AMA May 2023: Stretching, Mobility, Range Of Motion and Strength

Status
Not open for further replies.
silhouette-3149138_640.png
Stretching has traditionally been seen as an add-on to exercise that's nice-to-have but not all that necessary. Thankfully that picture is changing along with our understanding of what stretching actually does to muscles and tendons, how it works (it does not elongate muscle fibers) and what we should be doing so it benefits us the most at an individual level because we're all a little bit different.

Bring your questions here and I will answer in as much detail as possible and provide scientific explanations where necessary. As before with AMAs, once this one is over it will find its way into our Knowledge Base so you can come back to it again as a refresher and also refer others to it. I will keep this thread open for three weeks until the 22nd of May to help you think your own questions through and also process those of others and the answers I provide.

I am yours to question :LOL:
 

Brontus

Well-known member
Ranger from Anchorage, Alaska
Posts: 82
Static versus Dynamic stretching.
Which one is more beneficial for revitalizing one's mobility or do both have equal importance?
I've heard long ago that bouncing during stretching was bad for the muscles, the bouncing itself a source of potential injury...I later learned this to be dynamic stretching, so how dynamic can dynamic stretching be before there's danger to joints and pulled muscles (i.e. fast steady "bounce" movements compared to slower steady "bounce" movements compared to stretch-hold-release-repeat movements)?
 

Anek

Well-known member
Sorceress from Bavaria, Germany
Pronouns: She/her
Posts: 2,229
"If the time should come when you have to make a choice between what is right and what is easy, remember Cedric Diggory."
Is it better to stretch before or after exercising? I always thought that stretching is better once the muscles are "warm", and on "cold" there's a risk of injury. But maybe I'm wrong?
 

guibo94

Well-known member
Gladiator from New Asgard
Posts: 75
"Silent but deadly."
Is there a "rule of thumb" for how long to wait or rest before doing intense stretching or stretngth training sessions? Ex: Day 1 I do a moderately intense but low volume strength workout in the morning - can I a do a moderate-to-high intensity static stretching workout with high density and volume in the evening or do I need to wait/rest for my muscles to recover from the strength workout? I am trying to figure out how to balance maintenance level strength workouts with high intensity static stretching sessions in my weekly training routine and make sure that I am (active) resting and recovering properly. Thanks again for another AMA!
 

Damer

Administrator
DAREBEE Team
Warrior Monk from Terra
Pronouns: He/Him
Posts: 589
Some good questions piling up here :LOL: So, let's begin in the order asked with @Brontus first. When it comes to stretching there are a lot of misconceptions and fresh studies have overturned the results of others that are barely ten years old so this is a fast-moving field with our knowledge ever evolving. I will start from some absolute basics here which we all need to keep in mind. The range of motion (ROM) of a muscle spindle is always greater than what we initially think it is by at least 50%. Medical science explains that "A muscle spindle consists of several differentiated muscle fibers (intrafusal fibers) that are enclosed in a spindle-shaped connective tissue sac. The ends of the intrafusal fibers are contractile, but the central portion is noncontractile and innervated by special neurons named gamma motor neurons." The motor neurons in the muscle spindle react to the pressure they feel as muscle fibers stretch or are stretched and reduce the range of motion of the fibers by activating antagonistic muscle groups. This is so the body can prevent injury to muscles. The nerves within the spindles react to the rate of change they experience as well as the upper limits of the pressure that is created. So too rapid a stretching movement, for example, will cause the nerves to activate muscle contraction and restrict the range of movement. Similarly, holding an extreme stretch will do the same. Stretching then, is not about lengthening the muscle fibers (this actually does not happen, ever) but it is all about retraining the brain (which receives signals from the muscles) about how safe it is to allow the muscles to reach a certain length.

Because muscles become weaker the more stretched they are (due to changes in the angle of muscle to joint connection) stretching is, really, another way to increase the strength of each muscle group that is being stretched by triggering adaptations that change muscle (the number of muscle fibers that go into each spindle), muscle size, the strength of the signal from brain to body and the angel at which muscle fibers connect to bones (called pennation).

This introduction now brings us to the three basic types of stretching available to us: Static, Dynamic and Ballistic. We have a stretching guide on DAREBEE that goes into some detail and I would encourage all to check it out, broadly speaking however Static Stretching is when muscles are stretched to their perceived limit and made to hold that position for up to 30 seconds at a time, Dynamic Stretching is when muscles are stretched through controlled movement that has a clearly defined range of motion and Ballistic Stretching is when muscles are stretched in uncontrolled and uncoordinated movement that uses momentum and bounce.

It is this latter method of stretching that has given 'bouncing' such a bad reputation because it frequently becomes a source of injury. Bouncing while stretching in a controlled way that takes into account perceived range of motion limitations is pretty safe and a fairly sound way of increasing flexibility. But let's examine a few examples to help us understand our options better.

When it comes to sports, sprinting makes such incredible demands on the body that any 'weaknesses' immediately show up in the form of injury or impaired performance. A 2009 study compared the effects of a warm-up, static stretching and dynamic stretching on previously injured (and now recovering) sprinters and found that hamstring flexibility improved with the warm-up, it improved with static stretching but it did not improve with dynamic stretching (the study can be found here.) Hamstring flexibility is key to stabilising sprints and also unleashing the full power of the quads and the range of motion (ROM) of the leg, required to generate power with each step. The findings of that study are in keeping with the importance of a good warm-up that raises the temperature and performance of the muscle groups used in an activity. It also tells us that without a warm-up static stretching is better at improving range of motion (ROM) primarily because it allows us to safely reset the limit of stretch that the nerves within each muscle spindle send to the brain.

Dynamic stretching, on the other hand, without a warm-up doesn't produce the same results. This was further backed by another study in 2012 that looked at sprinting (again) in the context on a warm-up that was then followed by static stretching and a warm-up that was followed by dynamic stretching and that study showed that there was no difference in the flexibility achieved and the sprinting performance that followed between the two types of stretching. That study is here.

So, now we know that a good warm-up is key to getting the best results from stretching and whether we go for dynamic stretching or static stretching comes down to preference. Our better understanding of the mind/body connection suggests that dynamic stretching, properly designed would be of greater benefit because it also delivers greater control. A more recent (2020) study on sprinting and complex movements required by handball players showed that indeed, dynamic stretching that was part of the warm-up delivered better results in terms of athletic performance than static stretching alone. That study is here.

This tells us something significant: movement-specific dynamic stretching is always better at increasing performance. My guess here is that this due to the fact that movement-specific dynamic stretching also helps recruit and stretch/strengthen all the satellite muscle groups that are employed in a particular movement, whereas static stretching alone tackles the flexibility and strength of a particular muscle group (much like single joint resistance training only makes a muscle group capable of delivering strength in a relatively simple movement).

To now answer your more specific question of how dynamic, dynamic stretching needs to be before it becomes dangerous, well the difference is in the sense of control you feel you have. If you're bouncing and stretching and are listening to your body and have total control of the movement it is fine. If you're relying on momentum and gravity to do all the stretching work for you then there are some significant injury risks involved because you're not in control of the movement. I hope this helps.
 

Damer

Administrator
DAREBEE Team
Warrior Monk from Terra
Pronouns: He/Him
Posts: 589
@Anek excellent question. It is always better to warm-up before stretching and stretching post-exercise is statistically safer as it leads to fewer injuries. The reason injury can occur after stretching is that we now know that stretching strengthens muscle fibers but the strengthening process (just like resistance training) de-strengthens them so, after stretching, if the subsequent exercise load is acute the possibility that the muscle will fail and result in injury, increases. However, as I've posted above dynamic stretching that is part of the warm-up can significantly increase range of motion during the performance of the exercise afterwards without increasing the risk of injury. Dynamic stretching always has a well-controlled movement and clearly defined range of motion (ROM) so there is little chance of fatiguing the muscle and/or over-stretching.

'Cold' muscles are best stretched statically but the training session afterwards should be controlled so no injury occurs. I hope this helped clarify your thinking.
 

Damer

Administrator
DAREBEE Team
Warrior Monk from Terra
Pronouns: He/Him
Posts: 589
@guibo94 excellent question! The best 'rule of thumb' is to treat stretching like strengthening. So an extreme stretching session requires the same length of time and same training protocols for safety as an extreme strength-training session. Stretching is such high risk activity for injury because the usual metabolite-induced sensations we usually associate with fatigue are not evident to us, so we feel that we can launch into a hard training session after a hard stretching session when really this is not the case. You should be prepared to work less intensively on your stretching if you have already worked on your strength until muscles recover, though, dynamic stretching is always appropriate because it so controlled. I hope this helps.
 

Fremen

Well-known member
Shaman from Italy
Posts: 3,247
"“Keep an eye on the staircases. They like to change.” Percy Weasley, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone."
With regard to static stretching, is there a minimum training time to receive benefit and a maximum after which further benefits practically cease? I'm thinking in particular about the static stretching you do at the end of your workout :)

Another question: is a session of static stretching only useful or is it better to do it at the end of a normal workout?
 

Damer

Administrator
DAREBEE Team
Warrior Monk from Terra
Pronouns: He/Him
Posts: 589
@Fremen two very thoughtful and on-point questions. Like with everything else that has to do with fitness the answer to your first question is "it depends". In this case it depends on your fitness goals and why you're actually stretching. If we assume that you're looking for improved range of motion (ROM) which is why most people incorporate stretching in their fitness routines and decreased stiffness in some muscles, then 30 seconds - 60 seconds at a time is perfect and it is the demonstrably safe range of time to stretch for. Having said that I can supply anecdotal examples from my own training and that of friends who did ballet where on their free time they would hold a static stretch for up to 90 minutes or two hours in front of a TV. This, because the requirements of what I did (Tae Kwon Do competitions) and they did (ballet dancing) were extreme enough in their demands to warrant this type of training. A study released in 2022 (which you can find here) looked at the effects of extreme static stretching like the examples I've described on animal subjects and then studied differences in their musculature.

What it found was that such extreme static stretching increases flexibility, muscle strength and muscle size (yes, it actually aids hypertrophy!). So, I would say that extreme static stretching or, really, anything beyond the 60 second limit, delivers better results but you have to be aware of your body, work to specific athletic needs and keep a close eye on your tolerance. One last thing I will add that the studies do not mention is that static stretching like this hurts. A lot. It takes focus to put up with the pain and then, as you ease out of the position, it hurts again as the muscle spindles recover and the nerves inside them send fresh signals to the brain. So, unless there is a specific reason to stretch like that, I would always advise to make training fun and enjoyable and this includes stretching.

This kinda answers your second question too. A session of static stretching is definitely useful and I'd recommend it from time to time as long as you're not engaging in extreme static stretching without a reason and you also allow enough recovery time afterwards before you train again. But, if you incorporate a little static stretching at the end of every training session, consistency trumps intensity every, single time. I hope this helps. :)
 

Montserrat

Well-known member
Rogue from The Netherlands
Posts: 854
I am often (prettty much daily) experiencing a lot of tightness in my hamstrings, and to a slightly lesser extent in my calves. This doesn't seem to have much to do with whether I've exercised a lot or not. I do think it mostly occurs when I am tired, especially later in the evenings.

I've already done quite a bit to try and alleviate this tightness, because it really does bother me sometimes. I've tried training the muscles, stretching, foamrolling, massage... Although all of these things feel good, temporarily, they have not fixed the problem. The tightness keeps coming back.

Do you have any idea what could be the cause of this? Maybe my posture could have something to do with it, or maybe it is just the way my body is built? I would love to work on this issue, but I have been experiencing it for such a long time that I am not sure something can be done?
 
Last edited:

Fremen

Well-known member
Shaman from Italy
Posts: 3,247
"“Keep an eye on the staircases. They like to change.” Percy Weasley, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone."
Thanks for the thorough replies @Damer :please:
Now I definitely have clearer ideas, it's worth doing some stretching at the end of training, especially in my case to decrease the stiffness due to training and maintain the good ROM I have, and also to do a few more long sessions of stretching when I have time and I don't do other specific workouts.
 

Damer

Administrator
DAREBEE Team
Warrior Monk from Terra
Pronouns: He/Him
Posts: 589
@Montserrat this is a relatively broad problem with a number of potential causes and also more than one possible solution. To understand this issue better let's begin by establishing that, in the first instance, the hamstrings that control and balance the quads are cross-bridged with the calves, so tight calves, for instance, will pull on the hamstrings. In addition, hamstring tightness is often associated with tightness in the pelvic girdle. A relatively sedentary, sitting lifestyle is a common source of this issue. But there are also instances of persistent hamstring syndrome (as it is medically known as) which can be directly attributed to a degradation of the spinal column (there is a study on this here).

From your description, since there is temporary relief I'd rule out the more serious cause (degradation of the spinal column) and look towards lifestyle issues (gait and sitting down a lot). Fixing it is a process, as always. It's not enough to stretch calves and hamstrings you need to apply a systemic approach to stretching that tackles spinal flexibility, calves, hamstrings and glutes. So, really, you should be aiming at doing stretching workouts at least twice a week with a view to gain better overall range of motion across the entire body.

I really hope this helps.
 

Montserrat

Well-known member
Rogue from The Netherlands
Posts: 854
Thank you, @Damer. It makes sense. I probably am sitting down way more than is good for me, so that could very well be causing this issue.

I will definitely start making those stretching workouts one of my priorities. Is it ok to stretch the same muscles every day, or would you recommend rest days inbetween?

I'm still wondering: what could it mean that my hamstrings feel tighter in the (late) evenings? Do they get tighter after a few hours of (near) inactivity?
 
Last edited:

Damer

Administrator
DAREBEE Team
Warrior Monk from Terra
Pronouns: He/Him
Posts: 589
@Montserrat stretching is mechanical tension applied to muscles and tendons so you need to treat it as such. It is no different to lifting weights or doing bodyweight exercises. You need to have active rest built-in in order to allow recovery and see results. So varying your stretching routine and its intensity is key. I hope this helps but if anything else comes up in terms of needing more information please let me know.
 

guibo94

Well-known member
Gladiator from New Asgard
Posts: 75
"Silent but deadly."
Hi @Damer I have a strength question for you. Is there a rule of thumb regarding balancing strength exercises for opposing muscle groups? Or maybe better way to ask this, what are the risks to focusing on one muscle group and not actively training the "opposite" muscle group? Here is an example, let's say that I do a pushup challenge and I do 100 pushups a day for an entire year without doing any inverted rows or movements targeting my back muscles. How would that affect me?
 

Damer

Administrator
DAREBEE Team
Warrior Monk from Terra
Pronouns: He/Him
Posts: 589
@guibo94 this is a stretching question by stealth. :) Let's frame it in a way that makes sense in this thread: Broadly speaking muscle groups are divided into three categories. The first one is agonist muscle groups (the ones that initiate a particular concentric action), antagonist muscle groups (that counter the initiated concentric action with an eccentric one) and synergist muscle groups that play a key role in determining the joint angle and, even, the range of motion.

To give an example of these three in the simple bicep curl, consider how raising the weight requires us to activate the bicep muscles (concentric movement), how fast and how controlled that movement will be is determined, in part, by the activation of the tricep muscles (eccentric movement) but its the synergist, brachialis, at the elbow joint that actually determines how strong we really are, how much power we can generate and how good a control we have by aligning the agonist (biceps) and antagonist (triceps) at the joint to which they anchor.

Most stretching exercises help the antagonist muscles get stronger by applying mechanical tension to them (which is what stretching does) which then increases the safe range of motion (ROM). Increased range of motion gives us better control, more power and greater stability.

The loss of control, power and stability are the direct risks we encounter when, as you suggest, we focus on developing one muscle group and neglect its opposite number. For instance, on the simple bicep curl exercise, suppose we focused for entire year to build bigger, seemingly stronger biceps by doing curls every day, increasing the number of reps and the load as the year progressed, but we did zero work on the triceps. What would happen? Because the two muscle groups and the elbow joint are designed to act together a certain amount of adaptation would take place in both the triceps and branchialis at the elbow joint because they need to deal with much stronger biceps. But, as the biceps are being targeted for strength development in an imbalanced way they would adapt much faster and a lot more and this would lead to an imbalance of forces experienced during functional movement. Lifting a weight, throwing a stone or a punch could potentially then lead to injury of the muscles either because the bicep moved too fast (tricep muscles were unable to control the movement) or the triceps (being weaker) were stretched too fast or the elbow joint brought together two forces that were so imbalanced that they impacted upon it and tendonitis set in.

A 2012 study using anesthetized cuts studied this effect exactly by applying different levels of stimulation to the agonist and antagonist muscles and measuring the power output of the limb. They found that when there is a muscle imbalance (in this case simulated through non-equal levels of applied stimulation to muscles) the output (i.e. the reaction of the muscles) was lagging. So reaction time was slower presumably because the joint wouldn't move as quickly until it was fairly balanced in applied force, coordination was off and effective power output characterized by "precise regulation of both amplitude and velocity of the movements in direction of the agonist shortening" was compromised.

A 2019 study of Parkinson's sufferers looked at the mechanism behind the general lack of coordination and balance they experience in walking and it was attributed to an imbalance in activation of the antagonist muscles vs the agonist ones. There are two more studies that have been carried out which fill-in the details of what we need to know. A 2022 study that featured trained football players (soccer) showed that the likelihood of injury of the knee (an occupational hazard for this profession) increases significantly when the hamstrings (antagonist muscle group) are disproportinately weaker than the quads (agonist). This feeds into what we already knew from a 2010 study on upper body strength and power of already trained athletes that showed that maximum power output peaks at the point where shoulders, pecs, biceps and triceps are trained together so that the strength of each individual muscle group is balanced.

Finally this is backed by a 2005 study that showed that when it comes to athletic performance the best results are achieved when strength training focuses on alternating training sets between agonist and antagonist muscle groups.

You asked 'simply':

Is there a rule of thumb regarding balancing strength exercises for opposing muscle groups?

If you train both agonist and antagonist muscle groups as equally as you can then you're on a good path.

The risks of not doing so are:

  • Loss of power (despite having muscle strength)
  • Loss of coordination
  • Possible loss of balance in complex activities
I hope this has helped you and thank you for asking it here. It allowed us to link stretching, which is usually associated with flexibility, to strength and power.
 

guibo94

Well-known member
Gladiator from New Asgard
Posts: 75
"Silent but deadly."
Hi @Damer I'm back with an actual stretching question (no stealth this time, lol).

I have heard/seen/read on the internet several studies being cited as saying that 30 seconds is the optimal time to hold a static stretch (per 'rep') and that 9 minutes per week (per muscle group) spread out overall several days (not one single session) is the optimal target for volume/frequency to get good results from a static stretching routine. Does this match what you have read in the research? This is more of a rule of thumb question since I won't be holding the splits for hours like you anytime soon, haha!

Second question, what does the research say about splitting up stretching reps throughout the day (like daily totals) compared to getting all reps in a single session? Ex: is there a difference between doing 3x30s reps at noon compared to 1x30s in AM, 1x30s at noon, and 1x30s in PM of the same stretching exercise?

Thanks again for doing this, I love these threads :u:
 

Damer

Administrator
DAREBEE Team
Warrior Monk from Terra
Pronouns: He/Him
Posts: 589
@guibo94 you're a treasure! :) This is an awesome question (two actually) so let's see if I can use them to really increase our knowledge and understanding of stretching.

Let's start with a statement from physics: Werner Heisenberg (the same man who gave us The Uncertainty Principle) stated that: "“What we observe is not nature in itself but nature exposed to our method of questioning,” This is also true of exercise research. So it is key to ask, each time we come across a widely referenced piece of advice, where did it come from and what does it address?

Most of the research on static stretching addresses static stretching exercises and concerns as part of a warm-up prior to more intense physical activity. A 2010 study, for instance, found that static stretching prior to exercise in active middle-aged adults while a more recent (2021) review of the research on the effects of static stretching on running performance on younger subjects (average age 25 years old) found that their running performance was impaired after static stretching. In terms of intensity (due to age) and performance my guess is these two studies are comparing apples and oranges.

So let's start with the absolute basic questions: what is static stretching intended to do as an exercise and why you (as in a generic 'you') want to incorporate it in your fitness routine?

The answer to the first question is that static stretching applies mechanical tension on the muscles (much like lifting weights does) helps reset the sensitivity of nociceptors and joint receptors within the muscle spindles which increases the trigger threshold for agonist/antagonist muscle stiffness and delivers increased range of motion and flexibility. Because muscles experience mechanical tension they undergo a period of de-strengthening (much as they do with weights) which then leads to strengthening (incidentally the study cited on strengthening used static stretching times well above the recommended 30 seconds) and even hypertrophy. That should alert us to the dangers of prolonged static stretching exercises prior to sports or other, more actively strenuous exercises. De-strengthened muscles are more likely to experience excessive loads and suffer structural failure, which is a fancy way of saying that we can get injured more easily. The answer to the second question is that by safely incorporating it in our fitness routine we can get faster, more explosive and enjoy greater freedom of movement and control over our body.

All this leads us to the answer to your first question: most safety protocols on static stretching stay within the 30 second rule which delivers increased range of motion during exercise but is less likely to lead to injury. If all you're stretching for is the ability to move more freely and have a sense that your muscles are not so tight as to restrict movement (the so called 'muscle-bound' effect) then that is a good rule of thumb to follow. If you're keeping to this time, more or less, a 2016 study showed that no matter how you do your static stretching, in one session, split over days, split over the day, it provides you with range of motion (ROM) benefits and increased/improved flexibility. That study was carried out using trained subjects performing a variety of tasks so really it feeds into our understanding of what exercise does in general: it sends a signal to the brain to prepare the body to adapt for its environment. Repetitive training sends the signal that adaptation to environmental conditions is required and we get better at whatever we do consistently and persistently: running, lifting, throwing, jumping, being flexible. This answers your second question then.

A 2019 study that also reviewed current research literature further backed up the value of short-duration static stretching on overall athletic performance but also mentioned the value of longer stretch times/sessions.

To help guide your choice better consider static stretching or any stretching for that matter as no different to a session with weights. You wouldn't do quads, for instance, with weights and then go and sprint. That would just invite injury. So you would sensibly allow sufficient recovery time in-between. For any stretch time beyond the 40 second mark I would suggest you treat static stretching the same way.

I hope this has helped shed more light on this.
 

TopNotch

Well-known member
Ranger from Australia
Posts: 1,647
"Motivation is temporary. Discipline is forever."
Hello. Just a quick question: where does PNF stretching fit in with all of this? It's not wholly static yet it's not dynamic. Will incorporating PNF stretching into a stretching routine be of any benefit then in increasing flexibility and strength?
 

Damer

Administrator
DAREBEE Team
Warrior Monk from Terra
Pronouns: He/Him
Posts: 589
@TopNotch "quick question"? :LOL: You haven't lost your form! We have a guide to stretching which may be useful to go through. However, this is a great opportunity to look at the differences and understand them better. PNF stretching (also known, less commonly, as Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation stretching) involves taking a muscle to its limit in the range of motion (ROM) holding it there and then taking it beyond it or, taking a muscle to its limit in the range of motion, applying active pressure (i.e. tension) against the stretch and then relaxing the muscle so that it stretches beyond its limits.

So really this has nothing to do with passive stretching (which simply applies a stretch position for between 20 - 90 seconds) or dynamic stretching which takes a muscle through its range of motion at a reduced intensity (think sprinters measuring out strides in a relaxed fashion before a sprint race or martial artists doing kicks in a relaxed fashion before training or a competition and you get the idea).

When it comes to increasing the range of motion of muscle PNF stretching is by far the most effective method one can use. There is a study on that here. But, it is also one of the hardest methods to stretch safely and, as the study I linked to mentions, it entails some considerable amount of pain which is, probably, one of the mechanisms that make it so effective.

To give you an idea of how it can be used (and how I've used it in the past) - you get to your maximum splits position, hold it for 30 seconds, then apply pressure with your hips and feet so that the adductors now tense up and resist the stretch, almost like you're trying to rise up off the floor. Apply that pressure from between 10 - 30 seconds, then relax into the position going deeper and stretching further for another 30 seconds. Then repeat. Because the pain is constant and the effort is considerable unless you're really good at listening to your body and understanding the difference in the pain signal between "it hurts because I am pushing to the limit and it hurts because I am damaging myself" it becomes really easy to just damage yourself.

The reason I and my teammates used it, is because PNF also delivers increases in power, speed and strength which in a martial arts competitive environment are all positives and worth the risk. Tellingly I haven't done anything like this since I stopped competing.

I hope this has clarified it but please come back with follow-up questions if not and thank you for bringing it up here.
 

guibo94

Well-known member
Gladiator from New Asgard
Posts: 75
"Silent but deadly."
Thanks @Damer ! As always, great information.

Now that I have been at it for several months now, I am finally starting to get it. I am still struggling with trying to do too much, but I think I have finally found a happy balance. I can't remember what post it was, but you mentioned that stretching has a different or delayed response (regarding soreness) and I finally know what that is like. It is so different from strength workouts where I feel drained and spent during the workout, but stretching doesn't hit me until several hours later or the next day. Learning is fun and painful sometimes, haha!

Thanks again.
 

Damer

Administrator
DAREBEE Team
Warrior Monk from Terra
Pronouns: He/Him
Posts: 589
@TopNotch PNF stretching should be done as a workout. Because of its de-strengthening effect on the muscles it should not really be done before a workout and after a workout its effects will also be reduced. As a workout in its own right it produces the best results.
 

guibo94

Well-known member
Gladiator from New Asgard
Posts: 75
"Silent but deadly."
Hi @Damer I wanted to add another PNF question, how does one do solo PNF stretching? I looked up a few videos on YT and there are a lot of assisted exercises/demos, but not many solo examples. Based on the Bowman workout, I feel like I could adapt a lot of my static stretches to PNF and even some yoga exercises, but I am afraid to hurt myself over-doing it. I know this is probably a loaded question, but I am just looking for general guidelines or online resources. Thanks again!
 

Damer

Administrator
DAREBEE Team
Warrior Monk from Terra
Pronouns: He/Him
Posts: 589
@guibo94 most PNF stretching is done with a partner. Having said that there are ways and one of them I detailed in my answer to @TopNotch above. If you're working on your own the splits is one way to employ PNF. I also used to use a rope over a pull bar that would stretch my leg above my head for a hamstring stretch. I would then push against it and then relax and apply more stretch pressure. All of these techniques are specific to a goal. I needed the flexibility for competition fighting where every micro-second counts. You can achieve similar results with the leg whose hamstring you're stretching being held at an elevated position (like a table or stretch bar) and then pressing down with the leg extended so that the hamstring exerts tension and then extending the standing leg further back so that there is an increase in the stretch tension applied to the leg that is held in an elevated position (I hope my description of it makes sense to you). So, these are just some ways you could do it on your own. They all involve listening really closely to your body. I hope this helps.
 

J_o_h_n

Well-known member
from Dallas, TX
Posts: 134
All of these techniques are specific to a goal. I needed the flexibility for competition fighting where every micro-second counts.

@Damer you prompted another question.

I took Karate lessons when I was 10 or 11. At that age, I was reasonably flexible to start, but from what I remember the practices helped me become much more flexible. I remember working on kicking higher like your graphic at the top of this AMA. It has been many years since then...or since I have practiced a MA.

My question: conceptually are workouts like this really a long duration dynamic stretching session (especially the front and side kicks)? And, similarly in a martial arts environment some of the non-combat portions of the training (practicing kicks, punches, blocking solo) are also a kind of long duration dynamic stretch session?
1684495461335.png

I ask because I am thinking about taking up a martial art this fall or winter. At present my flexibility is not bad, but not great either. I have been working on it and I am seeing some gains, but it is a process. I guess I am wondering if I am overly concerned about my flexibility prior to starting a MA, or will the commitment to doing the MA take care of the flexibility issue over time? I suspect the instructors have seen and worked with countless people with all ranges of mobility and know how to train around and through these limitations.

John
 

Damer

Administrator
DAREBEE Team
Warrior Monk from Terra
Pronouns: He/Him
Posts: 589
@J_o_h_n this is an excellent question with an answer that is both simple and complicated at the same time. The simple part of it is that I can answer your question directly by saying that yes, as you train in martial arts you will become more flexible because so much of traditional martial arts training uses a combination of static and dynamic stretching to increase the range of motion and help the body to move better. So, in martial arts training the focus should always be on getting the technique right and then everything else kinda flows from that.

Although that is the answer it doesn't give us a good idea of what is going on and one of the main reasons we do these AMA sessions is so we can each better understand the mechanics that govern specific fitness attributes so we can best tailor them to our needs. This is where the complexity comes in. As I mentioned in the thread above which you quoted I needed the extra flexibility in competitive Tae Kwon Do for speed and (when appropriate) power. We know that range of motion (ROM) plays a key part in developing power (a 2018 study on tennis player and their power serve provided critical data) and strength (as shown in this 2023 study on the effect of ROM on hypertrophy). The body is a dynamic complex system which means that when performing a complex movement (like a punch or a kick) a number of interlinked muscles change agonist/antagonist role and a number of satellite muscles and tendons are recruited to provide stability and enable the movement. Range of motion then adds speed because it reduces the agonist/antagonist tension thresholds and it adds power because it brings into play stability and precision by recruiting and strengthening satellite muscle groups and tendons.

A 2022 study on older population subjects showed that the loss of functional movement they experience with age with an attendant loss of flexibility and balance was ascribed not so much to the muscles (though they obviously weakened) but to changes in strength of the muscle/tendon coupling. We can basically translate this as having weak tendons.

This, in turn, shows us what happens when we train, consistently in a martial art. As we perform a series of static and dynamic stretches (and you correctly identified training in class to kick and punch as a form of dynamic stretching) the body undergoes a transformation which is underpinned by changes in the mind/body connection. So, first, the brain understands that the trigger point at which the motor neurons within the muscle spindles send a signal to the brain that a particular stretching of the muscle is happening too fast and is likely to go too far has to change (the brain basically changes its tolerance level for the signal it receives - I talk about this here, in this thread) secondly the muscles and tendons get stronger and this allows greater stability in complex movements which then helps safely increase their range of motion. To illustrate it, think that if you start off kicking correctly at knee height you will, in time, be able to apply the same kick to waist height and then chest height.

Now here's where I need to refine the answer I gave you initially. Will you be able to next kick head-height? Yes, but. Although you will be able to do it, in time, it will lack speed and it will lack power. That's because that extra height you need to reach now becomes goal-specific. Fast, powerful kicks executed to head height require greater flexibility, tendon strength and balance than you can develop through dynamic stretching and this is where activities like PNF stretching come in. A 2021 study on Tae Kwon Do shows exactly this and explains how specific goals in extreme range of motion require stretching that allows you to reach that range of motion by resetting the motor-neuron signal in muscle spindles well beyond the range that dynamic stretching helps you develop.

To be fair this plays a key role in competition sparring where speed and power at extreme range of motion levels is required. Within a normal training martial arts environment it is not.

I hope this has helped you but please get back to me if you feel I could clarify something more.
 

guibo94

Well-known member
Gladiator from New Asgard
Posts: 75
"Silent but deadly."
Thank you for answering my dumb PNF question, it seems silly in hindsight.

I do have one last stupid question and I think I know the answer, but here it goes anyway. Does passive stretching count the same as other stretching? Example: if I did 30 minutes of intense passive stretching would I need to rest and recover the same as if I did an equivalent static or PNF session? My intuition says yes because the muscles are still doing the same thing just in a different way, except for the contractions.
 

Damer

Administrator
DAREBEE Team
Warrior Monk from Terra
Pronouns: He/Him
Posts: 589
@guibo94 there are no dumb questions here :LOL: each one further builds our understanding and knowledge and even seemingly simple questions have a pretty complex answer sometimes. Now, on this one, your intuition is correct which also means your own knowledge is growing. By definition stretching is the application of mechanical tension on the muscles which means that basically they become de-strengthened much like in weight training and they will need time to recover. Not all forms of stretching are the same however and the difference primarily lies in intensity. In terms of experienced intensity going from lowest to highest it has to be: dynamic stretching, passive stretching, PNF stretching. So you could do dynamic stretching and workout as usual on top of that, you might work out and do some passive stretching at the end but you always want the PNF stretching you do to be in a session all of its own. I hope this answers your question.
 

Damer

Administrator
DAREBEE Team
Warrior Monk from Terra
Pronouns: He/Him
Posts: 589
Without your questions here it would have been impossible to cover so much diverse ground, add so many studies and tackle the issue of stretching and flexibility from so many different ways without making it sound jumbled or overly academic or just a mess really. :) So, thank you for thinking about it and participating. I will now close this thread and, as with all the other threads, shall move it over to our Knowledge Base. I encourage you to visit it from time to time and just spend a 5-10 minutes going through threads and replies, it will help refresh your knowledge and also it will help you come up with fresh questions as things we covered in the past make more sense now that you know more, are fitter and have broader horizons. Have an awesome week fellow Bees and:

1684747558000.png
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top