Unraveling the Benefits of Stretching: More Than Just Flexibility

July 24, 2023 | Stretching

Unraveling the Benefits of Stretching: More Than Just Flexibility

Stretching, a simple act we often take for granted, holds immense potential to enhance our overall health, athletic performance, and longevity. This article aims to delve into the science behind stretching, debunking myths, and revealing the unexpected benefits of stretching.

Understanding the Intricacies of Motion: Passive vs. Active

There’s a distinction in our body’s capability of movement, divided into two notable categories: passive and active range of motion. The passive range is achieved through external forces without the active contribution from our muscles. This realm has long been associated with the term ‘flexibility.’ Think of your passive range of motion or flexibility as your movement potential or capacity.

On the other hand, active ranges are achieved through internal muscular forces orchestrated by our nervous system. Think of your active range of motion as your attainable movement (i.e., what you can actually control.) This range is where we can leverage the benefits of stretching for injury prevention, enhanced performance, and long-term joint health.

Functional Range Conditioning (FRC): A New Approach to Mobility

The realm of stretching and flexibility training has long been dominated by gym myths, with the true science often overlooked. This gap has led to the development of Functional Range Conditioning (FRC). This training system combines scientific knowledge and proven training methods to improve one’s active, usable ranges of motion. FRC focuses on strengthening the nervous system’s control over the body’s movement, leading to enhanced articular mobility, strength, resilience, and neurological control.

Myth-Busting: Stretching Misconceptions

Before delving deeper into the benefits of stretching and the FRC approach, it’s crucial to debunk some popular myths surrounding flexibility and stretching.

The Real Story Behind Improvements in Flexibility

Contrary to popular belief, improvements in flexibility are primarily due to changes in the central nervous system’s function, not in the structure of muscle tissue. Over time, our body allows for more range, a decision governed by the nervous system. Hence, stretching is more about training the nervous system than the muscles.

Stretching and Injury Prevention: The Reality

Despite widespread belief, pre-exercise stretching has not been scientifically proven to prevent injuries. In fact, it could potentially increase the risk of injury by temporarily reducing the muscles’ ability to absorb force. However, research suggests that stretching between bouts of exercise likely reduces exercise-related injury risk.

The Downside of Excessive Flexibility

While stretching is generally beneficial, excessive flexibility could hinder an athlete’s performance. Therefore, it’s crucial to maintain a balance—enough flexibility to meet the demands of one’s sport but not so much that it negatively impacts technique or disperses acting forces on the body.

Introducing Functional Range Conditioning (FRC): Crafting Functional Flexibility

Stretching at Motive Training

FRC is a training method that transforms passive flexibility into active, usable mobility. This method, designed to induce beneficial cellular adaptations, combines stretching and strengthening, leading to improved flexibility and the creation of ‘flexible strength.’

The Additional Perks of Stretching Aside from improving flexibility and range of motion, stretching could also lead to muscle hypertrophy, an increase in muscle size that contributes to increased strength. Regular stretching may also improve results on tests of maximal voluntary contraction, jumping height, and potentially running speed.

The Takeaway To summarize, the benefits of stretching extend beyond just flexibility. They involve complex interactions with our nervous system, contributing to improved athletic performance, reduced injury risk, and increased muscle strength. While stretching is beneficial, finding the right balance and avoiding excessive flexibility that could compromise athletic performance is essential.

So, don’t take stretching for granted. Learn how to leverage stretching to help you move and feel better than you ever thought possible.

References:

  • Magnusson SP, Simonsen EB, Aagaard P, Kjaer M. Biomechanical responses to repeated stretches in human hamstring muscle in vivo. Am J Sports Med 1996;24:622-628.
  • Halbertsma JPK, Goeken LNH. Stretching exercises: effect on passive extensibility and stiffness in short hamstrings of healthy subjects. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 1994;75:976-981.
  • Shrier I. Does stretching improve performance? A systematic and critical review of the literature. Clin J Sport Med 2004;14:267-273.
  • Weldon SM, Hill RH. The efficacy of stretching for prevention of exercise-related injury: a systematic review of the literature. Man Ther 2003;8:141-150.
  • Amako M, Oda T, Masuoka K, Yokoi H, Campisi P. Effect of static stretching on prevention of injuries for military recruits. Mil Med 2003;168:442-446.

Written by:

Motive Training StaffMotive Training Staff

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