Stretching is a common practice for many people playing sport or participating in exercise. Many people perform a wide variety of stretching without much thought about the validity or efficacy of doing so for their joint health. Many blindly follow others with a herd-like mentality that "if so many other people do it then they must be doing something right as it has been encouraged for a long time". Unfortunately, the evidence from the majority of studies on static stretching have shown for a long time that stretching does not live up to most of the health benefits claimed, and in some studies shows it can be detrimental.
Here is an image which highlights some concerns you may want to consider if you are someone who regularly stretches. This pose with the legs crossed and feet resting on the opposite leg looks rather peaceful however some of the joints may not be so happy afterwards.
If you look at the ankle, you will notice it is twisted with the opposite leg forcing the ankle into a position which is the most common position for ankle injuries. The downward force here might be taking the ankle past its active range of motion. Could this seemingly relaxed position be adding to ankle instability and joint laxity in the tissues that are most common to injury?
When you look in the photo, you will see the knee is forced into a position which is the opposite of its normal path of motion with the lower leg and foot on the inside of the thigh either resting on the other ankle/leg or with the weight of the body pressing down into the ground. To add to this twisting at the knee, you also have a high amount of force bending the knee sideways in a direction it does not go. If you perform this posture and focus on the knee, you will notice the strain on the outside of the knee.
When would you ever need your joints to be in this position? Is this helping achieve a goal other than obtaining the posture itself?
The first thing to consider before performing an exercise is why are you choosing that particular one, and in a specific way. Just because someone else is able to get into a specific posture, doesn’t mean it is good for you, and may not even be beneficial for them either. In general, if you need to force your joints into a position by means of using other body parts (using your arms to assist) or using bodyweight, to go beyond the active range you could safely take the joint using ONLY the muscles that move that specific joint, then you may be potentially doing more harm than good.
You may be reading this and thinking "then what the hell should I do?". The good news is that there are other options if your goal is to achieve relaxation or increased range of motion that do not open you up to an increased risk of injury. We will cover these in an upcoming post.
Feel free to comment or contact us directly if you have any questions.
Have you ever thought about what the terms "eccentric" and "concentric" mean when it comes to exercise?
This article is inspired by a number of questions we get during courses about the properties of concentrics vs eccentrics and what the actual differences are between them. It can be helpful to understand these definitions to improve our communication with clients, as well as helping us with modifying exercises for individual body structures.
So what is a concentric?
The concentric is the portion of the movement/exercise that requires you to "overcome" the resistance. This is where the muscle is "shortening" under load. For example lifting a dumbbell in a bicep curl.
What is an eccentric?
The portion of the exercise where you are no longer "overcoming" the resistance. It is essentially a "lengthening" contraction, whereby the muscle is still contracting, but with less tension than would be required to move the load concentrically. For example: Lowering a bicep curl.
Ultimately, an eccentric will likely be less demanding as you are not required to "overcome" the resistance in an eccentric. Assuming you are using the same weight, a concentric it will take more "output" from the muscles in order to overcome the resistance and create movement.
Why can I move more load through an eccentric?
You will generally be able to move more load in an eccentric due to the fact that you are no longer required to overcome the resistance.
Is it useful then to increase load for the eccentric portion of the exercise?
It could well be, that will depend on your client, their individual body structure, goals and tolerance levels. Just note that when doing this, you will be increasing the overall volume of that workout.
Will I get less DOMS if I only do concentric reps?
It's highly possible, since you are ultimately reducing the amount of volume you are doing in that specific workout.
We hope you found the above information helpful. If you have any questions on this or would like clarification, please send us an email or get in touch on our facebook or instagram pages and we'd be happy to discuss.
Source: The resistance training specialist program 2019.
IS THERE AN OPTIMAL PUSH/PULL RATIO FOR THE SHOULDER?
You may have heard people suggest that there is an optimal ratio of pulling to pushing exercises you need to do in order to prevent or even recover from shoulder injuries.
The more commonly spoken about ratio is that you need to do 3/1 pulling to pushing exercises for your upper body in order to maintain “shoulder health” and prevent injury.
Whilst it would be nice to have a predetermined ideal ratio of exercises to work towards, this is largely unfounded and will not apply to the majority of the human population.
Some reasons for this include:
So what should I do then?
Instead of suggesting people aim for a 3/1 ratio of pulling to pushing exercises, I've outlined couple of steps you could follow below, which might result in a safer and more effective outcome:
Whilst it would be nice if we could follow standardised guidelines, unfortunately these generally don't apply to the majority of the population.
Glute training and the quest for better glutes has taken off over the last 5 years, and has almost created its own industry within the fitness industry. We’ve seen the explosion of social media exercises, tools and gimmicks and even facilities that have the sole focus of developing glutes.
In the quest for developing better glutes we often see lower body workouts incorporating 5 or 6 glute focused exercises including squats, then lunges followed by leg presses and hip thrusters, then followed by some cable kickbacks. These might all be great options. However the question you need to ask is whether we are appropriately challenging all the other important muscles around the hip?
If I recommended you do 5 different Bicep Curl exercises every training session and 1 Tricep exercise every now and again most people would recognise this wouldn’t be a good idea. It could potentially risk overtraining and injuring Biceps, and also lead to joint instability or at very least slow progression of bicep curls if you never train the other side. However, when it comes to the backside of the hip, this is typically what happens.
The analogy I find most effective to highlight this is to relate it to food. It is similar to eating boiled carrots, followed by steamed carrots, baked carrots, then maybe some raw carrots and carrot soup. Is it better to eat carrots 5 different ways each meal or perhaps eat 5 different vegetables? This is not only for the nutritional value, but also eating carrots 5 ways would become quite boring.
Could this approach to building better glutes be improved?
Here’s something to consider:
How many exercises are you doing for the front of your hip? How often do you challenge your Hip Flexors or Adductors?
When you do a hip extension exercise such as a squat, you are reliant not only on your quads and glutes, but also a bunch of other muscles to help maintain the integrity of the hip joint. For instance your adductors, abductors and hip flexors. These muscles might have some role as joint managers (RTS 2019). When you are looking to bias specific musculature, your ability to hold everything else still plays a crucial role. By improving your ability to stabilise your pelvis, could you actually then improve your ability to squat more weight in the long run? Might this then lead to improved development of the glutes? Possibly.
The below image is useful for looking at the direction the fibres in the front of the hip as well as some activities that include the front of the hip. Ultimately it might make sense to train these sometimes along with the back of the hip
Next time you train your glutes, take some time to think if it is the best use of your time to train the glutes multiple times, or whether it might be better use the limited time to train other areas of the body which you may have been ignoring. In the long run you may even find this leads to better development of your glutes and greater resilience to injury as a result.
The “Art” of Stretching.
We’ve all been hearing about it for decades.
The average gym goer, veteran runner, health coach and personal trainer is constantly told stretching is a great way to increase flexibility and decrease chance of injury.
But what are you stretching?
Are you stretching muscle? Ligament? Nerves? Or maybe blood vessels? How do you know exactly what it is you are stretching and to what extent?
What if, over time your ligaments are becoming weak due to all this passive stretching. You, in fact, be could be ruining the integrity of your joints by performing these movements!
Ligaments are amazing tissues. They hold bone to bone and stabilise your joints.
These structures, when stretched overtime, can loosen and the structural integrity of a joint may weaken.
How does this happen?
Adding force to these structures externally may cause their shape to alter and “stretch”.
If a ligament becomes stretched or torn, the joint it is holding may be more prone to dislocation and instability.
Another tissue that helps with stability is muscle.
When do ever want your muscles to not be ready to handle load? Simply walking creates load on a muscle.
A muscle works best when it’s contracted and ready for load.
The job of a muscle is to pull a joint into a specific position, like the quadriceps pulling the tibia and fibula into extension.
The idea of passive stretching is to relax and elongate these tissues. But these tissues work better when they are “tight”, contacted.
If passive stretching releases “tightness” on these tissues, what happens?
They become relaxed and therefore unstable.
Would it be beneficial to relax these muscles and cause instability before exercise or activity? Probably not.
So next time someone tells you to stretch, it might be a good idea to ask them what the purpose of the stretch is and if it will hinder, cause instability to the joint and the joints integrity, and how do we know exactly what it is that “stretches” along with the muscle?
Do the perceived benefits outweigh the potential costs?
Think about this next time you decide to stretch.