What’s A Stretch Got to Do With It..Got to Do With It?

Written by Jenn Bendfelt, ACSM - CPT on Monday, 17 March 2014. Posted in Running

What’s A Stretch Got to Do With It..Got to Do With It?

What’s A Stretch Got to Do With It..Got to Do With It?

Recently I read an article about stretching from the professional sports realm.  Although it’s from a year or so ago, it has some striking points: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324734904578243930799732200.html#articleTabs%3Darticle

It basically talks about how the 49ers have found so much success on the field and have equated it to the stretching regime that they are required to do.  

Reading through the article, and knowing a decent amount about our wonderful machine, the human body, I say to myself, "Well duh!"  The team officials refuse to discuss the stretching regime, but according to Stats LLC, the 49ers have only missed 159 games due to injury.  That means that at least one player on the team has missed a game due to injury.  This number sounded relatively high to me, but then I continued reading and saw that the Baltimore Ravens have had 94% more games missed and the New England Patriots had missed 440 games, 176% more games.  Holy cats!

One of the 49ers players, Donte Whitner, states that most players simply lift weights and go through drills that rarely mimic what happens on the football field.   The article makes mention of the squat.  "One example is a deep squat, wherein a player bearing as many 45-pound plates as possible squats low enough to lightly touch the seat of a chair, then rises and repeats the exercise as many times as possible.  While building muscle, that exercise also increases flexibility and range of motion throughout a player's core, increasing agility and speed".  So stretching in that form increases agility and speed, huh?  

Stretching has gotten a lot of flack over the years.  Studies go back and forth, and even big name fitness organizations, like the ACSM, have stated that static stretching has actually shown to decrease performance for certain sports and exercises.  So does it really benefit you?  There are a lot of conflicting studies out there, and I personally feel that having good flexibility all around can help you in ordinary life and in athletic situations.  I think it goes hand in hand with properly warming up your muscles and getting blood pumping through the extremities.  You wouldn't stretch a cold rubber band would you?  

The studies I have read and researched state that static stretching (holding a single position for 30 seconds or longer) hinder performance for things like sprinting, jumping, and other explosive moves.  In my non-expert/scientific mind, I can see where this might make sense.  I feel as if holding stretches for that lengthy amount of time can hinder performance by the mere action of fatiguing the muscle.  Think about it like this, when you're holding a wall squat, it starts to get tougher the longer you sat in that single position because your muscles are fatiguing.  They've been working hard to hold that position and the chemical reactions within the muscle fibers are running out of resources to complete the chain reaction.  Same thing as holding a muscle stretch.

So what about active or dynamic stretching? Where does that fit in? The type of stretching mentioned in the quote from the article is a form of active, or dynamic stretching.  It requires you to move and build your own strength to move through the stretch.  They are good at producing heat, which makes muscles more pliable.  This type of stretching is more beneficial for daily living activities and sports.  Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) combines the idea of dynamic stretching and passive stretching by relaxing the muscle you are intending to stretch and contracting the opposing muscle.  It's considered low risk because you are not using your body weight, leverage, or gravity to achieve the stretch.  You are also controlling the stretch force with your own strength.  

Active Isolated Stretching is relatively a newer concept in comparison to static and has not had a lot of attention until now.  It's gaining recognition and a reputation of being effective in improving performance among athletes, as seen in the article mentioned above.  Many Olympic athletes have begun to add this type of stretching into their regimes as well.  While I'm no Olympic athlete, I do know it has done wonders for my life and for my sports performance.  Even just doing it once a week.  It's exciting to see the progression of the AIS and to see such an article written about the success of a professional sports team.

About the Author

Jenn Bendfelt, ACSM - CPT

Jenn Bendfelt, ACSM - CPT

Hey there health world! My name is Jenn, but you can call me "Jenn Ben". I'm a South Florida native with her heart from Wisconsin. I'm also a health and fitness nut, and like to be involved with as many sports activities, or really any physical activities I possibly can. I grew up participating in an unusual
sport at the time, called baton twirling. I twirled from age 4 to my senior year at FSU (>;--GO NOLES!! -->). I also played some t-ball, dabbled in gymnastics, volleyball, etc. Needless to say I like movement. It wasn't until the past year or so I really got serious about a fitness career. I knew I loved helping and encouraging others, but I guess I just hadn't put it together that the fitness world could not only be my way to stay active, but also to help support, encourage, and change the lives of others... as a job. I am certified through ACSM as a CPT. I am also training to become certified in Active Isolated Stretching. I have been an avid runner and have participated in a lot of races around the state, as well as a few in other states. I've studied a lot about running technique, training, and recovery and I look forward to my future endeavors. I hope that his blog helps those who are currently running and also those who might just need a little push to get out there and hit the pavement!

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