Stretch before you do that workout. Did you warm-up before coming for this run? Stretching has been like a little prayer before dinner before any exercises but do we know everything we need to about it? Honestly, I thought I did too until I came across a few articles that suggested it might not.
Stretching is very common among all sports — often done in forms of warm-ups which are said to help the athlete better their performance but that is acute stretching which is distinctively different from what we call chronic stretching. Chronic stretching appears different in that it shines a light on the overall flexibility and range of motion for those joints; that doesn’t happen in five minutes but rather over time and is said to be beneficial for an athlete’s performance.
Acute stretching is commonly termed for passive and active static stretching whereas chronic will be defining dynamic stretches. Resulting from the ongoing debate about what form of stretching is ruled over the other, coaches have been seen to adopt dynamic; chronic stretching techniques on athletes’ for training days and on game days – this has time and again shown to improve athletes’ performances and reduce the occurrences of injuries.
Acute stretching has been titled to reduce muscle strength and performance however on the flip side, it does decrease muscle stiffness but that’s where its story ends. Previous research suggests it eventually leads to a reduction of interaction between the muscles and the skeletal system. The decreased endurance effect arises due to neurological impairments; due to fatigue of the muscle there is a reduced number of excitatory inputs at the motor units and when this is performed repeatedly (stretching of muscles in a continuum) muscle exhaustion is said to be reached.
Number two, stretching can be equated to ischemic conditions (lack of oxygen) and it makes square when you think of it this way…
Normal blood flow is directed to working muscles during some form of exercise and activity — to fulfil muscular demands.
Similarly, stretching is a form of exercise and therefore it diverts normal blood flow to the ‘muscles under stretch,’ here they use up the oxygen and produce metabolic waste that needs to be expelled. Paint this picture now, you have a car that you fueled up for a journey from Melbourne to Sydney (a long-distance journey is what I mean) but you want to test out that the car is fit for long distances so what do you do? You take the car out for a ride and check out its adaptations on different surfaces and speeds, seem fit for the ride? Cool, now you go back to the road which takes you to Sydney but dammit, you’re ¾ of the fuel out already! You accumulated the car’s engine filter with so much dirt and dust it might get blocked before you’re even halfway to the journey, threshold limit for toxic substances has been reached and there is no other way to remove the dirt so the car eventually gives up and comes to a halt.
Insert ‘muscle’ instead of the car and ‘oxygen’ instead of fuel.
Accumulation of these toxic wastes in muscles is what reduces force production and muscle strength output. My intentions don’t dwell towards the inhibition of stretches before exercise but more towards practising the best forms of movement for your muscles to enhance performance. Stretches should include activities that increase the range of motion (ROM) and flexibility of joints rather than just focusing on the warm-up aspect of it.
Stretches are divided into 7 different forms that entail the following:
- Dynamic stretching
- Active stretching
- Passive stretching
- Isometric stretching
- Ballistic stretching
- Static stretching
- PNF Stretching
The take-home message: stretching has its pros and cons (like everything) but what draws the line is knowing what kind of a stretch to accompany with what kind of exercise.
Suggestion: Research into the different forms of stretching and what suits best for the kind of exercise you’re opting for. Every stretch on youtube will not be suited to you, so make sure it will enhance your performance and not result to be fatal in the long run.
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Signing out, see you in the next read 🙂