How much good is your stretching actually doing?
This is probably one of the most common questions I get when it comes to exercising and working out. When do I stretch? Or why should I roll?
When I was in high school I played JV Volleyball. I wasn’t very good, actually my nick name was “Feet o’ Cement” if that tells you anything about my speed and agility! The first thing I remember is that the coach made us do all this stretching before we even warmed up. After all that stretching I never understood why I felt so exhausted and even slower than I was before. If my nick name was any indication, I couldn’t really afford to do anything that would slow me down even more!
So later in life, research finally gave an explanation for what was happening. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research proved that static stretching, which is when you hold a position for a duration of time, can actually decreases strength and power in the muscle. The study concentrated on the effects that static stretching had on runners but the information can be applied to other activities.
Part of the reason strength and power decrease after static stretching is that it relaxes the muscles and associated tendons. This relaxation reduces the stretch response. Because a muscle and its tendons store energy when being rapidly stretched (often called a countermovement), reducing this stretch response weakens the athlete. Essentially, running or exercising after static stretching requires more energy and decreases performance. This study demonstrated that static stretching does, in fact, reduce endurance performance, at least at the beginning of a run. The effect is probably caused by a reduction in running economy, and while it seems to fade over the course of a long run, it’s significant at the beginning of a run. Enough so that static stretching should be avoided even in long distance runners.
So an alternative to static stretching is rolling, this can help bring blood to the area and help break up facial restrictions without reducing the stretch response. This can be done both pre and post workout. Rolling is also a very good tool to help break up spasms allowing the muscle to function normally again.
So what this proved was that even though my coach thought he was helping us warm up and prevent injury, he was actually doing the complete opposite. So I think that’s why I was so slow on the court….at least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! 😉
Holden Zalma, LMT, Alternative Health Practitioner