stretch or not to stretch … that is the question…
Unfortunately we are not too sure about the answer
at this point it seems. To date
research on the benefits of stretching contains limitations, and evidence
to say the least is conflicting. In fact the results of the majority of
research speaks for the inadequacies of the studies rather than the
conclusiveness of the findings.
what do we know about stretching?
stretching improve flexibility?
Of course. Stretching can improve flexibility and will also prevent the
continued loss of flexibility. A long term flexibility programme will
obviously result in more compelling changes in flexibility and it is
recommended that if you are concerned about achieving increases in your
range of motion you undertake an ongoing stretching programme as part of
It has also been documented in research that stretching just prior to an
event may make short term improvements in flexibility. But does this help
So can stretching improve performance?
There have been studies detailing improvements in performance due to
ongoing static stretching programmes. One study has proven that a 10 week
static stretching programme resulted in improved performance in speed,
strength, power and muscle endurance tests. Another study documented an
increase in vertical jump performance due to pre activity stretching that
increased the temperature of the vastus lateralis muscle. However, this
study did not on the other hand test other warm up methods and the effect
on performance which renders the findings as inconclusive.
Before embarking in serious exercise there is benefit achieved by taking
the joints through at least the range of movement requirement by the
activity. This will ‘wake up’ the neural system, apparently.
undertaking ballistic activity we do not wish to relax the body. We want
to activate the muscles. This is why nowadays gentle dynamic stretching
is generally recommended rather than a static stretch pre workout. In
fact static stretching is not recommended at all when muscles
are cold. This dynamic stretching may include relaxed swings of the
limbs, gradually increasing the amplitude of the movements. We are in fact
increasing muscle tone and increasing the available range of movement by
then does stretching reduce the chance of getting an injury?
A study by Shrier and Gossal claims that stretching prior to a workout does
not prevent overuse or acute injuries. They do claim however that
continuous stretching over a period of time may promote muscle growth
which could in turn reduce the risk or injury.
Translation - We are not too sure on this one either.
How long should I stretch for?
It is generally accepted that a stretch should be held for 15-30 seconds.
There is little evidence to suggest that holding a stretch for longer
period will aid enhanced flexibility although some research suggests that
post training a longer stretch may assist in alleviating muscle tension in
What about after exercise then.
It is still widely accepted that stretching post workout is beneficial in
terms of relaxing the muscle tonus, and assisting in recovery and repair.
Spending 15 minutes at the end of the workout
stretching all the muscles that you have used can loosen tightened muscles
and connective tissues. It has the added benefit of calming the neural
system and decreasing muscle tone, which is the mechanism of relaxation.
limited evidence to suggest that stretching may wake the body, it can calm it, and it can ease one's aches
and pains. It is a matter of deciding the purpose of the stretching and
choosing the type of stretching that is most appropriate whether static,
dynamic, PNF or a related style of stretching. It may or may not
assist in sporting performance or reducing injury, but one thing is for
sure if you wish to enjoy your later years of life and remain supple
maintaining your flexibility will go a long way towards
How many reps should
You are standing with the squat bar on your shoulders loaded up to the
hilt... training is about to hit full steam ahead? But how
many reps should I do? I want to get stronger but certainly don't
want to put on too much bulk?
Have a look at the table below for a guide on the number of repetitions
that should be completed to achieve a range of fitness goals.
However, remember the number of repetitions does not solely determine your
response to training. Rest, intensity, genetics and other factors
also will play a part in determining your exercise response.
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|Muscle Size / Hypertrophy
Note: 1RM = 1 repetition
maximum. The amount of weight that you can lift once only on an