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Benefits of Flexibility


New Zealand

Does working on flexibility benefit your overall health? Do flexible muscles grow faster than tight muscles?

In yoga good flexibility is necessary to do some of the more advanced poses, but I've noticed improvements in my posture, and feel looser and thus more relaxed as a result of stretching.

Tom Platz advocates stretching as part of a routine.

Ken Hutchins mentions that slow negatives stretch the muscles.

I have not seen Dr Darden recommend stretching as part of a routine in any of his books.

To stretch or not to stretch, that is the question, and if so, why?
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Ellington Darden

serf and others,

I just saw this research on stretching: www.biomech.com. It's meaningful.

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Ellington Darden

Did any of you read the "Stretching . . . Out" article? How about some opinions?

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Florida, USA

Here's my take on the stretching conundrum.

Last year we completed a study that examined static stretching immediately prior to performing resistance exercise at 50% 1RM. It was presented at the ACSM National Conference in Indianapolis. Here's the abstract:

Yarrow, JF and Burns, TW. Static Stretching Inhibits Maximal Muscle Endurance. MSSE Volume 36:5 Supplement.

Static stretching acutely inhibits maximal force and power production in skeletal muscle. The acute effect of static stretching on muscle endurance has not been established. PURPOSE: To determine the acute effects of static stretching on the performance of a test of muscular endurance. METHODS: Fifteen, resistance-trained, college-aged (18-27 years) males (n=11) and females (n=4) participated in this study. Participants were randomized into a stretch and no stretch condition, in a counterbalanced crossover study design. Pre-test measures of maximal strength (1RM) and muscle endurance (50% 1RM) were assessed on three exercises (leg extension, supine leg curl, and chest press). Repetition speed was controlled during muscle endurance testing to establish a reliable measure. The stretch condition experimental measures were collected following a total of 2 minutes of stretching for each involved muscle group. The no stretch condition experimental measures were collected following a 2-minute rest prior to each exercise. Total repetitions completed and total mass lifted for each exercise were compared using one-way repeated measures ANOVAs. RESULTS: A significant decrease in number of repetitions completed was observed in the stretch condition compared with the no stretch conditions for the chest press exercise (15.87 +- 4.97 vs. 17.53 +- 4.19, p<0.01) and the leg curl exercise (13.50 +- 3.37 vs. 15.57 +- 4.40, p<0.05). A significant decrease was also observed in total mass lifted for the stretch condition when compared to the no stretch condition for the chest press (651.82 +- 247.22 kg vs. 746.97 +- 314.12 kg, p<0.01) and the leg curl exercise (517.53 +- 163.60 kg vs. 605.19 +- 205.22 kg, p<0.01). No significant difference was observed in either measure for the leg extension exercise. CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that performing static stretching immediately prior to resistance exercise hinders the endurance performance of certain muscle groups.

Our data in conjunction with data demonstrating that stretching prior to exercise does not reduce injury rates(see Dr. Darden's link), seems to suggest that stretching before strength training may not be necessary to reduce injury rates and may reduce the amount of weight or repetitions that can be completed during a workout.
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Florida, USA

I need to clarify one point. I AM NOT suggesting that people should stop stretching altogether. I am suggesting, it may be more appropriate to stretch after a strength training workout is complete as opposed to prior to it. There is no downfall to stretching after a workout. Whereas stretching before a strength training workout may reduce the force, power, and endurance outputs of muscle, resulting in fewer repetitions being completed.
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Dr. Darden,

Yes, I read the article....twice. There is a lot of information there. Seems like another example of people following certain exercise routines without truly questioning the wisdom behind what they are doing, but more on the basis of what "experts" have recommended.

Personally, I have have had tight hamstrings since childhood, even then I was barely able to touch my midcalves bending forward. Yet, I played baseball thru college, and have done long distance running and cycling for the past 35 years without any significant activity related muscle/tendon injuries. I tried stretching, but frankly hated it because it was painful and difficult. Rather, I just made sure to start any exercise slowly and with low intensity until I was warmed up. I do the same with weight training, doing a warm up set at 50-60% of the weight that I'm going to use for my HIT set.

However, I recognize that my selection of sports has not, perhaps, necessarily required joint flexibility much beyond the norm, and if I had tried dancing or gymnastics, for example, I would have had to work more on flexibility. Or perhaps I wouldn't have been able to do them at all because of some genetic predisposition to inflexibility.
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Dustin Jordan

Florida, USA

I also wondered why Dr. Darden never recommended streching, and found this topic very interesting. The information contained in the article referred to above was enlightening. If you perform an activity that requires static flexablity ( dancing, gymnastics, etc.), then streaching will help. Other than that, there is little or no cross over value to other activities. This is very similar to Dr. Darden's views on HIT affecting functional/ sport-specific strength ( discussed in his interview on T-Nation), and it seems logical to me.

I would also like to thank Gatordoc for the info he posted. It was more specific to weight training, and complimented the article on Biomech.
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Ellington Darden

In the third edition (1984) of my "The Nautilus Book," I noted that excessive flexibility can cause injury. Furthermore, I said that "tight" athletes have significantly fewer injuries than do "flexible" athletes.

The concept that I've pushed for more than 25 years is that the importance of flexibility is overrated.

What is not overrated is the fact that, to improve performance and reduce injury, you should surround and support your joints by building bigger, stronger muscles.

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Wisconsin, USA

I remember reading that the old time strength athletes never stretched because they believed it lowered their poundages. They preferred to lift with tight muscles. It is interesting to see that things are coming around to an old way of thinking again.
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New Zealand

Fascinating article. Thank you for the link.

One quip: The Bornstein chap said that stretching lengthens muscles -- finally the Holy Grail for longer muscles!!! We'll all be Sergios afer all!!! (joke)

I have been doing Power Yoga for a long time, and started asking myself whether trying to get flexible is healthy. I had heard excessive stretching may stretch and thus damage the ligaments, so have always been cautious about it.

The article and the discussion in this thread have changed my view on stretching.

The highlights of the article for me were: a flexible person doesn't have more flexible muscles but just feels more comfortable in that position, and the conflicting view later in the article that stretching the chest and hamstrings may help the joints move in the best way possible, and thus may improve overall posture. I noticed better posture from doing yoga, and a marked improvement in overall well-being as a result, and will therefore continue stretching but no longer in order to get more flexible.

This leads me to wonder about the obvious benefits of good posture (feeling better!) I know a Dr. Michael Colgan released a book about the importance of good posture. Anybody?

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