How long to hold a stretch?

If you a standard athlete  or anyone who hangs around at the gym you’ll know how long to stretch for. Its a 10-20 second hold of the stretch in your warm up, and maybe you go mad in the  after workout stretch and go for those 30 to 40 seconds hold.

The only problem is , you are wrong!!!

As I’ve already explained, in the first few weeks of a stretching regime, any increase in the range of motion is due to an improvement in Stretch Tolerance. This gives you a transient increase in range of motion, and you’ll probably feel a bit looser. If you use stretching as part of a pain reduction programme, these short stretches will help build your confidence. But, no actual  physical improvement in your muscle extensibility ( you’ve pushed open a rusty door and you are getting used to the grinding and  stretching noise the hinges make)

Holds For 2 Minutes PLUS

Well, now we enter the real world of  full on, proper, big boy stretching, and this comes with spooky therapy words like  “tensegrity” and “mechanotransduction” and the “Thixotropic Effect”, which states the longer a tissue is under load, the more adaptable it will become.   This all leads to the rule of thumb that says if we want to make physical changes to your muscles you need to apply  force to the tissues for around two minutes or more.

This two minute mark is determined as the average time  it takes a cells to recognise the stresses being placed on it.  The longer and more regular the stress, the more the body   goes. “we better adapt to this” .

Dr. Andreo Spina frequently states, “Force is the language of cells.” 

Keep in mind that stretching one time for two minutes will not create a permanent change.  It takes a lot of repeated stimulus over a long period of time to create actual changes to tissues.  This follows the Thixotropic Effect, which states the longer a tissue is under load, the more adaptable it will become.

To put this all in context, jumping straight to 2 minute stretching is a silly idea.  Use that first month to build up. I started with sets: 3 sets of 10 seconds, then 20 seconds, then a week later 30 seconds. We know that first period is building up tolerance, so, “just build up tolerance”

The first 30 days of stretching!

It’s about time that you began to understand the secrets behind effective stretching. The secrets begin with understanding what the process is.

The first part of the process, in the first 30 days, is that improvements in  your range of motion in the joint occur because you tolerate the discomfort more (aka Stretch Tolerance) NOT, because you have lengthened the muscle.

Reference

Law et al, 2009. Stretch exercises increase tolerance to stretch in patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain: a randomized controlled trial.   Find here

Deadlift homework: the Imaginary Bar drill

In the early stages many people struggle with the deadlift. This struggle is down to many factors: hamstring inflexibility, balance, proprioception (or lack of it) or simply, pure “what the hell is this”.

Mastering the move is made harder by the fact that many  people think they can only practice the move in the gym.  If you struggle, more practice is useful, hence the imaginary bar drill.

Focus on holding an imaginary bar, anywhere: at home, at work, in the pub.

Enjoy

If you need help drop me an email Andrew@andrewstemler.com

Its an S pull

s pull

Not that it really matters, but, the bar path in the olympic lifts isn’t straight up and down. There is a pleasing “S” curve to its path.

This is probably facilitated by a good “Lat Flare” as the bar passes the hips.

Thanks to Tommy Kono Weightlifting, Olympic Style”.

Thought I’d mention it.

 

Flexibility Standards

Do you need to be more flexible?  How flexible are you? What are your flexibility targets? Its interesting ploughing through the flexibility lecture looking for effective and reliable flexibility standards.

These  following two photos are from the  Men’s Gymnastics Coaching Manual and they give an “interesting” guide as to the possible  levels of flexibility that would be gymnasts may need. Im not sure to what extent it should guide normal people, but, it’s an interesting, if depressing, place to start answering the question of ” how flexible” do you need to be.

Tom Kurz suggests this reference chart in his famous book  Stretching Scientifically: A Guide to Flexibility Training

IMG_2607

An army standard

If you are wondering “how fit should I be” you could start off with an army fitness standard

Voila

  • Full press-ups – a minimum of 44 in two minutes
  • Full sit-ups – a minimum of 50 in two minutes
  • Static lift onto a platform 1.45m high.
  • Jerry can test – carry two 20kg weights over a distance of 120m in two minutes.
  • A Beep test with the level of 10.1 (1.5 mile run in 9 minutes 30 seconds).

I think this is the basic standard that  programmes like “SAS who dares wins”, uses.