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Tip 36: Why you should never do static stretching before lifting weights

Tuesday, February 22, 2011 6:13 AM
A plethora of recent studies have shown that static actually weakens muscles before strength training, therefore exposing you to a greater risk of injury. It was in fact showed that static also increases your risk of muscle tears before soccer and rugby matches.

Plus static stretching statically makes you feel like you as dynamic as boiled fettuccini. Static stretches before a power clean is as good as smoking a reefer the size of a St-Louis slugger.

Static stretching should instead be performed 4 to 6 hours post-workout since it involves the parasympathetic nervous system. This would permit the body to relax following an intense workout. For some reason, if you need flexibility to do a certain lift like the squat, do P.N.F. stretching. Certain lifts like full squats require higher levels of flexibility to perform, thus requiring for some individuals some mobilization before loading. To quote my colleagues Anne Fredericks and the late Mel Siff , PNF, not static stretching is the best type of stretching to perform before lifting weights. Fredericks and Siff have advanced that PNF stretching is superior to static stretching before a workout since it helps to stimulate the sympathetic nervous system (responsible for the fight or flight response).

In case you are not familiar with PNF stretching,  it stands for proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation.  This method has been used for years   by physical therapists and athletic trainers in the rehab processes.
Describing all the possible P.N.F. methods goes beyond the scope of this article. Please refer to Michael J. Alter’s The Science of Stretching (Human Kinetics) for more information.


Keep in mind that the effects of P.N.F. stretching will last 4 to 6 hours. Twenty years ago, we were told by the University teachers that should exert maximal force (100%) during the isometric contraction. This advice has unfortunately led to many muscle tears. However in the mid-eighties some evidence came out that one should in fact only need to contract at a suggestive 25% of maximal strength to inhibit the inhibitory mechanims. This offers a few advantages;

1. Decrease the likelyhood of getting injured dramatically, by building strength at the extremes of range of motion.

2. Does not reduce the blood supply to the muscles like lengthy static stretching methods does.. Hypoxia has been shown to increase connective tissue build-up thus creating losses of strength and flexibility that can only be alleviated by soft tissue work.

3. Gains of flexibility are amazingly rapid.. Within 3 or 4 P.N.F. contractions one unflexible subject can gain easily 4 to 6 inches of range of motion.

If you keep these principles in mind about stretching before lifting, you can enjoy far more productive workouts.

Copyright ©2011 Charles Poliquin

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