Performance vs. Health
To Stretch Or Not To Stretch


As admittedly unauthorized spokespeople for the 50+ population we'd like to put our two cents into a controversy concerning stretching.
The question is, which of the many flavors of stretching should we choose… Static, Dynamic, Ballistic , Assisted, Passive, Active, Yoga, PNF, AIS,MAT, ART or whether to stretch at all?…..and if yes, when, how much and for how long?

Who are we?

Static Stretching

In short we are degreed exercise professionals with 50 years experience between the two of us as fitness gurus to people over 50 years of age. See bio.
We've just come back to the internet (Stásh and I have had Refit Yourself and Walkaerobics educational websites online since the late 1980s),after a hiatus because of Stash's long but successful bout with bladder cancer in the state of mind of our favorite quotes "It's never too late to start again and again and yet again" and "You CAN teach an old dog new tricks". We were updating our website innocently googling our keywords when lo and behold our beloved long time friend Static Stretching, and stretching in general was in a soreness vs. safety, static vs. dynamic storm.

We have long known and experienced firsthand and the virtues and benefits of static stretching for relieving pain, anti-aging, repairing injuries, healing, increasing range of motion ROM and improving posture in the 50+ population. But recently its detriments in performance, power, reaction time and balance compared to the benefits of and preferences for Dynamic (and other) Stretching for muscular performance enhancement and resistance to injury has become an issue of contention in the 21th century.

Chapter one : Does Static Stretching Suck?

Static Stretching

A respected authority the New York Times published an obviously influential story Stretching: The Truth by Gretchen Reynold Published 10/21/08 which sited researchers at University of Nevada, University of Oklahoma, some sports medicine doctors ,US Tennis Assoc, Olympic running coaches and golf coaches, and some strength and ,soccer trainers who compare, prefer and recommend Dynamic stretching before a bout of exercise or sport over what they call, Static Stretching.
On further reading we were relieved to realize that the Static Active Stretching and Static isometric Stretching we were trained to teach at ASU department ESPE in the 80's and the same stretching we've been teaching, advocating and successfully, effectively increasing flexibility/range of motion ROM, lengthening resting (antagonist) muscles, strengthening opposing (agonist) muscles, rehabilitating and reducing risk of injury of people over 50 for 25 years is not necessarily the Static Stretching Ms Reynolds was referring to.
So before we get all pulled out of shape, we need to define our terms This is very important because the 50+ population is typically slightly to grossly Deconditioned, vulnerable to injury and not too fond of exercise. And most of our clients are well read and intelligent. Therefore when they read anything that gives an excuse to stop exercising or in this case, stretching, we fear they will only latch on to the negative and refrain completely.
Definitions of Stretching Protocols

Static Stretching :
Comes in at least four flavors and they are quite different:
1Static Active Stretching
• Stretching a relaxed muscle to its farthest point without pain and maintaining that position, for 7- 15 seconds. Requires the strength of one's own opposing (agonist) muscles to hold the limb one is stretching in position to allow these muscles (antagonists) to relax and stretch by reciprocal inhibition.
• Measurably increases range of motion ROM in the relaxed (antagonist) muscles
• Slightly strengthens the opposing(agonist) muscles.
• Needs gentle warm-up e.g. 5min walking
• E.g. ReFIT Yourself Static Active Stretches, some Yoga Stretches

Static Stretching

2Static Isometric Stretching
• Same as above but contract /flex the stretched (antagonist) muscle (isometric ally) after reaching the farthest point of stretch for 7-15 seconds
• Measurably increases range of motion ROM in the relaxed (antagonist) muscles
• When contracted, measurably strengthens that muscle (antagonist) at its greatest extension
• E.g. ReFIT Yourself Static Active Stretches, some Yoga Stretches
• Needs warm-up e.g. 5min walking

3 Static Passive Stretching
• Also called Relaxed Stretching and. Passive Stretching
• One stretches a relaxed muscle to its farthest point using an external force either a wall, floor, apparatus (rubber bands, exercise balls, foam rolls) or a person, maintaining that position for up to 30 seconds
E.g. Splits, Calf Stretches against a wall
• Can lead to overstretching injuries.
• Needs warm-up. Some tests as described in the NY Times article Stretching: The Truth by Gretchen Reynold Published 10/21/08 show reduced performance if done before vigorous activity without a warm-up.
• Good at cool-down
4 Static PNF Stretching (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation)
• Same Static Passive Stretching as above but flex the stretched (antagonist) muscle against a resistance.
• Needs an expert partner. E.g. Personal trainer, massage therapist, chiropractor

Now let's bring the contender Dynamic Stretching and other stretching protocols into the discussion.

Static Stretching

Dynamic Stretching:
• Expressed as big rolling flowing movements using momentum to prepare the body and mind for strenuous activity/exercise.
• Recommended for athletes to mimic the movement of their sport gradually increasing reach and gradually increasing speed.
• Start with smaller joints (fingers ,wrists, ankles) , progress to bigger joints (shoulders, hips) up to full body movements.
• Avoid motionlessness(avoid remaining static).
• E.g. Arm circles, high knee steps, butt kicks, ReFIT Yourself Static Active Stretches torso twists, Tai Chi
• Possibly produces more stretch to the joints than to the muscles.
• Can be done with too intense, vigorous or jerky movements which might cause injury.
• Needs warm-up e.g. 5 min stationary bike or slow jog

Ballistic Stretching
• Bouncing and jerky movements utilizing speed and momentum,
• Injurious, may cause muscle tightening
• E.g. jumping jacks, military calisthenics
• Usually done without warm-up.

Myo-fascial Release also called Active Isolated Stretching AIS
• Pumping Action using foam roller
• Must have expert Therapist

Self Myo-fascial Release
• Uses Foam Roller. Roll back and forth over Hot spots, trigger points. Hold on tender point until pain decreases 75%
• Possible damage to Sphincters?
• Needs further study

Active Release Technique ART
• Deep tissue massage
• Requires a chiropractor
• Patented but not necessarily effective

• As seen on TV , beware of red face syndrome in 50+ population.
• possible damage to cardiovascular and circulatory systems
• Caution recommended.

Until these recent controversies, Static Stretching had been the gold standard and most recommended flexibility regimen.

We think that the NY Times article is harmful as it is because it may and probably already has discouraged adult exercisers from necessary stretching . If the article, was retiled Warm-up: The Truth it would more accurate and less harmful to a segment of the exercising public. The author starts out by stating that warm up regimens are not only a waste of time but actually bad for you".

At this point she incorrectly equates the warm-up 5 Phases Of Exercise with static stretching, (not the same), Among other gaffes she incorrectly thinks one holds a static stretch for 20 – 30 seconds which she says, is supposed to prime the muscles for a workout . Which she says studies prove it actually weakens them. She's right about that. because its dangerous to stretch with cold muscles and no warm up. And it's wrong to hold a stretch for more than 15 seconds. She goes on to site studies and opinions by the University of Nevada, University of Oklahoma, sports medicine centers US tennis Ass and et al. all who state negative views that static stretching when done as a warm up or without a warm up can make the muscles less responsive and weak. We agree. But we are sorry that such an influential article was so misleading. She eventually correctly writes, " a well-designed warm up starts by increasing body heat and blood flow" '" to raise the body's temp, a warm up must begin with aerobic activity' she says, such as light jogging , (we say a 5 min walk is a correct warm-up for the 50+ population). And we quote her again," a number of recent studies have demonstrated that an overly vigorous aerobic warm-up simply makes you tired." We agree with her experts that at 40% of your maximum heart rate you are warmed up sufficiently to stretch.

It is when Reynolds equates stretching ,while moving … which she calls Dynamic Stretching with dynamic warm-ups, is where we disagree and worry that this article has and will continue to misinform. Dynamic stretching is big rolling flowing movements which prepares the body for strenuous activity/exercise. And the studies sited and experts quoted recommend it for athletes to mimic the movement of their sport . but only after a warm up not as a warm up. If one stretches in any style without a warm-up one is risking lowered performance , injury, lack of strength etc.
She obviously is a champion of Dynamic stretching as a warm-up we got that but she finishes the article with three of the "best " dynamic stretches. Recommended by the US Tennis Association's Player Development Program The "straight leg march"', "scorpion", and" hand walks". Two points about that.

• These exercises are very advanced and would harm /injure the average NY Times reader over 50

• US Tennis Association says to do after your aerobic warm-up ,

We're confused, is dynamic stretching a warm-up or not ?
In this NY times article we think that effective , safely done Static Stretching takes the rap for the evil "NO WARM-UP" and seems to have led to negative posts about it from some sports and strength trainers, and some purveyors of dubious auxiliary stretching equipment.

Chapter Two: A Slew of Static Stretching Supporters
As we accumulated an abundance of current web articles on stretching. We were heartened to find young highly educated colleagues from everywhere… College professors, strength coaches, karate trainers, physical therapists, acupuncturists, chiropractors, and the American College of sports medicine ACSM it seems, that are just as fervent about Static Stretching as we are.

• From University of Nebraska,
Dynamic vs. Static Stretching by Joshua Nichtar, associate professor director athletic training education
This was a review of the literature and round table discussions attended by leading strength coaches across the nation The results though controversial showed that many of the negative studies of static stretching had very low sample sizes and did not control for bias effectively …There were no protocols for type, frequency duration and intensity (see The FITT principle) for implementation. The review concluded that Static Stretching has been and continues to be the gold standard for improving joint range of motion ROM. As far as injury prevention the basic tenet is that Static Stretching is safe, easy to do, educate & supervise.

• From England,
Sports-Fitness-Adviser .com an excellent website with evidence based content ,Phil, a young looking 30 + SPORTS SPECIFIC TRAINER and degreed Exercise Physiologist, CSCS, writes,
"before disregarding static stretching entirely".. "remember that this debate relates to an acute bout of static(passive) stretching prior to exercise. It is still considered important and beneficial to athletes away from competition (and we assume other exercisers, too) to bring about a long term increase in range of motion ROM"… "Static stretching is more effective (than Dynamic stretching) at increasing range of motion ROM"

• From the University of Central Arkansas Research Council
The effect of time and frequency of Static stretching on the hamstring muscles
A review of many studies of time and frequency of Static Stretching stated that any and all conclusion should (not generalize and) only be applied to similar age groups, particularly (in the case of ) older individuals.

• From the US ,
The Static Stretching Renaissance an excellent article by Michael Boyle , a respected STRENGTH COACH writes that
" the pendulum always swings"…" from over reacting with disdain for static stretching going from it being the best way to warm up to something to never do again at any time, for any purpose" "The fact is that athletes (and average exercisers ages 50+) need a combination of both active warm-up exercises (such as walking 5 min) and static stretching.. He closes with, "One reason athletes (and some of the rest of us) don't' like to stretch is that it's hard."

• From Canada,
Negative Effects Of Static Stretching Negated? In response to the NY Times article he analyzed yet another study of stretching and performance similar to the ones sited, Negative effect of static stretching restored when combined with a sport specific warm up component (Taylor et al, 2009), Cubos final opinions about all the studies are that the stretches included were too vague, the protocol too general, with too many variables' not controlled (such as temperature of the muscles) and more studies are needed. And we agree .

Static Stretching


Coming soon
Chapter three
Step By Step Static Stretching

In this chapter we will attempt to sort out the numerous stretching protocols swallowed up in the oil slick of bad regimens and methods. We will depend on the American college of Sports medicine Guidelines for safe and effective flexibility exercises for people over 50.….the recognized authority on the subject and our own 50 years of hands on experience.

Walk Aerobics Video Cover

Indoor Full body exercise
low impact aerobics
Simple steps
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Static Stretching

Improve flexibility
No pain

Quantum Cleansing

Relaxation techniques

Cancer Fighter

Techniques to battle and
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Cadence Trail

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