The three main benefits of exercise include improved strength, improved aerobic capacity, and improved range of motion. These are all traits that we otherwise lose by living sedentary lives in the modern world.
Here’s an interesting story how stretching works and how it can go wrong.
You know how when a doctor taps your knee with a rubber hammer your leg straightens out suddenly? That reflex is called a myotatic stretch reflex and there’re two of them. The one tested by the hammer is called the immediate stretch reflex. The other is called the delayed stretch reflex.
The delayed stretch reflex takes about two seconds to come on and it is more subtle and gradual than the immediate reflex.
This means that when you stretch for more than two seconds at a time, your muscles work against you. The delayed stretch reflex comes on so the muscles resist being torn and pulled outside of the range of motion.
The significance is that many popular stretches are less effective than they could be or even counterproductive.
If there are any ways that you find yourself especially unflexible, rather than hold a static stretch for longer time, try a stretch for only two seconds with a two-second break between each stretch.
Here’s an easy example. To use this technique for your calves, stand against a wall and do a classic runners stretch with one leg forward, one leg back and your heel pressed towards the ground.
Hold the good stretch on your back leg for two seconds. Now reverse legs for two seconds and repeat. Do this six times for each leg you might be surprised how much of an immediate change in the range of motion you see.
The same technique can be used for any stretch. Hold the stretch with good form for two seconds, completely relax the muscle for two seconds, and then repeat.
Most people find that within a minute they can get more flexibility than they would see with even 10 minutes of static stretching.
To your best health,