More so than any other aspect of fitness, flexibility is generally misunderstood or pursued improperly. Stretching is the most likely area of fitness that will be left out of a program or given inadequate time, even though most people know they should stretch. I should know, for about the first 20 years of my weight training I rarely stretched. Sure I was always careful to warm-up properly, but stretching was never important to me, until I got hurt, back in 1999! So I’ve learned the hard way that you have to stay flexible, if you want to avoid future problems and stay injury free.
Although people often blame running or some other activity for their back problems or other injuries, the real culprit may be the stretches they do before the activity. You need to warm up first. Stretching is not a warm up! Stretching is performed most effectively and safely when the joints have been limbered and the muscles are warm. The newest research indicates that stretching before your workout may actually hamper your training. Ideally the best time to stretch is after your workout when your muscles are warm and pliable.
Also after strength training when you have shortened the muscle it’s the best time to stretch to restore the lengthening of your muscles. I’ve done it both ways and I have to agree with the research, it is definitely best to stretch after the workout.
Over the past two decades, many experts have advocated prolonged stretching up to 60 seconds. For years, this prolonged static stretching was the gold standard for individuals and athletes. I myself did this type of stretching as I am sure most of you reading this have also done. However, a prolonged static stretch of greater than five seconds actually decreases the blood flow within the tissue creating localized ischemia (inadequate blood flow) and lactic acid build. Ischemia from a static stretch of greater than 5 seconds can cause an increase of irritation or injury of local muscular, tendonous, lymphatic, as well as neural tissues, similar to the effects and consequences of trauma, overuse syndromes and metabolic disease states. ( In plain English holding a stretch for more than 5 seconds is a no-no.)
I advocate and use the Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) Method, developed by world-renowned Kinesioligist Aaron L. Mattes. The Mattes Method, is an effective therapeutic treatment for deep and superficial fascia release, restoring proper fascia planes for optimal physiologic functioning. Performing an Active Isolated Stretch of no greater than 2.0 seconds allows the target muscle to optimally lengthen without triggering the protective stretch reflex and subsequent reciprocal antagonistic (opposite) muscle contraction. As the isolated muscle achieves a state of relaxation, maximal beneficial stretch can be accomplished without opposing tension or resulting trauma.
The benefits of stretching are numerous here are just a few:
- Increase and maintain complete range of motion of the joint. (flexibility!)
- Relieve muscle soreness
- Help improve our capacity for activity
- Assists in decreasing unnecessary neuromuscular tension, promoting general body relaxation, and reducing emotional stress.
- Relieve muscle-joint stiffness associated with the aging process.
I have been using the Active Isolated Stretching: Mattes Method and have been getting spectacular results. I have a 73-year-old great-grandmother, survivor of five bouts of cancer that has quadrupled her strength in four weeks! The first two weeks I was using conventional static hold stretching and she was making good progress but then I switched her over to the Mattes Method after I attended one of Aaron’s intense seminars. Three days, 24 hours, over 80% of hands on training, it was an intense learning experience. Every single person that I have used this on has achieved greater flexibility and strength in their training. WOW!
These stretching techniques are part of a complete fitness program that I design for each individual. If you are interested in receiving personalized fitness training email me using the form below..
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