Next to one’s repertoire of stretches should be dynamic stretching which occurs by swing motions of the appendages in horizontal, vertical and sagittal angles. This type of stretching should occur before engaging in activities such as martial arts, cycling, skiing, rowing, swimming and the like. The swing motions are very important in martial arts, especially before kumite, katas and/or speed exercises. Swing motions feed warmth and increased blood flow into the legs causing muscle relaxation. Introducing AIS either before or after dynamic stretches affords the hamstrings, quadriceps, and lower back greater flexibility. For those that exercise cardio on spin bikes, elliptical, treadmills or other dynamic cardio machines the principle to adhere to is mild/slow activity for 5 minutes before engaging one’s normal intensity on the machine. [www.stretchcoach.com/Brad-Walker]3
The aforementioned information does focus on the exercise enthusiast. But, what about the individual office worker? On the average the gym is visited by more business professionals than professional athletes. The business person comes from an environment where hours are spent in a seated position, leading to physical structural imbalances. The business professional will usually have a hunched, tense upper back, pain in the lumbar/sacral area of the back and neck pain to name a few. Some, but not all of the business professionals have allowed their muscle groups to become weak by being sedentary for long periods of time. These sedentary styles of life cause weak links in the musculature, which in turn leads to pain.
For these office worker individuals it is important to make emphasis to stretch the chest and shoulders. Pinching in the chest and shoulders will lead to back pain. Therefore, the chest needs to be stretched in order to balance the body. Stretching the chest and shoulders will allow the body to relax and go back into alignment. 4
What about stretching when one is injured? For example, soft tissue injury, sprained ankles, sore shoulder, pulled hamstring to name a few. There is a time and place for stretching and it is not at the time of injury. During a soft tissue injury one should wait at least 72 hours before resuming a stretch. Strength must be attained back into the injured area before resuming any type of stretching. One is to rehabilitate the injured area. Once rehabilitation is attained one will find that the same area has become stronger and more flexible. [www.stretchcoach.com/Brad-Walker]5 However, while Mr. Walker continues with static stretching, it is suggested that AIS would be more beneficial in strength recovery to the injured area of the body.
Specifically, “no you should not stretch an injured muscle if the injury was caused by sudden trauma related blow, hit or fall.” But maintaining the range of motion is important and this should be done progressively to get to the pre-injured range of motion.” [December 8, 2011 by Roman Paradigm Massage-Therapy]6 “Yes, you should stretch an injured muscle if the injury is from chronic related aches, pain/stiffness in joints, ligaments and muscles. Carefully determining what normal range of motion is for you, and what other muscles may be contributing to this chronic condition need to be assessed.” 7
(1) Stretching is advised because it will make one stronger and increase endurance. [Arnold Nelson, associate professor of kinesiology at Louisiana State Univ in Baton Rouge]. In terms of Mr. Nelson, stretching will benefit those that are unable to lift weights or perform cardio exercises. Nelson believes that, “comparable, but to a lesser scale, activation occurs in the muscle fiber when stretching as with exercise.”8 Reference is made to a study that included 38 individuals divided into 2 groups; with the first group doing stretching for 40 min three times a week primarily stretching the legs; and, the second group without stretching. The stretching included static stretching. Neither group participated in any other exercise. Individuals that stretched increased flexibility. Surprisingly the same group that increased flexibility also increased in strength in performing knee extensions and knee flexion.9.
(2) Dr. Michael Bracko [spokesperson for the ACSM] emphasizes that stretching is complimentary to avoiding injury and keeping flexible.10 Dr. Bracko, who is also the director of the Institute of hockey in Calgary, Alberta says he cannot stop the hockey players from stretching before a game.11.
(3) Dr. Nicholas DiNubile an orthopedic surgeon at Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and author of the book Framework makes emphasis on introducing stretching to exercise programs.
Remembering safety principle number one, there is agreement among all three doctors that one is to never stretch a cold muscle. Rather, performing mild cardio to warm up the muscles is preferable in elongation and flexibility of the muscle fiber.12
Finally for Athletes Power = Strength + Flexibility + Time. If your movement is compromised, injured and/or impaired all exercise and general health will be compromised. To achieve true fitness you need to be able to move freely in all directions without any limitations to your range of motion, as this is what allows you to participate in life’s wonderful activities.”
1, 2Al Meo. Active Isolated Stretching (AIS): Failure to Include this Will Sabotage Your Exercise Program. Peak Fitness. www.mercola.com. August 19, 2010
3Brad Walker. The Stretching Handbook (ISBN: 978-0958109338).
4Brad Walker. The Anatomy of Stretching (ISBN: 978-1556435966).
5Brad Walker. The Anatomy of Sports Injuries (ISBN: 978-1556436666).
6, 7When It Comes to Stretching, the Best Time to Stretch is to Prevent Injuries, but What if, You Have an Injured Muscle Now? DECEMBER 8, 2011 By Roman Paradigm Massage-Therapy
8,9Stretching May Offer Extended Benefits. Arnold Nelson. Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA. Jacqueline Stenson, MSNBC Contributor © 2008 MSNBC Interactive
10, 11Dr. Michael Bracko, Institute of Ice Hockey. “The Science of Hockey” October issue medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, ACSM
12Dr. Nicholas DiNubile. Framework: Your 7-Step Program for Healthy Muscles, Bones, and Joints. Rodale, Inc. Publishers, Emmaus, PA. June 2005
13Dr. Mercola. Static Stretching: How This Common Type of Stretching Can Damage Your Muscles and Tendons. Peak Fitness. March 15, 2013.