Stretch, Sports, Success & Science Part I Skip to main content

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Stretch, Sports, Success & Science Part I

Stretching & Sports Success

1. Introduction

Stretching is one of those topics in fitness and exercise that is shrouded in mystery and misunderstanding. Most people know that stretching is good for them but concerning exactly what type of moves to do and when? That's where the confusion starts! El Paso, TX. Scientific sports chiropractor Dr. Alexander Jimenez examines the data in part I of a 2 part series.

While stretching is significant and the consequent growth in flexibility may mean the difference between poor operation or injury and establishing up a personal best, the wrong type of stretching at the wrong time may actually reduce the quantity of force your muscles have the ability to generate. Not a good thing...

Many exercisers find the entire process of extending very dull! To a extent this mindset is simple to understand. Most of the exercises we perform are very lively, ramp up your heart rate, make your muscles burn and bring forth lots of sweat. Stretching does not produce that much-sought endorphin rush that we regular exercisers enjoy so much.

Another difficulty that individuals who extend o en experience is a lack of obvious benefits; despite spending extended periods of time stretching. Unlike running or li ing weights, in which the payoff is normally more evident, the benefits of stretching could be slow to manifest, even though this is sometimes as much due to inferior stretching technique, incorrect flexibility program layout and/or doing the incorrect types of stretch.

On the other hand, some exercisers really spend too much time stretching and develop their versatility above and beyond what's healthy or necessary. Stretching, like all kinds of training, should be particular to the activities you are searching for. Excessive or overly-aggressive stretching may be as damaging as not doing enough.

Stretching is just as with any other facet of exercise -- it should be specific to your individual requirements -- your sport, as an instance, or its required range of motion. Those requirements don't just differ from person to person but from muscle to muscle. While you May Need to perform lengthy developmental stretches to your lower body, you may find that you only need quick stretches to maintain the flexibility on your upper body. Your left leg may need more care than your right. It is only by being aware of what your body needs that you could design a bespoke flexibility program that matches your unique requirements and in this e-book you will learn how to evaluate your own flexibility requirements to optimize your stretching program.

Stretching is not the most exciting of fitness issues but it's among the most essential. Adequate flexibility means your joints are going to be able to function optimally which means less wear and tear on your joints and also a great deal of other benefits you may read about in the next chapter.

Flexibility is one of the physical fitness components that you will overlook the most as you get older. It is only once you lose vital freedom and functional movement capacity which you realize that stretching is essential for long-term wellness and functionality. Like so many things, an ounce of prevention is much far better than a pound of cure so be certain that you make stretching part of your workout routine -- albeit the ideal types of stretching at the right time, obviously!

2. Benefits Of Stretching

Stretching is usually performed to preserve or enhance flexibility. The definition of flexibility is that the selection of motion at a joint or group of joints. Increased flexibility may improve joint mobility, but freedom is actually quite different to flexibility. Joint freedom is more to do with the health of the articular surfaces within a joint and explains the fluidity and ease of movement of constructions like your knees, shoulders and hips. For the purpose of clarity, this e-book will focus on extending and flexibility instead of joint distress.

So why stretch? Why should you invest precious time sitting very still for extended periods of time for those who might feel your training would be more useful if you're beating the sidewalk or hitting the squat rack?

Your muscles are arranged in pairs round joints. In the vast majority of cases, these muscles have opposing actions which affect the identical joint. As an instance, your quadriceps extends your knee while your hamstrings ex your knee. In case your quadriceps become excessively tight, your knee joint can be pulled slightly out of alignment that will increase the stress put on the passive articular membranes and connective tissues inside your knee. Is would raise your chances of suffering short-term discomfort and even long-term injuries.

Why do muscles become tight? Interesting question! Is has a great deal to do with workout specificity. The law of exercise specificity dictates that your body will adapt to the stresses put on it. Is means that in case you perform biceps curls but not straighten your arms at the bottom of the workout, your biceps muscles will react by shortening so that you shed that end selection of motion. Is is called adaptive shortening.

Not many exercises or activities take your muscles throughout their fullest range of motion, which means that many exercises are likely to reduce instead of increase your endurance. Running, cycling, li ing weights etc all are inclined to work out your muscles within a restricted selection of movement and, as a result, your muscles shorten because they conform to these stresses.

So what happens when you choose your muscles beyond the range of motion they've been used to? If you're lucky, a slight muscle tear; however if you are unlucky, a major tear which may require surgery to fix.

To illustrate this point, imagine you are a recreational jogger. When you operate, your stride is short and quick and you run mostly with a at foot-strike. You've trained this way for many years as well as your muscles have adapted to the relatively restricted range of motion.

Then, one day, you're crossing the street and a vehicle approaches you in a dangerously large speed. You lengthen your stride, come up in your toes and endeavor to accelerate from the oncoming car's path. Searing pain dissipates at the back of your thigh and you limp across the road to safety.

What happened? You used your muscles outside of their normal array of movement and pulled a hamstring.

Just like over-stretching a rubber ring can cause it to snap, more than stretching your muscles may lead them to tear.

Would you have injured yourself if your hamstring flexibility was better? E response is "maybe". Why maybe? E thing is, flexible people become injured just like non- adaptive people, and it's very hard to prove that stretching reduces your risk of pulling a muscle (actually some research from sport suggests that too much extending at the wrong time, i.e. prior to sport, may actually increase the risk of muscle strains). Logic suggests that in the event that you increase the operational range of movement of your muscles, then you are much less inclined to overstretch them. Is doesn't, however, assure that you'll remain injury free but if reduce your chances -- but by how far it's impossible to say.

Going back to our pairs of muscles version discussed earlier, muscle length imbalances can also have a negative impact on your posture. Posture is best called the best alignment of joints so that no or little force is set on passive structures such as cartilage or ligaments. Posture is generally connected to the place of your spine and neck but can also be applied to your shoulders, knees and hips.

Poor posture is often caused by two linked factors -- too tight muscles and overly weak muscles. Commonly, if one muscle in a pairing is tight, then its opposite number will be feeble. Is is because of a phenomenon called reciprocal inhibition.

Consider this case: a wannabe bodybuilder performs lots of sets of chest exercises. He does multiple sets of bench press, barbell, dips, press ups and utilizes a pec deck. As a result, his torso gets very powerful but also very tight. His tight chest muscles pull his shoulders forward into what's commonly called a protracted position. As a result of the overactive pecs, the opposing muscles, specifically the middle trapezius, rhomboids and posterior deltoids, become inhibited and weak.

Try as he would, our bodybuilder is unable to overcome the strain in his chest muscles and pull back his shoulders into optimal postural posture because the upper back muscles are inhibited and partly "switched off ". That is reciprocal inhibition.

To correct such a substantial postural imbalance, it might be essential to relax the overactive torso muscles using stretching and possible massage while reawakening and strengthening those inhibited muscles of the upper back.

One last benefit of extending is an increase in operational range of movement that contributes to improved efficacy. Fundamentally, your limbs will be free to move though a wider arc. Is is especially important for sportsmen and sportswomen.

For instance, to be an effective sprinter, then you need to cover the ground as fast as possible. Is requires electricity, a fast leg turnover AND the ability to cover a large distance in each stride. If, because of tight muscles, your stride length is significantly diminished, you won't be able to sprint up to per stride and then will cover the ground less efficiently.

The same holds for a boxer, although the implications are slightly different. Most boxers choose to hit than be struck so a long reach is quite important. A prosperous punch is powerful and fast but, if you're able to stay out of your opponent's reach, you are more inclined to avoid a painful counterpunch. Good flexibility can mean a longer punch and subsequently, permit you to remain out of range of your competitor.

As a final example, envision a climber reaching up to catch a very small handhold while hundreds of feet up a rock face. Fantastic lat, arm and shoulder flexibility may indicate the difference between attaining the hold and continuing upward or missing the hold and having to climb back down.

As you can see, flexibility is a vital part of fitness and can make a big difference between success and failure in both sport and exercise. At the very least, stretching is vital for ensuring that your muscles do not get shorter as a consequence of the actions you are doing. Whether stretching reduces your chances of injury is hard to say but when there is even a slight possibility that a couple of minutes of flexibility training might help save you weeks of rehabilitation and pain, then there is actually no good reason not to stretch.

3. Specifics Of Flexibility... How Flexible Do You Need To Be?

We've established that stretching is a good thing and being flexible is important, but just how flexible if we try to be? Is it crucial to have the ability to contort yourself as a yogi or is a more moderate outcome more desirable?

In regards to flexibility, the bottom line is that you need to be as flexible as you need to be! I know this might sound like any kind of Zen conundrum but that is the truth about extending. Every one of us has different flexibility demands depending on our chosen sports, favored form of training, everyday activity patterns and so forth. What could be sufficient for a single person may be nowhere near flexible enough for another.

What is crucial when training for flexibility is to make sure you prepare your body for the tasks
It is most likely to face. For example, a gymnast or high board diver needs much more versatility than a cyclist. The abilities in gymnastics require a high amount of flexibility in virtually every joint of the body whereas biking uses a much smaller motion and so the flexibility demand is much less. That isn't to state the cyclist doesn't need to stretch -- just that their versatility program will be more aligned to minimizing excessive adaptive shortening and promoting good posture. Conversely, the gymnast will need to come up with a high degree of flexibility for performance reasons. Both athletes will need to elongate but the result goal is extremely different.

Precisely the same is true of sports like sports. For example, high hurdlers need a Massive amount Of hip and hamstring flexibility to get in the right position in the air so they skim over the top of their barriers. But a 10,000-meter-runner employs a much smaller variety of motion than a hurdler and would not bene t from such intense versatility.

In chapter Ve you will find out how to evaluate your own flexibility and see if you come up to the minimum criteria required to make sure your joints are able to work as they need to. Any flexibility in excess of these measures depends on what you're stretching for.

In my personal experience, I've noticed that, in the majority of instances, extreme flexibility is o en demonstrated by People Who have no need for such extended ranges Of motion. Getting adaptable for flexibility's sake is little more than a waste of time and may even be the cause of musculoskeletal problems. Extreme flexibility can lead to joint hyper-mobility that could lead to bony surfaces coming into contact in a manner that they were not supposed to. As an example, very flexible hamstrings could result in hyperextension of the knee joint which may predispose the exerciser to atherosclerosis. E same holds of an overly flexible backbone -- the curse of several gymnasts and dancers.

I suggest you get your endurance levels into a point where you can fulfill the basic standards set out in chapter five and after that, if needed for your chosen game, exceed these by Enough that your flexibility is optimized for maximum performance. Unless there is a extending world championship or you are likely to run o and join the circus for a contortionist, extreme versatility is neither necessary nor desired!

4. Stretching Dos & Don'ts... How To Get The Most From It

Before you knuckle down to some serious stretching, it's crucial that you set a few flexibility rules and guidelines. These bullet points are designed to make your flexibility training as safe and productive as possible so It is going to pay to invest a few Minutes ensuring you understand all the next.

Stretching Dos...

Do ease into your stretches gradually. It takes a couple of seconds for the mechanisms that control your level of stretch to kick in and allow you to stretch safely and deeply. Take 20-30 minutes to facilitate into heavy stretches to minimize your chance of injury.

Do extend often. A once-a-week marathon extending session is not likely to have much of an impact on your endurance. You have to stretch little and o en route to make a noticeable difference.

Do unwind as much as you can. Tensing your face or neck when stretching other parts of your body sends the wrong signals to your stretching mechanisms and will inhibit the degree of stretch you may encounter. Attempt to eliminate all tension from your body when extending and not just the muscle you are working to lengthen.

Do make sure that your muscles are warm before stretching. Cold muscles can easily Be injured by over-enthusiastic stretching. Perform some mild cardio and joint mobility work until you attempt any deep stretches and remember to ease into them gradually. Always increase your body temperature first (jog, cycle for a few minutes or even stretch out a er a spa or shower).

Do consider stretching out of your normal workout time. While stretching after your exercise is convenient and logical, you may be overly tired and your muscles overly excited to relax properly. O en, the best time to stretch is when you are feeling relaxed and calm. A few stretches while seated before the TV at the day can be very relaxing and valuable.

Do chose the proper stretches for the ideal moment. There is a lot of information on this topic in chapter six but as a general guideline; static or static stretches are ideal for your cool down while dynamic stretches are ideal for your hot up.

Do focus on the muscles that need the most attention. If you have an especially tight muscle, try to stretch it three to five times every day to help recover the missing range of motion as quickly as possible.

Stretching Don’ts...

Do not bounce when stretching. Bouncing in a stretched position tells your muscles to tighten up and can be called ballistic stretching. If any type of stretch is going to cause harm it's bouncy ballistic stretches! There is more on ballistic flexibility and the reason to avoid it in chapter six.

Do not neglect hydration. Water is an essential part of your muscle building make-up and being dehydrated can impair flexibility. Ensure you are well hydrated by sipping plenty of water during the day. Aim for at least 2 liters of water per day -- more if you exercise aggressively or live in a hot climate.

Don't hold your breath when extending. Is will create tension elsewhere in the human body and negate some of the benefits of stretching. Breathe slowly and deeply to make certain you keep nice and relaxed. In yoga, practitioners are taught to imagine their breath is being directed to the muscle being stretched -- this can be a helpful image to use if you're finding it difficult to relax.

Do not stretch beyond your comfort point. If your muscles are burning or shaking as you stretch, chances are you have gone too far. Back o and then ease back in the stretch. If you feel your muscles have started to cramp up, cease stretching altogether and try again later.

Don’t forget about the position of the rest of your body when stretching. It's all too simple to concentrate on, as an instance, your hamstrings, but wind up rounding your upper back or allowing your shoulders to sag forwards into poor posture. Develop total body awareness when stretching to ensure you get the most out of each stretch and avoid any potential for harm.

Do not feel you have to stretch each and every muscle to the same duration. Or even at all! If you have tight muscles subsequently x them together with developmental static stretching but when your muscles are relaxed and the right resting length, some rapid stretches for upkeep or even not stretching them whatsoever is also okay.

5. Flexibility Self-Assessments

You can, of course, only stretch every muscle in your body in a "hell for leather" style and hope you are giving your body what it needs. The difficulty with this approach is the fact that it is more hit and expect than a prescription of proper exercise.

Instead of risk wasting time by performing unnecessary moves, you should assess your present flexibility requirements and design your extending program on these results. Should you come up to or are simply shy of reaching these minimal standards then you probably don't need much more than to ensure you stretch correctly in the end of each exercise. If, however, you're a very long way o those standards, you may wish to consider a couple of committed stretching sessions per day until your flexibility is all up to standard.

Keep in mind, these are minimums that nearly everybody should achieve. If your game demands it, you might have to achieve higher levels of flexibility but that is between you and your coach.

Most of these assessments require a partner who will passively stretch your muscles to Obtain the desired outcome. Make sure they read these instructions carefully to avoid providing you with a false result. Additionally, make sure they're comfortable and capable of handling your limbs safely, as over stretching a muscle, even in a flexibility assessment, could lead to an injury.

Note: this Isn't an exhaustive list of flexibility evaluation exercises but covers the main muscles that most of us have to operate on. If your sport has specific flexibility demands, don't hesitate to add suitable tests in to this battery.

Remember to warm up by spending three to five minutes doing some light cardio and then a few dynamic stretches as discussed in chapter six. Perform each test two or 3 times to make certain you receive the most meaningful outcome and, where appropriate, compare your left limb into your right limb. It isn't sufficient that you get to the mandatory minimum standard for these tests but additionally that both limbs are equally flexible.

Log your results in the chart at the end of the chapter and retest regularly to measure progress.

Note: With the exception of the last two tests, these evaluations are supposed to be PASSIVE. At is to say that you, the subject, do nothing. You have to keep your limbs utterly relaxed and allow your partner to discover the magnitude of your flexibility. Is can be hard but any undue tension will invalidate the outcome of the tests.

Warning! Approach the end-range of each test carefully and don't force limbs into unnatural positions. E tester should feel the tension rise in the muscles being Analyzed and be able to expect the approximate end point for each assessment. Ensure that there's plenty of communication between tester and subject so that the assessments are safe and meaningful. If any bony blocks or crepitus (crunching, Clicking or popping) are felt/heard proceed with caution if at all.

Supine Lying Hamstring Test

●  Lie on your back with both legs extended.
●  Get your partner to kneel and li one of your legs whilst pressing down with their hand on the other. You should keep your leg as straight as possible. e leg should be taken back until your back begins to round and/or the hamstring will stretch no further.
●  Ideally, your leg should be raised to between 80 and 90 degrees and both legs should be equal.

Supine Lying Adductor Test

●  Lie on your back with your legs together and hands clasped on your stomach.
●  Get your partner to kneel by your feet and li one leg an inch or two o the floor.
●  Abduct the leg (move outwards) until you see/feel your pelvis start to turn to the same side. Note the angle.
● This test is best performed in bare feet.
●   The soleus is the smaller stabilizing calf muscle and the gastrocnemius the larger power producer.
●  Ideally, you should be able to adduct your leg to 45 degrees and both legs should be equal.

Supine Lying Gastrocnemius Test

●  Lie on your back with your legs together and hands clasped on your stomach.
●  Make sure your ankle bones are together and level.
●  Get your partner to push on the balls of your feet so your ankles flex toward your shins.
●  Ideally, you should be able to break 90 degrees at the ankle and both ankles should be equal.
●   is test is best performed in bare feet.

Supine Lying Soleus Test

● Lie on your back with your legs together and hands clasped on your stomach. Bend your legs so your feet are at on the floor. Make sure your ankle bones are together and level.
● Get your partner to push on the balls of your feet so your ankles ex toward your shins.
● Ideally, you should be able to break 90 degrees at the ankle and both ankles should be equal.
● This test is best performed in bare feet.
● The soleus in the smaller stabilizing calf muscle and the gastrocnemius the larger power producer.

Supine Lying Pec and Lat Test

● Lie on your back with your legs bent, feet o the floor and knees over hips – as though you were going to perform crunches.
● Extend your arms straight up.
● Get your partner to stand by your head and grasp your wrists.
● Your partner should slowly walk back to extend your shoulders while gently shaking your arms. Once they are a couple of feet away, they should, without warning, drop your arms and note their end position.
● If your arms are lifted off the floor, this suggests overly tight pecs.
● If your arms pulled down and out to the side, this suggests overly tight lats.
● It is not uncommon to see both results in the same test and also different results from left to right.
● Ideally, both arms should naturally come to rest with your biceps touching your ears and your arms completely at on the floor.

Prone Lying Quadriceps Test

● Lie on your front with your head resting on folded arms and your legs straight and together.
● Get your partner to gently bend one leg and push your heel towards your butt.
● Ideally, your heel should touch your butt and the range of motion should be equal in both legs.
● Individuals with large calves/hamstrings may experience a false positive in this test as muscle size may prevent your heel actually reaching your butt. If this is the case, you will have to rely on feel – i.e. if there is little or no tension felt in the quads despite reaching the end of the possible range of movement, chances are that quadriceps flexibility is adequate.

Standing Thoracic Extension Test

● Stand with your head and back against a wall and your feet about 6 inches/15 centimeters from the base.
● With straight arms, raise your arms forwards and then up above your head, attempting to touch the wall behind you.
● You should be able to place your arms at on the wall without extending your lower back.
● Failure to reach the wall without extending your lower back indicates lack of thoracic spine extension and will also con rm the results of test number five.

Freestanding Squat

This final test assesses many of the muscles in your lower body and is one of the most effective ways to establish lower body functional flexibility as the squat is such a common movement pattern.

● Remove your shoes and stand facing your partner or a well-placed mirror.
● Place your feet shoulder-width apart with your hands clasped under your chin and your toes turned out to a “ five to one” position.
● Inhale, lift your chest, push your hips back and squat down as deeply as you can.
● You should be able to squat down onto your haunches and stay there for a moment.
● If your heels lift, this suggests tight calves.
● If your knees fall inwards, this suggests tight adductors.
● If your knees fall outwards, this suggests tight abductors.
● If your lower back becomes rounded, this suggests tight hamstrings and/or hip flexors.
● If your weight shifts onto your left or right foot, this suggests you are tighter on the side to which you lean.

Sourced From:
© Green Star Media Ltd 2014
Published by Green Star Media Ltd, Meadow View, Tannery Lane, Bramley, Guildford GU5 0AB, UK
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 892894
Publisher: Jonathan A. Pye Editor: John Shepherd Designer: Charlie Thomas
The information contained in this publication is believed to be correct at the time of going to press. Whilst care has been taken to ensure that the information is accurate, the publisher can accept no responsibility for the consequences of actions based on the advice contained herein.

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The information herein is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own health care decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified health care professional. Our information scope is limited to chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, sensitive health issues, functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions. We provide and present clinical collaboration with specialists from a wide array of disciplines. Each specialist is governed by their professional scope of practice and their jurisdiction of licensure. We use functional health & wellness protocols to treat and support care for the injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system. Our videos, posts, topics, subjects, and insights cover clinical matters, issues, and topics that relate to and support, directly or indirectly, our clinical scope of practice.* Our office has made a reasonable attempt to provide supportive citations and has identified the relevant research study or studies supporting our posts. We provide copies of supporting research studies available to regulatory boards and the public upon request. We understand that we cover matters that require an additional explanation of how it may assist in a particular care plan or treatment protocol; therefore, to further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to contact us. Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, ATN* email: phone: 915-850-0900 Licensed in: Texas & New Mexico*