Fitness advise is abundant in this day and age, but not all of it we can trust. Here is a post from guest blogger and fitness instructor at Rogue Fitness Cabarete, at Extreme Hotel in Cabarete. Fitness camps and fitness vacations are a part of the Extreme lifestyle, so this is a hot topic of conversation amongst our guests:
We know the same muscle fibers that stretch and lengthen also shorten and contract. What’s really cool is the way stretching muscles can lead to more strength than if they weren’t stretched.
First lets explore strength: how is it gained? Strength of a muscle group is directly related to the amount of muscle fibers a muscle can recruit for a contraction, it’s not how strong the fibers are, it’s how many your brain was able to activate. So using a lot of muscles in a lot of ways is the best way to strengthen. By applying this knowledge we can stretch deeper while getting stronger by using cooperating muscle groups. We won’t get too into the relationships between muscle groups during a contraction except that related to stretching. So what’s important to touch on is that for one muscle group that is contracting, or being the agonist (Oh! the agony!) there’s his BFF close by playing the role of the antagonist just stretching and basically being forced to relax due to the contraction and later helping return the limb to where it started. So if you want to stretch the hamstrings, do it more effectively by flexing the quadriceps so they force your hammies to relax and take it. Quad workout, hamstring stretch; win, win situation!
The biggest way stretching helps muscles grow stronger is when it is applied throughout a workout. Old school mentality stretches before a workout, sometimes as a warm up, sometimes after. More and more it’s nice to see stretching applied before AND after exercise but where it’s really at is stretching in between sets, especially when the movements require great strength or speed (fast-twitch muscle fiber.) Here’s why:
Let’s say you do 25 sit ups, that’s about 45 seconds of consistent shortening of a muscle. Think 25 times that your CNS received information regarding the shortening of fibers. It’s almost like the Doers forget that they can lengthen as well. That’s why big dudes are so inflexible. We don’t need to be contortionists but there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to get that itch on your back. Not to mention the build up of lactic acid in the muscle that can greatly be reduced if we just strain it out by stretching and lengthening that muscle. It’s been said that 80% of your gains at the gym are made in that last rep that you don’t do, if you stretch in between, your muscles aren’t as inflamed, therefore not as fatigued so you can get that one more rep, or 10 more seconds that make the biggest difference.
In a gym environment, there’s always a lot of talk about strength and flexibility sometimes seeming as if one doesn’t have to do with the other. Really though, strength and flexibility are a married couple bonded by their devotion to the health of the musculoskeletal system and we should fill our workouts with stretches to promote muscle growth and repair.