Static Stretching, The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
Whats up with static stretching? We will explore exactly what is static stretching the good the bad and the ugly. This is part 2 of “Running: Stretching To Improve Your Running Pt.1″.
What is static stretching?
The actual physiology of it. There are several parts to static stretching, but first let’s talk about physiology. Muscles are basically like rubber bands that pull from one end to another end and cause a movement. One side connects to a bone with a tendon then moves to the muscle, then to another tendon and back to another bone. How do they know when to pull, how much to pull and when to stop (before injury)? The stimuli needed is provided by the nervous system. The nervous system integrates into the Golgi-Tendons and Muscle Spindles to give feedback on the muscle tendon stress.
The tendon itself has levels of flexibility the stages are called the stress to strain ratio; meaning the more tensile stress(stretch) is placed on the connective tissue the higher the strain.
If you look at the graph you’d notice that every type of tissue has a peak in elasticity, you’d also notice a plastic region, that’s the “no, no” region. The Golgi tendons and muscle spindles will always let you know when you’ve reached that far with; pain, massive discomfort and more tightness rather than flexibility. our goal is to always stop just at the peak of the elastic stage.
What’s so bad and ugly about static stretching?
There really is no ugliness, it’s how it’s used and taught that is ugly. For static stretching, it can be held from 15sec-1 minute. What decides how long to hold or how often to stretch is the need for that individual.
A contortionist needs a massive amount of flexibility and enough strength
A Powerlifter needs enough flexibility to be able to move through movements in specific areas
A Gymnast needs enough flexibility and strength to maintain a certain pose.
What happens when those who need power rather than flexibility stretch way too much or too often? They get weaker and have a greater chance of injury. The reason has to do with the new found range of motion not being fully trained to execute load and leading to the plasticity region.
The other ugly part is how people teach stretching. The two stretches that we would advise people to stop doing is the stand to toe touches and the infamous pigeon stretch. Those are some good stretches, if you’re looking to strain the mcl and lower back.
When is Static Stretching Good?
Static stretching is great when the participant needs to decrease stiffness and increase range of motion for event or activity/sport. Stretching will allow the participant to increase their “stretch-tolerance” allowing them to gain more flexibility.
“But what about for recovery?”, doing mild exercise is actually proven to be better as a cool down than actual stretching. For a thorough and great write up regarding stretching and recovery read the following by the NSCA:
By: Eric Martinez Co-Founder | Clinical Performance Specialist
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