Flexibility

Coach Eck’s Training Session 3/8/13

by Chris Ecklund, MA, CSCS, USAW
Quick Thoughts:
  1. Another quick sessions this morning between clients and my interns. 
  2. Turned out to be shorter than I would have like as I spent more time on soft tissue (much needed today). 
  3. Throughout this journey of the last month and tracking my workouts it has reinforced a truth to me that I encourage my clients and students toward: consistency is key. Time and time again I realize that consistency trumps intensity or volume in my training. While both intensity and volume are important, it’s much more important for me to maintain consistency in order to sustain a training effect (in all facets: smr, mobility/flexibility, stability, power, strength). In short, getting in something is always better than nothing.

Coach Eck’s Training Session 3/4/13

by Chris Ecklund, MA, CSCS, USAW

Quick Thoughts:

  1. Low Volume this week: similar plan as last week.  Keeping my volume as low as I can (as long as I can get warmed up enough) and trying to hit the same or higher intensity in most lifts this week.
  2. Why?  I’m exhausted (which typically comes at this point in my mesocycle) and I want to peak within reason before I unload and change my program next week.

Stretching: Before or After Exercise?…the debate continues

 By Juliann Boubel, BS, CSCS

Most Americans grew up hearing that we needed to stretch before exercise in order to “loosen up” and prepare our muscles for activity. It has been found in recent years, however, that this type of warm-up is not only counter productive before an activity but potentially harmful. While many of us began each PE class stretching in a circle before a rowdy game of kickball, scientists are now seeing that this sort of “static” stretching is having the adverse effects. When a “cold” muscle is put on stretch before starting an exercise, it actually tightens that muscle rather than loosens it and can cause muscle tears or strains. Think of your muscles like a rubber band that has been stretched too far–it loses its elasticity and, like muscles, cannot be contract back to normal quickly. In fact, it can take up to an hour for stretched muscles to regain their optimal length for performance! If you are playing an explosive sport, like basketball for example, after static stretching, your power and explosiveness can be significantly diminished through static stretching pre activity.
Does this mean we should just stop warming-up and stop stretching all together? Hardly. In a field of ever evolving information and discoveries, we are finding that this is an area that is getting a much-needed revamp. Warming-up needs to be something that gets your blood pumping and muscles ready to go. A five-minute light jog, a few sets of jumping jacks or sport specific activities like a few practice serves at tennis can go a long way. Prepping muscles for activity through these movements are known as active or dynamic stretches. Specifically we are talking about mimicking movements that will be used during a sport activate multiple muscle groups. Often one muscle may be stretched while the antagonist (opposite) muscles are working (think walking knee hugs: stretching hamstrings and glutes while contracting hip flexors). Moving through sport specific motions and dynamic activities better activate muscles for any activity from dancing to football.
Now, before you put an end to ALL static stretching, know that it still holds benefit. It is all dependent upon when you stretch. Once an exercise or workout bout is complete, feel free to spend time touching your toes and stretching your triceps during your cool down. This is the time research is finding great value for static stretching. It can help relax muscles and relieve tension accumulated during a work out. Stretching also increases joint flexibility and circulation, which helps speed muscle recovery.
At Prevail Conditioning Performance Center we take our clients through a thorough Self Myofascial Release, Corrective/Active-Isolated/Mobility Stretch, Activation and Movement Prep before every workout session and conclude with Static, Neuromuscular or Active Isolated Stretching Post Workout.
Prevail Conditioning will be offering a midday stretching class starting soon for any interested in learning more on how to safely and effectively use stretching to relax muscles, increase flexibility and improve circulation.


Julian Boubel, BS, CSCS is a Strength & Conditioning Coach for Prevail Conditioning Performance Center and works with athletes and fitness enthusiasts alike.  For further information regarding this topic please contact Juliann Boubel, BS, CSCS at Juliann@prevailconditioning.com.

References:
1. Foster, Mary Ann. “13 Tips for Stretching Sanity.” Massage & Bodywork 20.5 (2005): 58-59.
2. Cheng, Maria. “Stretching could be harmful. ” McClatchy – Tribune Business News, April 18, 2010.
3. Ecklund, Chris. “When is the Best Time to Stretch…and How.” www.prevailblog.com. December 7, 2007.
4. “Experts Don’t Stretch Before Exercise.” April 15, 2010. www.usatoday.com/news/health/2010-04-15-stretching-muscles_N.htm

StrengthCoach.com Podcast: Listen for Free

If you are a Strength Coach, trainer, or simply want to learn more…this is a podcast you shouldn’t miss. Tons of great information from some of the top minds in the industry. Mike Boyle (pictured below) is a regular on the show and is editor and primary contributor to the StrengthCoach.com website.
Program design, strength/power development, quickness/agility development, mobility/stability/flexibility discussion, assessment and movement evaluation, technique tips, warm up and activation ideas, etc.

If you’re not listening, you’re not learning…and trust me, there’s a LOT to learn.

StrengthCoach.com Podcast (click here)

What I Recommend

For those of you who have not yet taken a look at some of the resources I subscribe to and recommend, take a look in the right hand margin of my blog.

I did want to make special note of a couple sites I use for my own reading/learning as well as some of the sites I use for my own purchases and for those of my clients:

StrengthCoach.com: Edited and run by Mike Boyle, this website has some of the top Strength & Conditioning professionals in the country contributing their thoughts and updates on research, program design, nutrition, injury prevention, etc. One of the primary benefits of this site is online video resources. If you’re a strength and conditioning professional or just an avid learner, take a moment to check out this site.

AdvoCare.com: My trusted source for supplement products and information. These are the only products I have taken and recommended to my clients for the past 6 years . With so many companies out there, it’s tough to know who is doing the research and putting safe, quality USP grade products in the packages. These guys do it. And not only that, their products work synergistically well within their easy systems.

Also, if you’re a trainer looking for a good company to retail to your clients or on your site, you can do it with AdvoCare (click here).

Perform Better: My choice for almost all equipment purchases. Good quality, tons of variety, great library for learning as well.


Human Kinetics:
if you’re looking for ANY book related to exercise, nutrition, training, strength, conditioning, etc., you’ll be able to find it here.

NSCA Performance Videos: A recent find of mine. A great video collection utilizing Dartfish technology showing proper form & technique for several athletic-related lifts, Olympic Lifts and variations, Power Lifts, and Acceleration mechanics.

SPARQ Training: Athletes, this is another Good resource for up-and-coming Performance techniques. Find articles and videos on improving your speed, power, agility, reaction, quickness.

ExRx.net: Another great tool for exercise info and demo videos. Not fun to navigate, but if you take the time you’ll find good info.

CorePerformance.com: Mark Vertegen’s site. Another tremendous site filled with information on exercise for athletic performance, example programs, nutrition insight, and a large library of exercise videos.

When is the Best Time to Stretch…and How?

Written for SB Fitness Magazine
By Chris Ecklund, MA, CSCS

I like this question. I do. It always makes me laugh. We all know the unspoken question being asked here, right?… “Do I really have to stretch at all, and if so, how little can I do and still be okay?”

For those that read the article I wrote addressing the importance of warm up and cool down, my answer is very similar here: I find that the older I get, the more important stretching becomes (probably because I didn’t do enough when I was younger). Ideally stretching should be a part of our routine from the get-go. However, when bodies and minds are young the feelings of invincibility and rapidly recovering muscles often discourages it…so we are left with the aches and pains to enjoy 20 years later. Good deal, huh?

A couple quick background thoughts. First, why do we stretch? Most often the default answer is ‘to avoid injury.’ Understand, however, that most reviews of literature in the area of flexibility training would likely agree that there is not a strong correlation between static stretching (the type where you ‘hold’ the stretch) and acute injury reduction. Is it probable that it does help at all in the area? Sure. But not a primary result as per the literature. This begs the second question…if not for injury prevention, then why? The primary reasons we find in current literature center around improved posture, decreased chronic injury or pain (i.e. low back pain), improved movement economy (your body moves more efficiently and doesn’t fight itself), and decreased recovery time. And just like all other fitness or exercise-related questions, the goal of the ‘stretching’ or ‘flexibility’ training would determine the type of stretching and the appropriate placement in an exercise session. Here are the most common stretching techniques as well as when, how, and why to use them:

Static Stretching: This is what most people are familiar with. It is the stretch that you “hold.”
Goal: lengthen the muscle and associated connective tissue to allow greater range of motion. Necessary for maintaining proper posture and allowing full range of motion in activities of choice. Decreases recovery time.
How: with proper posture and alignment, stretch the muscle to the point of discomfort (not pain) and hold the position for at least 20-45 seconds. Keep the muscle relaxed and maintain slow relaxed breathing patterns. Perform 2-3 sets on appropriate muscles.
When: if you are only going to do it once during your routine, do it at the end of your workout. You can also stretch in between sets of an exercise to maximize your workout time. Also, it may be appropriate to stretch prior to exercise also. However, if you are focused on building strength or power, static stretching is not recommended between sets or immediately pre-activity as most research shows decrements in these variables for up to 60 minutes post stretching.

PNF or Neuromuscular Stretching: this is often referred to as the “Hold-Contract-Relax” method. Though there are other methods of Neuromuscular Stretching, this is the most common. Most literature would agree that, if done correctly, Neuromuscular Stretching is slightly more effective than is Static Stretching.
Goal: Same as Static Stretching but perhaps a more aggressive approach.
How: with proper posture and alignment, stretch the muscle to the point of discomfort (not pain) and hold the position for 5-10 seconds. Then perform an isometric contraction of the muscle being stretched (this will increase the feel of the stretch as well as decrease some of the neural inhibitors) for 5-10 seconds. Then, relax and take a deep breath and move to the new point of discomfort (this is usually 5-10 degrees further each time). Repeat this pattern 2 or 3 times. Keep the muscle relaxed and maintain slow relaxed breathing patterns. Perform 2-3 sets on appropriate muscles.
When: research here is similar to Static Stretching with respects to timing, and for similar reasons.

Dynamic Stretching: This is often referred to as calisthenics or movement-oriented warm up.
Goal: increase muscle and connective tissue temperature, range of motion, blood flow to the working muscles (more nutrient supply) and increase neural drive to working muscles. In essence, to prepare the muscle for the activity it is about to encounter.
How: in the simplest terms…start with small slow movements and gradually progress them to bigger and faster movements. Engaging in movements similar to that which you are about to engage in are most beneficial (i.e. don’t go skip to warm up for swimming). In attempting to warm up for most ground based sporting activities, movements like body weight squats, gradual sprint build ups, side slides, skipping, cariocca, etc. types of activities work well.
When: more research and applied science encourage this type of “flexibility” training pre-activity. Why? You don’t lose strength and power. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Why would you teach your muscle to relax (static stretch) before trying to get it to contract quickly and powerfully? I don’t know either. If you figure it out, let me know. Point?…prepare the body for what it is about to encounter. It may also be wise to perform this type of activity as a “cool down” post exercise to shuttle waste out of the body and decrease recovery time.

Self Myofascial Release: a technique that has come to some popularity over the past 5 years. It is ultimately utilizing various tools (a foam roller, a “Stick”) to apply self-massage. In truth, it is not stretching, per se, but it does have significant benefit for range of motion which is why it’s worth mentioning here.
Goal: to break down trigger points and/or knots within the muscle as well as adhesions between the fascia (tissue surrounding muscle) and muscle itself. When either of these are present, range of motion is affected due to inhibited neural communication with the muscle and connective tissue preventing movement.
How: utilize tools such as “The Stick,” a 6” Foam Roller, or anything relatively firm (tennis ball, medicine ball, etc.). If using a Foam Roller, lay the appropriate muscle atop the roller and attempt to work out any sensitive areas that are encountered. Use as much pressure from bodyweight as can be tolerated while maintaining a relaxed muscle and breathing pattern. Work out the worst areas first. Perform 2-3 sets of 30-60 seconds per muscle.
When: SMR techniques can be applied pre-exercise, in between exercise sets, or post exercise. If you only have time for one application, pre-exercise is probably the best option.

Example routine for “General Fitness”
Dynamic Warm Up 5-10 Minutes
Static Stretching or SMR Techniques 5-10 Minutes
Exercise
Static Stretching between sets
Dynamic Cool Down 5-10 Minutes
Static or Neuromuscular Stretching 10-15 Minutes

Example routine for “Athletes”
Dynamic Warm Up 10-15 Minutes
SMR Techniques 5-10 Minutes
Exercise
SMR Techniques between sets
Dynamic Cool Down 5-10 Minutes
SMR Techniques 5 Minutes
Neuromuscular Stretching 15-30 Minutes

Apply these techniques to your program for 1-2 months and you will notice significant benefit.

Consult a physician prior to beginning any exercise program and stop at the onset of any pain or dizziness.

Prevail Conditioning