the activity of your central nervous system—meaning it inhibits your brain's ability to communicate with your muscles, which limits your capacity to generate force. The bottom line: Never perform static stretching before you work out or play sports.
Now, before you abandon static stretching for good, realize that it does have value. That's because improving your "passive" flexibility through static stretches is beneficial in the nonathletic endeavors of everyday life—such as bending, kneeling and squatting. All you have to know is the right stretch for the right time.
Do your static/passive stretching anytime of day EXCEPT before you workout. Doing it after you workout is so beneficial I can't begin to tell you.
Last edited by EricT; 05-19-2006 at 02:27 PM..
04-01-2007, 03:10 PM
Behm, D. G., Button, D. C., & Butt, J. C. (2001). Factors affecting force loss with prolonged stretching. Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology, 26, 262-272.
This study evaluated the phenomenon of force loss after prolonged static and passive stretching. Ss (N = 12) were tested before and 5-10 minutes after 20 minutes of static or passive stretching of the quadriceps. Six of the twelve Ss also performed a no-stretching (control) condition.
Following stretching, maximal voluntary contraction force decreased by 12%, while muscle activation increased by 2.8% and inactivation increased by 20.2%. It was suggested that strength loss after stretching is affected more by muscle inactivation than changes in muscle elasticity.
Implication. Too much stretching decreases force production. The value of stretching before athletic performances, particularly those involving strength or the production of large forces, should be questioned.
Nelson, A. G., & Kokkonen, J. (2001). Acute ballistic muscle stretching inhibits maximal strength performance. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 72, 415-419.
Male (N = 11) and female (N = 11) physical education class students were tested for knee flexion and extension strength (1 RM) on two days. One test was preceded by quiet sitting, while the other was preceded by active and passive ballistic stretching of the hip, thigh, and calf muscles.
Stretching increased hip flexibility as measured by a sit-and-reach test. Knee extension and flexion strength was significantly less after stretching than after no stretching.
Implication. A thorough bout of stretching reduces the strength of the muscles stretched.
STRETCHING REDUCES PERFORMANCE CAPABILITY
Evetovich, T. K., Nauman, N. J., Conley, D. S., & Todd, J. B. (2003). The effect of static stretching of the biceps brachii on torque, electromyography, and mechanomyography. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 35(5), Supplement abstract 2057.
Adult Ss (M = 10; F = 8) performed maximal isokinetic (30 and 270 deg/sec) forearm flexion strength tests on two occasions while EMG and MMG measures were registered. Ss were randomly assigned to stretching and non-stretching protocols before testing.
Stretching significantly reduced torque. MMG amplitudes were greater for stretching than non-stretching while EMG amplitudes were similar.
Implication. "These results indicated that a greater ability to produce torque without prior stretching is related to the musculotendinous stiffness of the muscle rather than the number of motor units activated. This suggests that performing activities that reduce muscle stiffness (such as stretching or warming up) may be detrimental to performance" (p. 370).
STRETCHING REDUCES THROWING ABILITY
Noffal, G. J., Knudson, D., & Brown, L. (2004). Effects of stretching the upper limb on throwing speed and isokinetic shoulder torques. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 36(5), Supplement abstract 937.
This study determined the effects of static stretching of upper limb muscles on overarm throwing speed and isokinetic torque of shoulder internal rotators at two velocities (3.14 and 5.24 rad/s). Ss (N = 40) were randomly assigned into control and stretching groups. The experimental protocol consisted of two test sessions scheduled a week apart. Ss in the experimental group performed static stretching (S) exercises with their dominant limb in one session and no stretching (NS) in the other. Ss in the control group did not stretch in either of their two sessions. Following warm-up and S or NS, Ss were tested for throwing speed and concentric isokinetic torque of the shoulder internal rotation musculature at two velocities. Throwing speed was measured with a radar gun and shoulder internal rotation torques were measured with an isokinetic dynamometer. Speed and torque were compared.
Significant interactions were found for throwing speed and isokinetic torque at 3.14 rad/s (but not for isokinetic torque at 5.24 rad/s). Stretching reduced throwing velocity and shoulder isokinetic torque at the slower isokinetic speed.
Implication. Static stretching of the arm before a high speed movement, such as throwing, reduces subsequent throwing velocity. Stretching should not be part of a throwing or pitching warm-up.
STATIC STRETCHING IMPAIRS POWER AND STRENGTH PERFORMANCE
Fry, A. C., McLellan, E., Weiss, L. W., & Rosato, F. D. (2003). The effects of static stretching on power and velocity during the bench press exercise. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 35(5), Supplement abstract 1460.
High school athletes (N = 40) were tested for bench press 1 RM at one session. In two other sessions, a general and exercise-specific warm-up, and a maximum velocity bench press at 85% 1 RM were performed. Static stretching was randomly implemented immediately before the tested lift in either session 2 or 3.
Static stretching significantly impaired bench press mean power and mean velocity.
Implication. Static stretching in close proximity to maximum power and strength activities has a detrimental effect on performance.
TOO MUCH FLEXIBILITY CAN BE DETRIMENTAL TO RUNNING ECONOMY
Jones, A. M. (2002). Running economy is negatively related to sit-and-reach test performance in international-standard distance runners. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 23, 40-43.
The relationship between running economy and lower body flexibility were determined in international standard male distance runners (N = 34). Ss performed an incremental treadmill test to determine physiological attributes and the sit-and-reach test to measure lower body flexibility. Running speeds below lactate threshold were used to evaluate the relationship.
The results for running at 14, 15, and 16 km/hr were similar. There were no relationships between aerobic demand at 16 km/hr and age, height, body mass, or VO2max. However, there was a significant negative relationship between lower trunk flexibility and running economy. "Stiffer" athletes were more efficient runners. It was hypothesized that elastic energy was enhanced in muscles that were not overly stretched.
Implication. It is possible to have muscles that are too stretched. A loss in the elastic properties of muscle most probably results in a loss of energy production, and therefore movement efficiency, in running. It is possible to overdo stretching and flexibility training to the extent that it reduces performance potential.
MUSCLE AND JOINT STIFFNESS IS ASSOCIATED WITH INCREASED RUNNING ECONOMY
Craib, M. W., Mitchell, V. A., Fields, K. B., Cooper, T. R., Hopewell, R., & Morgan, D. W. (1996). The association between flexibility and running economy in sub-elite male distance runners. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 28, 737-743.
The purpose of this study was to examine the association between nine measures of limb and trunk flexibility and running economy. Within a week before running economy assessment, and after 10 min of jogging at 3.13 m/sec, trained male sub-elite distance runners (N = 19) underwent two complete sets of lower limb and trunk flexibility assessments. Ss then completed two 10-minute running economy assessment sessions on consecutive days at 4.13 m/sec following two 30-minute sessions of treadmill accommodation at 4.13 m/sec.
Dorsiflexion (r = 0.65) and standing hip rotation (r = 0.53) were significantly associated with the mean aerobic demand of running, such that less flexible runners were more economical. Although speculative, these results suggest that inflexibility in certain areas of the musculoskeletal system may enhance running economy by increasing storage and return of elastic energy and minimizing the need for muscle-stabilizing activity.
Implication. Running economy needs natural tightness in lower leg muscles and connective tissues to maximize the storage and return of elastic energy and reduce the need for stabilizing activity.
CONTRACT-RELAX STRETCHING IS BETTER THAN BALLISTIC STRETCHING FOR IMPROVING FLEXIBILITY
Wallin, D., Bjorn, E., Grahan, R. & Nordenborg, T. (1985). Improvement of muscle flexibility: A comparison between two techniques. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 13, 263-268.
Males (N = 47) were formed into four groups. All groups trained three times per week using a modified contract-relax (CR) method or ballistic stretching. After 30 days, one of the CR groups (N = 10) trained once a week, another (N = 10) three times a week, and the third group (N = 10) five times a week. The fourth group (N = 17) trained with traditional ballistic stretching. After 30 days (14 training sessions), the ballistic group switched to the contract-relax method. Retests were performed after 60 days since commencement.
Once a week contract-relax stretching was enough to maintain flexibility. Training three to five times per week was necessary to increase flexibility. Ballistic stretching improved flexibility, but not as effectively as the contract-relax method. When the ballistic group switched to contract-relax, flexibility improved further and that group caught up to the others who had only been performing contract-relax activities.
Implication. Contract-relax (PNF) stretching is more effective for increasing flexibility than is ballistic stretching. Only one PNF session per week is needed to maintain flexibility.
PROBLEMS WITH STRETCHING MYTHS AND THEORY
Wilkinson, M., & Williams, A. (2003). Too much of a good thing? Why increased joint flexibility may damage your distance performance. Peak Performance, 175, 5-6.
This is a well presented review article that looks at the research covering stretching and its effect on running economy. A number of statements concerning beliefs and theories regarding flexibility are made.
"There is little evidence to support the claim that non-pathological [naturally endowed] muscle tightness reduces running economy, so impairing performance" (p. 5).
"There is a growing body of evidence to suggest . . . that a lack of flexibility in certain areas of the body may be linked with increased running economy. And it is interesting to note that studies of competitive distance runners have shown them to be less flexible than non-runners" (p. 5)
Decreased flexibility in the trunk and hip prevented trunk rotation and hip turn-out while running, both restrictions improving running economy.
Decreased flexibility in the ankle (tightness in the calf and soleus muscles), and the lower back/hamstrings were associated with better running economy.
One explanation why a lack of flexibility actually increases running performance is that it reduces energy expenditure by enhancing elastic energy storage and return in the Achilles tendon and calf muscles.
"Previous work has suggested that elastic recoil of muscle and tendons can contribute 25-40% of the energy necessary for subsequent movements in a maximally stretched muscle [Cavagna,G. A., Saibene, F. P., & Margaria, R. (1964). Mechanical work in running. Journal of Applied Physiology, 19, 249-256; Cavagna, G. A., & Margaria, R. (1966). Mechanics of walking. Journal of Applied Physiology, 21, 271-278.] (p. 6).
"It is reasonable to suggest that inflexibility around the ankle joint would result in a greater relative stretch of the tight muscles and tendons, storing more elastic energy for subsequent recoil and reducing the active work of the muscles" (p. 6).
"Musculoskeletal tightness can also explain the beneficial effects of limited hip/trunk flexibility . . . Limited external hip rotation could enhance running economy by stabilizing the pelvic region at the time of foot impact. Since running occurs primarily in a forward direction, rotational motion is potentially energy-wasting as it does not contribute to forward movement" (p. 6) [Thus, actions in baseball that are aligned to produce forward momentum on a ball do not need to have above-natural flexibility. So exercises that stretch abdominal muscles laterally and forward and backward would only serve to reduce the elastic energy potential of a segmented action because other muscular contributions would be required to halt the "softened musculature" from moving.]
"There is a cut-off point where inflexibility ceases to be tightness within a normal range of motion and becomes excessive to the point of increasing injury risk. Clinically, excessive muscle tightness is believed to be an important cause of such injuries as muscle strains and inflammation of tendons" (p. 6)
Implication. ". . . while general stretching, designed to maintain existing levels of flexibility and muscle function, should remain an important aspect of every runner's warm-up and cool-down routines, improving flexibility beyond levels normal [natural] for runners is likely to impair rather than improve performance" (p. 6)
04-01-2007, 03:37 PM
Click here to view rticles from Thomas Kurz's column on training including:
1. Misconceptions on Stretching and Flexibility and the Method of Testing Your Potential to Do a Side Split (Box Split or Chinese Split)
2. Difficulties with Doing a Side Split
3. The Method of Testing Your Potential to Do a Front Split
4. Kinds of Flexibility and the Right Role of Splits in Taekwondo, Karate, and Kickboxing
5. Right Stretches for High Kicks with No Warm-Up
6. High Kicks with No Warm-Up: The Right Body Alignment for Great Height and Power in the Side Kicks
7. High Kicks with No Warm-Up: The Right Body Alignment for Great Height and Power in the Roundhouse Kicks
8. Questions and Answers on Practicing High Roundhouse Kicks
9. Stretching and Injuries
10. Questions and Answers on Injuries
11. Questions and Answers on Injuries (continued)
12. A Well-Run Workout: The Warm-Up
13. How to Select Exercises for a Warm-Up
14. A Well-Run Workout: The Main Part
15. A Well-Run Workout: The Cool-Down
16. Examples of Good and Bad Workouts
17. Weekly Training Schedule
18. Principles of Conditioning for Sports and Martial Arts
19. Sequence of Conditioning Exercises for Fighters and Martial Artists in Long-Term Training and in a Single Workout
20. Beginning Strength Exercises for Abdomen and Lower Back
21. Advanced Strength Exercises for Lower Back — Your Best Insurance against Back Pain
22. Martial Arts and the Squat
23. Strength Exercises for Hip Flexors — the Main Kicking Muscles
24. Questions and Answers on Strength Exercises
25. More Questions and Answers on Strength Exercises
26. Advantages of High Repetitions and Deep Breathing During Exercise
27. Questions and Answers: What Exercises to Do and When
28. More Questions and Answers on What Exercises to Do and When
29. Rules of Thumb for Conditioning
30. Age and Stretching
31. Gender and Stretching: Are Women More Flexible than Men and Can Women Benefit from Tom Kurz's Stretching Method?
32. What It Takes to Train Right for Strength, Power, and Flexibility in Sports and Martial Arts
33. Errors in Stretching for Sports and Martial Arts
34. Errors in Training for Endurance in Sports and Martial Arts
35. Errors in Training for Strength in Sports and Martial Arts
36. Errors in Training for Speed in Sports and Martial Arts
37. Errors in Training for Technique in Sports and Martial Arts
38. Individualization of Training in Sports and Martial Arts
39. Individualization of Fighter's Instruction
40. Individualization and Accessibility of Training
41. Gradual Increase of Training Loads
42. Three Methods of Gradually Increasing Training Loads
43. Practical Application of Principles of Training I (Applying principles of individualization and accessibility of training and the principle of gradual increase of loads in endurance training)
44. Practical Application of Principles of Training, Part II (Applying principles of individualization and accessibility of training and the principle of gradual increase of loads in strength training)
45. Practical Application of Principles of Training, Part III (Applying principles of individualization and accessibility of training and the principle of gradual increase of loads in technical training)
46. Practical Application of Principles of Training, Part IV (The principle of continuity and systematicness of the training process)
47. Practical Application of Principles of Training, Part V (The principle of economy of effort)
48. Sports Psychology and Rational Training
49. Functional Training
I'd recommend Stretching Scientifically
by Thomas Kurz, 4th Edition
Last edited by EricT; 04-22-2007 at 04:37 PM..
04-22-2007, 04:38 PM
Great link. Crossfit is becoming one of the best workout groups out there for. They do so much training for the athlete and most of it is Olympic, kettlebell and plyo circuit work.
04-23-2007, 06:30 AM
Yeah, Crossfit is a great source of info on all manner of subjects.
BTW, Dave, if you have some specific stuff on mobility drills, perhaps kettleball stuff, you'd like to contribute to this I'd really appreciate it.
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