Stretching: Good or Bad?

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amivan
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Stretching: Good or Bad?

Post by amivan » Thu Mar 20, 2008 11:15 pm

Okay, my question concerns stretching before a workout specifically, I'm talking about PNF, ballistic, dynamic, or static stretching -- NOT warming up by running or using a bike or arm ergometer or anything in that sense. From what I've been taught and understand. Stretching before exercise decreases performance. What is your understanding/where'd you hear/see it?


Note: I am not asking or saying that stretching is bad post-workout after a warm down. Just want to be clear.


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Post by Ryan A » Thu Mar 20, 2008 11:46 pm

I recently read an article which I will try to find that says there is no evidence about stretching alone. There are only studies where subjects stretch and warm up. Warming up and stretching is helpful in reducing injury. Furthermore, stretching and then warming up, reduces any "decrease in performance" such that regular performance is essentially returned.


http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/13/healt ... 1205640000

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Post by KPj » Fri Mar 21, 2008 5:16 am

Dynamic stretching is amazing pre work out. I don't know why people try to say otherwise to be honest.. On the surface of it, it's just body weight exercises and the people who oppose it normally just go for a quick run and do a couple warm up sets anyway.. (i know no one has opposed it yet, but I get it a lot in the gym)

In more depth, it Stimulates blood flow where it's needed, it wakes up / tunes the CNS to fire the correct muscles at the correct time... It increases stability across the ROM that your moving in, gets your heart rate up (for the 5 minute jog warm up fanatics). You can address flexibility and / or stability issues whilst doing it... The priority for a dynamic warm up should be to address your weaknesses / limitations both in terms of ROM and stability AND wake up the muscles needed most. You can warm up in movement planes much more challenging than what your moving in when lifting (unless you do a lot of single leg unsupported exercises...).

So that's my take on Dynamic stretching. Can you tell i'm a fan?

Static stretching pre work out has been shown to weaken the muscles by lengthening them and putting them in a relaxed state - the only proof you need of that is to perform decent statics stretch program and see how you feel :-)

However, if you have issues, static stretching when implemented correctly can be your friend. For example, take the oh so common forward head, rounded shoulders and anteriorly tilted hips posture. Or in practical terms, take people who can't squat deep or DL from the floor because of tight hips (mainly).

Firstly, you have over active and typically shortened (in length) upper traps and hip flexors. They say static stretching a muscle pre workout will decrease performance? Shortened muscles perform crap anyway! On top of that, overactive muscles try and jump in and do everything so by inhibiting (static stretching/weakening them) the overactive muscles, your making it more likely that the weak muscles will pitch in. Your almost tricking your body into doing the correct thing by trying to force it to compensate the way it should.

A good example is the shortened hip flexors causing poor ROM in the squat. Shortened hip flexors also inhibit the glutes. If you stretch the hip flexors before a squat session then it makes it more likely that your can get your hips into a better position to use the glutes due to the hip flexors being temporarily lengthened and weakened (making them less likely to take over). Same with the upper traps trying to do the job of the middle and lower traps.

So in this example (common imbalances), Static stretching when you first get into the gym on the overactive muscles (hip flexors, upper traps) would be recommended FOLLOWED by a dynamic warm up to then 'switch on' the weak muscles...

KPj

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Post by KPj » Fri Mar 21, 2008 6:08 am

Ryan A wrote:I recently read an article which I will try to find that says there is no evidence about stretching alone. There are only studies where subjects stretch and warm up. Warming up and stretching is helpful in reducing injury. Furthermore, stretching and then warming up, reduces any "decrease in performance" such that regular performance is essentially returned.


http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/13/healt ... 1205640000
Just read this article. Quite interesting. I find that with a lot of 'mainstream' articles on exercise, they seem to really lack both knowledge and a perception of the 'big picture'. At the same time, Lifters have generally been ahead of the game for some time now in terms of that helps performance and what doesn't, with research confirming what most already know.

What I mean by that is, let's say you have lower back pain and coincidentally, really tight hips. You use static stretching to lengthen the hip flexors and some glute activation and then after a couple of weaks the pain isn't as bad, a marked improvement (which is likely). No matter what you read, you know fine well that in your case, static stretching for the hips has been a very positive thing for you to do.

And then you read statements like this... By a Doctor, too.
“If stretching was a drug, it would be recalled,”
What about me? I just alleviated back pain by stretching my hips!

But then you have someone else with the exact same problem... Only, instead ff looking beyond the pain, they static stretch their lower back (the site of pain), and it feels good. But then after a few weeks, the pain is significantly worse. Their going to say,

"yeh, it IS bad, it made my back pain worse!!!"..

If more people realised that these things are not only specific to the individual, but also specific to each joint (i.e. Gray Cooks Joint by Joint approach) then things would be looked at from a much clearer perspective...

I find it hard to believe that there are no or few studies on this, too. Something for me to look into... :-)


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Post by ironmaiden708 » Fri Mar 21, 2008 7:22 am

I do got a question that is somewhat related, when i bend over to do lets say T-Bar rows or even dead lifts. I feel alot of aching and tightness in my lowerback region that eventually gets irritated if what I do is prolonged. Do you think that is because of poor flexibility in that area? Or would you say it is because of the heavy amount of strain that is put on that area?


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Post by TimD » Fri Mar 21, 2008 7:51 am

I'm reading this thread on stretching, tight hip flexor, lower back, peoples thoughts on whether or not to do dynamic stretching before, and so forth. I'm not even going to get into the science of it, don't need to. Just wait til you guys get to my age (pushing 60) I literally roll out of bed in the morning. First thing I have to do in the morning is go right into air squats easing myself down lower and lower to get the ol' glutes going. I got this old stepper machine w/ a pretty fair ROM I got for 5 bucks in a yard sale that works pretty well too. And that;s not for any metabolic lift or anything like that, it's just a daily ritual in order for me walk comfortably. I think the point is, sure, read what the guru's say, but do what you know works for you, For me, this type of stretching can be used before, during and after.
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Post by KPj » Fri Mar 21, 2008 8:15 am

Do you think that is because of poor flexibility in that area? Or would you say it is because of the heavy amount of strain that is put on that area?
It could be both. With regards to flexibility, can you keep a good back position when you DL from the floor? i.e. is your back straight or slightly arched? If you've got a good back position, then flexibility probably isn't the issue.

The alternative, and common with the desk posture especially is having over active lumbar erectors and / or hip flexors. This is part of the reason why the known functional guys will advise that you don't do bent over rows. Despite it being a great exercise, most ordinary people now a days have overactive lumbar erectors which try and pitch in and take as much of the load as possible - so it makes it less effective whilst putting even more stress on the lower back - the whole 'bang for your buck' thing. It's one of the many issues I had myself, but with constant work on the glutes it just ironed itself out...

It doesn't necessarily mean your glutes are "weak". It can just be case of them not functioning properly or well enough in comparison to the lumbar erectors. For example, a problem i'm having just now is my hams firing before my glutes. At least i'm pretty sure that's the issue, there's a few reasons I think so. All you can do is make an alternation to address the issue and monitor it over a few weeks...

It's actually a strange one - having overactive lumbar erectors, i think anyway. You can actually have overactive AND weak lumbar erectors... Normally people who sit down a lot, and don't train the posterior chain. Just emphasises that everythings relative.

There's a trunk curl up test towards the end of the following article you could try to give you an idea.

Neanderthal No More, Part II
http://www.t-nation.com/findArticle.do?article=315nean2

Other than that, if flexibility isn't an issue - do you ever do any 'glute bridges' ? And do you know what 'pull throughs' are? ( i will try and find some pics/videos)

You could try dropping T-bar rows (just for now, replace with something like seated cable rows) and doing some glute bridges before deadlifts (for activation), and adding in pull throughs somewhere (it's an assistance exercise, 12-15 reps per set), which is an amazing exercise especially if you really emphasis the glutes (of course, do it with a straight back as their is a rounded version).

And of course, if you don't stretch the hip flexors, do so. Infact, make it the firs thing you do when you enter the gym before your warm up. If your not sure about it decreasing your performance or not, then I would say just give a try - static stretch them, do your warm up, then dead lift. If your performance is decreased you can come give me a virtual kick in the a$$.

Despite my typical 3000 word essay (half day at work today, so i'm even worse than usual!), it's just a minor tweak that you could try and see if anything changes - hip stretch, Glute activation, and an extra glute emphasised exercise towards the end of a lower body day. And replacing T-bar rows with something else that doesn't cause what you described - temporarily.

With regards to dead lifts, just pay extra attention to form, mainly squeezing the glutes. Even drop the weight slightly to allow you to do it more accurately - or you could switch to rack pulls for a few weeks to emphasise the lockout - finishing with the glutes.

Some food for thought :-)

KPj

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Post by corless319_ » Fri Mar 21, 2008 9:40 am

dang kpj you type SOOOOO much lol. I think that lower back pain well when i had a lot of it was a weak lower back and imbalances. That I learned on here!! :) I feel better and stronger and my back doesnt hurt anymore. This site is amazing for information and people like kpj who write 3000 word essays are people who make this site worthwhile. Also whats the difference between static and dynamic stretching. I think static is like literally stretching and dynamic is just going through the motions am i right?
Last edited by corless319_ on Fri Mar 21, 2008 10:16 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by KPj » Fri Mar 21, 2008 9:51 am

dang kpj you type SOOOOO much lol.
lol, i'm just obsessed, coupled with the ability to type very fast. I normally feel like i've written a couple of paragraphs then hit submit -> view message and think - sh$t!
Also whats the difference between static and dynamic stretching. I think static is like literally stretching and dynamic is just going through the motions am i right?
Basically. Static is the stretching that everyone knows about. Dynamic Stretching to the untrained eye just looks like bodyweight exercises... Consists of a lot of lunge variations, RDL walks etc. When seen in video they look VERY easy. You wonder what the point is. But when you do them, it's a different story. One boy I introduced it to said he felt like he just done a lifting session afterwards... If you've got issues, it does feel like that but you get better at it.

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Post by corless319_ » Fri Mar 21, 2008 10:18 am

whats funny is i did both types of stretching without really knowing so practically a dynamic stretch is like sqauting with the bar just to get warmed up then? Awesome.

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Post by KPj » Fri Mar 21, 2008 10:44 am

corless319_ wrote:whats funny is i did both types of stretching without really knowing so practically a dynamic stretch is like sqauting with the bar just to get warmed up then? Awesome.
Yeah, near enough. Normally it's something a little more challenging than a typical squatting motion. One that comes to mind from Magnificent mobility is 'Squat to Stand'. You take a wide stance and bend down and grab your toes, then sit back in to a squat position as far as your flexibility allows. on the way back up, you still hold your toes but push your hips back and up, straightening your leg. repeat 8-10 times although i've seen people (previously myself) who get a wide stance, grab their toes, and are just locked in position! That ones a killer.

Another is Deep Wideouts where you start with a narrow stance and do a little jump into a wider stance and flow into a squat, holding arms straight out in front, you spring back up into a little jump again finishing in a narrow stance.... There's literally loads. The point is to start with some easy moves and progress to more difficult ones. They are as hard as you make them. Well, if your in good shape anyway.. If your in bad shape then it's just really hard. A typical dynamic warm up would have about 10 movements. They should get your blood pumping - I sweat slightly doing them (to give an idea of intensity). But form is of up most importance, especially with dynamic movements. Your also (eventually) training in a ROM that's more extreme than the exercises you would typically do, so when it comes to squats etc, the movement/flexibility/stability required comes easily.

Warm up sets aren't really a warm up, their just..erm... warm up sets. A good warm up wouldn't replace the need to work up to your first working set... Although alot of the time I start with a weight that's probably too much, but the dynamic stuff just makes you feel really fired up and ready to go.

KPj


p.s hope i've not hijacked this too much, just realised it's kind of going off subject a little...

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Post by amivan » Fri Mar 21, 2008 11:34 am

For you geezers (I say that from the bottom of my heart), by before I meant right before exercising not when you wake up in the morning.. because I do that too -curse my ever tight hamstrings.
So from what I can gather it seems that static stretching is the villain, PNF or dynamic stretching is okay.


Oh, PNF stretching for those that may not know is proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, big words, it's basically a combination of static (passive) stretching and isometric contractions. Generally done with a partner, for example, lets say, as I do, you want to stretch your hamstring,
what you do is lie down on your back bring one foot closer to your butt (the foot of the leg you're not stretching) and then raise your other leg up as close to perpendicular as you can, have your partner place their hands "above" the calf (if you were standing it would be below your calf) on the back of your leg, and the other hand just below the kneecap on the front of the thigh. your partner's job will be to push against your effort to flex the knee (kick your own ass)-your effort should be maximal. do this and hold for 30 seconds (note that your leg should not actually move when you do this). Then your partner, with your guidance, will stretch your hamstring (by gently applying a pushing force on the leg above the calf until you feel pain/too much discomfort at which point the partner should hold your leg at that position) for 20 seconds. Then switch sides and do this for your other hamstring. This kind of stretching will increase your ROM by a few degrees usually and itll give a good stretch.
KPj wrote: p.s hope i've not hijacked this too much, just realised it's kind of going off subject a little...
it's all relevant :)

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Post by ironmaiden708 » Fri Mar 21, 2008 12:28 pm

KPj I did forget to mention a couple things, so I apoligize (it was 7:00 am...) when I do wear a lifting belt none of these problems ever seem to occur. Also I do have a possible predisposition to back injuries since my dad has herniated disks and so did his mother.

Any of that relevant to you?

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Post by corless319_ » Fri Mar 21, 2008 2:24 pm

ironmaiden do you dead lift at all? That strengethened my lower back and now im having almost no back pains when i lift. I used to have a sore back all day long but since dls i feel great. I think you may have an imbalance but if you did hurt your back you might want a dr to check it. The back is serious.

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Post by amivan » Fri Mar 21, 2008 2:44 pm

ironmaiden708 wrote:KPj I did forget to mention a couple things, so I apoligize (it was 7:00 am...) when I do wear a lifting belt none of these problems ever seem to occur. Also I do have a possible predisposition to back injuries since my dad has herniated disks and so did his mother.

Any of that relevant to you?

your disks don't start to degenerate until you start your 20s, gotta love DDD.
How's your posture when you stand regularly?
looking at yourself form the side there should be a imaginary straight line from the middle of your ear down to the middle of your shoulder (acromion process if you know where/what that is), to your ASIS (that's the bony protrusion on your side at the hip, down the middle of your thigh, and ending at your lateral malleolus (the uhm.. ankle bump on the outside, i forgot the plain word for it). has your or the school's physician (when you sign up for a team) ever checked your back ?
also, next time your lower back gets irritated and aches, lie down on a flat hard surface on your back and bring your feet close to your bum-does that make it feel better?


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