To stretch or not to stretch?  Ooooh a hot topic amongst strength coaches.  And not one i’m really going to get into today as my opinion on topics such as this that strength coaches like to argue about is dissipating by the day.  But people love to stretch so here’s some helpful info on stretching.  If you really care what i think i put my opinion at the bottom.

So what are the different types of stretching out there?

Dynamic Stretching

Dynamic stretching, according to Kurz, “involves moving parts of your body and gradually increasing reach, speed of movement, or both.” Do not confuse dynamic stretching with ballistic stretching! Dynamic stretching consists of controlled leg and arm swings that take you (gently!) to the limits of your range of motion. Ballistic stretches involve trying to force a part of the body beyond its range of motion. In dynamic stretches, there are no bounces or “jerky” movements. An example of dynamic stretching would be slow, controlled leg swings, arm swings, or torso twists.

Dynamic stretching improves dynamic flexibility and is quite useful as part of your warm-up for an active or aerobic workout (such as a dance or martial-arts class). 

Static Stretching

Static stretching involves holding a position. That is, you stretch to the farthest point and hold the stretch …

Static stretching is probably the most common form of stretching you’ll see.  It has been shown to inhibit the nervous system and decrease blood flow to a muscle.  In other words if you want to weaken a muscle while attempting to lengthen it, this type of stretch is best for you.

PNF or Partner Stretching

PNF stretching is currently the fastest and most effective way known to increase static-passive flexibility. PNF is an acronym for proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation. It is not really a type of stretching but is a technique of combining passive stretching and isometric stretching in order to achieve maximum static flexibility. PNF refers to any of several post-isometric relaxation stretching techniques in which a muscle group is passively stretched, then contracts isometrically against resistance while in the stretched position, and then is passively stretched again through the resulting increased range of motion. PNF stretching usually employs the use of a partner to provide resistance against the isometric contraction and then later to passively take the joint through its increased range of motion. It may be performed, however, without a partner, although it is usually more effective with a partner’s assistance.

Most PNF stretching techniques employ isometric agonist contraction/relaxation where the stretched muscles are contracted isometrically and then relaxed. Some PNF techniques also employ isometric antagonist contraction where the antagonists of the stretched muscles are contracted. The most common PNF stretching techniques are:

The Hold / Relax

This technique is also called the contract-relax. After assuming an initial passive stretch, the muscle being stretched is isometrically contracted for 5-7 seconds, after which the muscle is briefly relaxed for 5-7 seconds, and then immediately subjected to a passive stretch which stretches the muscle even further than the initial passive stretch. This final passive stretch is held for 5-7 seconds.

The Hold Relax Contract

This technique is also called the contract-relax-contract, and the contract-relax-antagonist-contract (or CRAC). It involves performing two isometric contractions: first of the agonists, then, of the antagonists. The first part is similar to the hold-relax where, after assuming an initial passive stretch, the stretched muscle is isometrically contracted for 5-7 seconds. Then the muscle is relaxed while its antagonist immediately performs an isometric contraction that is held for 5-7 seconds.  That probably sounds like gibberish to most so an example would be :

Place hamstring on a stretch for 5-7 seconds
Contract hamstring isometrically against partner for 5-7 seconds
Relax hamstring and immediately contract psoas and try and pull the leg into a greater stretch while applying passive resistance

Weighted Stretching

There is increasing evidence from studies showing weighted stretching is a far superior form of stretching.  Weighted stretching is using really light loads (around 10-15% of the maximum possible weight lifted) on certain movements.  An example with a hamstring would be a really light romanian deadlift below

Hold for 15 seconds in the stretched position
Do one rep
Hold for 15 seconds in the stretched position
Do one rep
Hold for 15 seconds
Rest 60 seconds
Do 2 times in total.

You know what this is called?  WARMING UP!!!! 

Is Stretching Bad For You?

It depends.  All muscles have whats called an optimal length tension ratio.  This means a hamstring has an optimal length it needs to be to be able to maximally contract.  Stretch a muscle beyound this point and alot of the time it becomes weak.  So yes stretching beyond a certain point can be bad for you if you don’t strengthen that muscle in the lengthened position.  I see this a lot with girls who are are oh so proud of their ability to do the splits or put their forehead on their knee while stretching the hamstring, only problem is when you test them those hammies tend to be as weak as 6 year old!  And this creates imbalances and can lead to pain etc

What Do I Believe?

I believe muscles are tight for a reason.  I believe a muscle is tight because somewhere else a muscle is not doing its job.  I believe if you stretch a tight muscle you may just remove the only muscle left working.  I believe the tightest muscle is the most efficient muscle.  I hardly ever use static stretching. I believe in mobility.  I believe all joints need a certain range of motion in order to be able to do exercises safely and lead a pain free life.  Correlations between lack of mobility in certain joints and pain and dysfunction i believe are quite clear.  

I like to foam roll, then mobilise joints before a session with contract relax techniques, warm up with light sets through full ranges of motion, and then i like to promote blood flow to increase healing through supply of nutrients, water and oxygen after the session.  I then like a steam!

I mobilise people’s joints.  
I highly doubt i’ve ever “stretched a muscle” in my life.
I may have increased the plasticity of a muscles myofascial sheath and increased blood flow and oxygen to a muscle through foam rolling.
But I highly doubt i’ve ever “lengthened a muscle” in my life

If i’ve confused you, don’t worry about it.  These are the things coaches like to argue about and then waive their you know whats in the air to see who’s is the biggest!  Its boring after a while…

See you in the gym

Personal Training Bondi Junction Fitness First