Stretching Exercises: When and How to do them.

How should you stretch?

How do stretching exercises impact your recovery?

That’s what you’ll learn in today’s newsletter.

Traditionally, before you begun exercise, you would do stretching exercises, and then you’d do it again after exercise. You know, to prevent injuries and speed up recovery. The theory makes good sense. A more pliable muscle is a more injury-resistant muscle. In practice, there’s more to it.

These days we know that static stretching exercises (taking a muscle to its range of motion and statically holding that position) doesn’t really do much for either speeding up recovery, preventing injuries, or even lengthening your muscles.

There is considerable evidence to show that any changes in length that come from static stretching exercises are just due to an increased pain threshold and not greater flexibility. If you’re curious, look up this study:

Increasing muscle extensibility: a matter of increasing length or modifying sensation? Weppler CH, Magnusson SP. Phys Ther. 2010 Mar;90(3):438-49. Epub 2010 Jan 14.

Static stretching exercises don’t really prevent injuries either. In fact, there is evidence to show that if performed right before activity, it can actually increase your chances of injury. Don’t believe me? Look up this study:

Flexibility and its effects on sports injury and performance. Gleim GW, McHugh MP. Sports Med. 1997 Nov;24(5):289-99.

So then if you don’t really increase your flexibility through static passive stretching stretching, how do you increase your flexibility?

Two common methods are PNF stretching exercises (also known as “contract-relax stretching”) and good ol’ strength training through a full range of motion.

Let’s cover each one individually.

Contract-Relax Stretching Exercises

Here is how you do this one: take a muscle to a position where you feel a slight stretch. Then in that position, contract the muscle being stretched for 6-10 seconds. After releasing the contraction, you’ll notice that you don’t feel as much tension in the muscle anymore, and you feel a bit more “slack.” So immediately after releasing the contraction, stretch the muscle farther, and repeat. Repeat the process as many times as you need until you no longer get improvements in your range of motion.

To see what this process looks like, you can go here:

Good Ol’ Strength Training

You may not know this, but stiffness is often caused by instability, which is caused by weakness. And the remedy to that stiffness is increased strength. Think about it: when you’re walking on ice, you naturally stiffen up. Why? Because you’re unstable. The same thing happens in your body. If it senses that a particular joint is unstable, it will tighten up certain muscles around that joint as a protective mechanism.

So by performing strength training exercises for the muscle that you want to lengthen and doing those exercises through a full range of motion, you will increase your flexibility far more effectively than static stretching exercises.

It’s a little-known fact that Olympic-style weightlifters are the second-most flexible group of athletes at the Olympics (right behind gymnasts).

Take a look at this picture of an Olympic weightlifter:


Does this not seem like it requires a tremendous amount of flexibility around the hips and shoulders?

Or how about former Mr. Olympia, Ronnie Coleman doing the splits:


Hopefully I’ve made my point.

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Until next week,




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