Here's Part 2. That's me by the way in the top picture just before my upper body exploded after eating my final peanut butter cup



Stretching is B.S. PART 2


Stretching is B.S.

Forget everything you think you know about tight and loose and weak muscles. Posture is mostly a result of neural programming – the relative activation of all muscles in your body determines your posture.

Stretching and strength training have repeatedly shown to have no or weak effects on posture. This makes sense, because stretching doesn't actually improve muscle length and can thus only affect posture through its neural effects.

Strength training and correction of muscular imbalances can also help, but in reality very little maximal strength is required to maintain optimal posture. Tangentially, there's also no scientific consensus on what constitutes optimal posture or muscle length.

What determines a person's posture then? By and large, lifestyle. Sports, strength training, and stretching all affect posture, but duration is far more important than magnitude regarding posture, and all such activities are thus dwarfed by your lifestyle.

It's not uncommon to see professional athletes exhibit amazing biomechanics during their performance, yet atrocious posture in daily life. This is because of the body's amazing ability to adapt in a task-specific manner.

You're already achieving all you can in that respect if you follow a decent program. The real key is mind over matter. Just as when trying to lose a tic, you must become aware of it and then correct it. Repeatedly. For a long time.

In time, your posture will improve.

Soft-tissue work can also help, especially if something is really out of whack, but in the end it's mostly about neural programming. If you want to correct your posture, you'll need to just adopt the desired posture until it becomes automatic.

Final Notes

Stretching is one of the great myths of the fitness industry. The facts are in, the jury has deliberated, and the verdict is clear: the usefulness of static stretching is severely limited.

Perhaps it's best to abandon the term completely, since nothing is permanently stretched out during stretching. For future use, I propose we call it stretch tolerance development, or STD for short. (Or was that acronym already taken?)

Anyway, let no Testosterone-fueled man henceforth subject himself to more than five minutes of this tedious activity per day.

Take Home Messages

  • You can't increase a muscle's length by stretching it. You can only increase your neural stretch tolerance.
  • To increase flexibility, adhere to the specificity principle. Increasing passive ROM is best achieved by 30 seconds of static stretching in a position as close to the desired position as possible. Increasing active ROM is best achieved by performing the desired movement against a resistance over your maximal ROM.
  • Keep warm-ups short and to the point. Prepare your body for the specific task at hand.
  • If you want to change your posture, you need to become aware of it and correct it until holding your new posture becomes automatic.


Stretching and Flexibility

A mechanism for altered flexibility in human skeletal muscle. Magnusson SP, Simonsen EB, Aagaard P, Sørensen H, Kjaer M. J Physiol. 1996 Nov 15;497 ( Pt 1):291-8. Erratum in: J Physiol (Lond) 1996 Dec 15;497(Pt 3):857.

A stretching program increases the dynamic passive length and passive resistive properties of the calf muscle-tendon unit of unconditioned younger women. Gajdosik RL, Allred JD, Gabbert HL, Sonsteng BA. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2007 Mar;99(4):449-54.

Do practical durations of stretching alter muscle strength? A dose-response study. Ryan ED, Beck TW, Herda TJ, Hull HR, Hartman MJ, Stout JR, Cramer JT. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2008 Aug;40(8):1529-37.

Effect of eccentric training on the plantar flexor muscle-tendon tissue properties. Mahieu NN, McNair P, Cools A, D'Haen C, Vandermeulen K, Witvrouw E. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2008 Jan;40(1):117-23.

Effects of a 4-week static stretch training program on passive stiffness of human gastrocnemius muscle-tendon unit in vivo. Nakamura M, Ikezoe T, Takeno Y, Ichihashi N. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2011 Nov 29.

Effects of resistance and stretching training programmes on the viscoelastic properties of human tendon structures in vivo. Kubo K, Kanehisa H, Fukunaga T. J Physiol. 2002 Jan 1;538(Pt 1):219-26.

Flexibility and its effects on sports injury and performance. Gleim GW, McHugh MP. Sports Med. 1997 Nov;24(5):289-99.

Increasing muscle extensibility: a matter of increasing length or modifying sensation? Weppler CH, Magnusson SP. Phys Ther. 2010 Mar;90(3):438-49. Epub 2010 Jan 14.

Influences of strength, stretching and circulatory exercises on flexibility parameters of the human hamstrings. Wiemann K, Hahn K. Int J Sports Med. 1997 Jul;18(5):340-6.

Moderate-duration static stretch reduces active and passive plantar flexor moment but not Achilles tendon stiffness or active muscle length. Kay AD, Blazevich AJ. J Appl Physiol. 2009 Apr;106(4):1249-56.

Neural aspects of muscle stretching. Guissard N, Duchateau J. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2006 Oct;34(4):154-8.

Passive energy return after repeated stretches of the hamstring muscle-tendon unit. Magnusson SP, Aagaard P, Nielson JJ. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2000 Jun;32(6):1160-4.

Passive extensibility of skeletal muscle: review of the literature with clinical implications. Gajdosik RL. Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2001 Feb;16(2):87-101.

Passive properties of human skeletal muscle during stretch maneuvers. A review. Magnusson SP. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 1998 Apr;8(2):65-77.

Stretching versus strength training in lengthened position in subjects with tight hamstring muscles: a randomized controlled trial. Aquino CF, Fonseca ST, Gonalves GG, Silva PL, Ocarino JM, Mancini MC. Man Ther. 2010 Feb;15(1):26-31.

The acute effect of stretching on the passive stiffness of the human gastrocnemius muscle tendon unit. Morse CI, Degens H, Seynnes OR, Maganaris CN, Jones DA. J Physiol. 2008 Jan 1;586(1):97-106.

The effects of dynamic stretching on plantar flexor muscle-tendon tissue properties. Samukawa M, Hattori M, Sugama N, Takeda N. Man Ther. 2011 Dec;16(6):618-22.

Viscoelasticity of the muscle-tendon unit is returned more rapidly than range of motion after stretching. Mizuno T, Matsumoto M, Umemura Y. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2011 May 12.

Stretching and Posture

A review of resistance exercise and posture realignment. Hrysomallis C, Goodman C. J Strength Cond Res. 2001 Aug;15(3):385-90.

A Review on Postural Realignment and its Muscular and Neural Components. Michael Young. Published on EliteTrack.

Effectiveness of strengthening and stretching exercises for the postural correction of abducted scapulae: a review. Hrysomallis C. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Feb;24(2):567-74.

Optimal Stretching Duration

A comparison of two stretching modalities on lower-limb range of motion measurements in recreational dancers. Wyon M, Felton L, Galloway S. J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Oct;23(7):2144-8.

Effect of 3 different active stretch durations on hip flexion range of motion. Ayala F, de Baranda Andújar PS. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Feb;24(2):430-6.

Effect of stretching duration on active and passive range of motion in the lower extremity. Roberts JM, Wilson K. Br J Sports Med. 1999 Aug;33(4):259-63.

A comparison of two stretching protocols on hip range of motion: implications for total daily stretch duration. Cipriani D, Abel B, Pirrwitz D. J Strength Cond Res. 2003 May;17(2):274-8.

Determining the minimum number of passive stretches necessary to alter musculotendinous stiffness. Ryan ED, Herda TJ, Costa PB, Defreitas JM, Beck TW, Stout J, Cramer JT. J Sports Sci. 2009 Jul;27(9):957-61.

The time course of musculotendinous stiffness responses following different durations of passive stretching. Ryan ED, Beck TW, Herda TJ, Hull HR, Hartman MJ, Costa PB, Defreitas JM, Stout JR, Cramer JT. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2008 Oct;38(10):632-9.

The effect of time and frequency of static stretching on flexibility of the hamstring muscles. Bandy WD, Irion JM, Briggler M. Phys Ther. 1997 Oct;77(10):1090-6.


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