Stop Stretching & Try This!
Do you have tight hamstrings or a stiff shoulder or back? Has a friend recommended a few stretches, but you can’t seem to get relief and you feel like your flexibility really isn’t improving.
Well today, we’re going to talk about the science behind stretching and why it might not be beneficial for everyone. So let’s start!
When we think about stretching– we think about sitting down and holding a position for 30-60sec right?
Well research has shown that stretching in this manner can improve flexibility– but not because it’s changing the actual tissue length of your muscles. Studies have shown that even though you might be getting more flexible– these changes are due to your nervous system and neural adaptations rather than actual tissue length! (Pretty crazy right?)
This isn’t to say that static stretching can’t improve tissue length– but the intensity & duration of the stretch has to be very high (10/10 intensity and 8-10minutes long) for those tissues to change.
And while getting flexibility improvements from just neural changes might work for most people –for those with chronic stiffness (think frozen shoulder) or those trying to regain range of motion following something like a knee replacement– improving tissue length does matter.
But never fear– we have a quicker & more beneficial solution than holding each stretch for 8+ minutes.
We like to call it “Strength Stretching.” While static stretching requires long periods of stretching over months to create tissue changes– doing strength stretching 2-3x/wk can show improvements in just a couple of weeks!!
But What is Strength Stretching???
Strength stretching is doing the eccentric (lowering) phase of an exercise at a high intensity in order to “stretch” AND strengthen under a load. Think Nordic Curls. In these, we put a ton of load through the hamstrings while lengthening them. This has been shown to improve tissue length of the hamstrings– but also help improve strength!
Really, it’s the best of both worlds! And this principle can be applied to all sorts of muscle groups!
Pretty cool huh?