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Do you dutifully bend and touch your toes for 60 seconds before you
start a workout?
For many, stretching and exercise go together like peanut butterand jelly – after
all, we’ve been told for decades that stretching is key forwarming up your muscles
and helping to prevent injuries.
It turns out, though, like so many other unchallenged “truths,” that
stretching is not always all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, new research
suggests that certain types of stretching before you exercise may actually be
Reasons to Give Up Your Pre-Workout Static Stretch
According to a recent study published in The Journal of Strength and
Conditioning Research, engaging in passive static stretching prior to
lifting weights could make you feel weaker and less stable during your
The researchers concluded that such stretching should be avoided prior to
strength training, noting that the passive stretches may have impaired
strength because of joint instability.
A second study, a meta-analysis of over 100 studies, likewise revealed
that pre-exercise static stretching generally hurts rather than helps your
“ … the usage of SS [static stretching] as the sole activity during
warm-up routine should generally be avoided.”
Static stretching, they revealed:
Reduces muscle strength by nearly 5.5% (and more when a stretch is
held for 90 seconds or more)
Cuts muscle power by 2%
Reduces explosive muscular performance by nearly 3%
American College of Sports Medicine Now Advises Against Static Stretching
Static stretching is when you hold your muscle in a fixed position for a
prolonged period, such as 60 seconds or more. This technique has been
regarded as the gold standard for decades, but now research shows that it
actually decreases the blood flow within your tissue creating localized
ischemia (a restriction in blood supply) and lactic acid buildup. This can
potentially cause irritation or injury of local muscular, tendinous,
lymphatic, and neural tissues.
In short, static stretching may damage your muscles and tendons, which
may be why studies show it worsens muscle performance, particularly when
the stretch is held for 60 seconds or more.
The evidence is so clear that the American College of Sports Medicine now
advises against this form of stretching prior to your workouts. But this
isn’t to say that all forms of stretching should be avoided.
Dynamic ‘Active’ Stretching Improves Performance
While static stretching is now going by the wayside, dynamic stretching,
an active type of stretching such as walking lunges, squats or arm circles,
is coming in to take its place. Dynamic stretching has been shown to
positively influence power, speed, agility, endurance, flexibility, and
strength performance when used as a warm-up.
My favorite type of dynamic stretching is active isolated stretches
developed by Aaron Mattes. With Active Isolated Stretching or AIS, you
holdeach stretch for only two seconds, which works with your body's
naturalphysiological makeup to improve circulation and increase the
elasticity ofmuscle joints. This technique also allows your body to help
repair itself andprepare for daily activity.
AIS is a protocol of specialized repetitive stretches, performed in a
specific order targeting myofascial (muscle and connective tissue) injury
andrestriction. AIS allows for the elongation of muscle and fascial tissue
without eliciting your body's protective mechanisms that would inhibit safe,
effective stretching and overall flexibility.
I now do a daily stretching routine that stretches my neck, shoulders,
legs and toes for about 45 minutes every day. I typically multitask and do
the upper body stretches while I am listening to video or audio programs on
the Web. I do the neck stretches while I am working on my computer, and the
leg and toe stretches while I am in bed -- so it's very possible to work this
routine into even the busiest schedules.
What Exactly is Active Isolated Stretching?
Active isolated stretching can be used for warming up for exercise,
training and most importantly to rehab from your injuries. This is key, as
nearly everyone I know gets injured while exercising at some point or
another. After injury or even after prolonged periods of inactivity your
muscles and joints lose flexibility, range of motion (ROM), strength and
I had a serious hamstring tear when I first started doing Peak Fitness
exercises; I was sprinting outside and injured my left hamstring. More
precisely it was the adductor magnus right where it inserted on the sit bone
or the ischial tuberosity. I played around with it for a few years but after
consistent AIS stretching I have finally been able to resolve it.
Tips for Performing Active Isolated Stretching
The process begins with the identification of the specific muscles and
tissues to be stretched. Sometimes this is obvious but typically it requires
the assistance of a trained therapist to help identify which muscles and
exercises are to be used in your treatment program. Next, you use very
gentlepressure and hold each stretch for only two seconds. You have to
be carefulnot to use too much pressure so as not to engage the Golgi tendon
andmyotatic stretch, which act as safety mechanisms that if engaged will
preventthe stretch from working. The keys to using AIS effectively include:
Move the joint as far as you can in the direction of the stretch.
This is the active part of the exercise, which activates the antagonistic
muscles that inhibit the stretch. Many fail to do this and only passively
stretch the muscle -- and that simply will not work. It is the most common
mistake people make when doing AIS.
Stretch the muscle gradually with a gentle stretch of less than one
pound of pressure toward the end point of ROM, and then hold it for two
Do not push through the stretch; instead do multiple stretches and
with each stretch you get more ROM.
Usually you do sets of 10 reps.
To actually engage the stretch you can use a therapist or you can do
regular home stretching exercises.
It is important to always return the area being stretched to the starting
position before continuing the next repetition, as this will allow the tissue
to receive blood that carries oxygen and nutrients through the movement of
your lymphatic fluid, and it will also allow waste products generated during
the stretch to be removed.
It is also important to monitor the stretch reflex carefully, as your
tissue is stretched to the point of light irritation.
Then after two seconds release the tension to prevent reverse contractions
of the tissues being stretched. You also want to make sure youare breathing
properly by exhaling during the stretch, as this will oxygenate
your tissue and fascia.
The Power Plate: Another Novel Form of Flexibility Training
If you’re looking for something unique to replace your static stretches,
one of the programs I use several times a week is the Power Plate, which I
have discussed before. The Power Plate works by vibrating in three
dimensions, or three planes:
Sagittal (front to back)
The Power Plate moves very quickly (25 to 50 times per second) across
very small distances (one to two millimeters), so you aren't knocked off
balance, but just enough so that your muscles must accommodate. When
youstand on the vibrating Power Plate, or perform simple exercises on it,
eachmuscle in your body reacts in a continuous flow of micro-adjustments,
contracting reflexively. Just like when your leg automatically jerks after
your physician taps it with his reflex hammer, your muscles react
automatically to the Power Plate's vibrations – 25 to 50 times per second.
Stimulating your muscles and nerves this way results in more work being
done by your body in a shorter period of time – with far greater recruitment
of your muscle fibers. When the Power Plate vibrates up and down, your
muscletone improves. Left to right and front to back movements improve
your balanceand coordination, so the net result is a dramatic improvement
in strength andpower, flexibility, balance, tone and leanness.
It is really a very powerful way to rapidly improve flexibility for your
legs, although it may not work as well for your neck and shoulders. The key
to remember is that the old-fashioned advice to perform static stretches
prior to exercise is now outdated. You’ll be far better off using a dynamic
stretching program, such as AIS, the Power Plate or another form of active
Thank You Dr. Mercola
God Bless Everyone & God Bless The United States of America.
42 S. Sherwood Dr.
Belton, Tx. 76513