Stretching - Good Or Bad?


Thoughts On Stretching

I stretch. I have no proof it helps, but I feel good with a post-workout stretch, as opposed to no-stretch. I stretch and hold for 20 seconds, as generally recommended in exercise books and published papers.

I still have unresolved issues regarding stretching. I read several articles on stretching, the general consensus being its beneficial, but with no degree of certainty and some doubt.

Instinctively and intuitively I know stretching is good, but I don't have the scientific evidence to back this view.


I read 'Stretching and Flexibility', then 'The Physiological Effects of Stretching' and 'Muscle Mechanics'. I also read The Complete Book of Stretching. FIFA has a short stretching routine for referees. And this paper from ASEP, reconfirms that static stretching induces a weakness response for strength training after stretching.

Another article concludes stretching induces weakness in muscle from 15 minutes to an hour immediately after stretch, but did improve absorbing capacity which is beneficial for injury prevention.

Cats stretch. Dogs stretch. Humans stretch. I got thinking about mammals other than humans, that instinctively stretch.

The following explanation may be true:

http://www.quora.com/Why-do-cats-stretch

When a cat or indeed yourself is asleep the muscles shorten a bit - tonus. Stops us sleeping in extremely folded positions which could cause circulation problems. The Golgi organ in the muscles govern this action. Anyways, when you or puss wakes up it is good to reset the zero point. It is why when you stretch in the morning it lasts for most of the day.
Also why sitting too long shortens the ilio-psoas muscle so the pelvis struggles to align properly. (Pilates - contrology as Mr Pilates called it helps with that)
I used to teach martial arts and always had trouble with stretching until I found a book on stretching written by the ex-boss of the Polish Olympic judo team which went into the function of the Golgi organ -- I'm not at home now but next week I'll add the name and author. It is a very clever reflex as it differentiates between dynamic and passive ranges.
Oh and cats have less ligaments than most mammals especially in their spine so I suspect their Golgi circuitry is more active to compensate.
I don't know if this is correct. My investigation continues.

You may have heard of the great American sprinter Michael Johnson. He held the simultaneous world records for 200 metre and 400 metre sprint. No mean achievement. Part of his training routine employed stretching for 30 - 40 minutes, immediately before a race.

In view of the strength and muscle weakness caused by stretching, I cannot see Johnson embarking on a world record attempt at the Olympic Games, by weakening his leg muscles with a good stretch for 40 minutes.

After much digging, I discovered, the type of stretching Johnson did pre-race, was Active Isolated Stretching. Michael Johnson's stretching was not static. Static stretching differs from Active Isolated Stretching.

When a cat stretches, it elongates, holds briefly, then relaxes. No stretch held for 20 or 30 seconds. The stretch is brief, but intense. Active Isolated Stretching appears to work in a similar way. Stretch, hold for 3 seconds, relax, then repeat.

No more static stretching. Active Isolated Stretching is the way to go.