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Stretching or no stretching? (Part 1)

Posted in: Resources, Stretching | By: Rodrigo | No Comments

Stretching or no stretching, that is the question.

In the last few years a controversy has been brewing about the subject of stretching. What is the big deal about stretching? Some health care professional promote stretching some condemned it. The truth is that this subject is complex and lengthy. This is the first of many blogs to discuss the reasons behind stretching, when or when not to do it.

Stretching

Lets start the subject by understanding how muscles work. The muscle is formed of many muscle fibers. Let’s think of the muscle as an electrical cable: the whole muscle group is like a big cable. However, the cable is formed of many smaller copper filaments. As the example of the electrical cable, muscles can be felt as one big mass under the skin, but the muscle is actually made of many smaller, muscle fibers. If we take a closer look at the muscle fibers we can see more sub-units. And those sub-units are the muscle cells. Each muscle cell is a bundle of smaller fiber called myofibrils. These myofibrils are the contractile units of the muscle.

Stretching

The muscle myofibrils are made of sliding filaments called actin and myosin. When the muscle is recruited to contract, the filaments move (slide over each other) causing the muscle to shorten or contract. (We will discuss later muscles lengthening or moving eccentrically as they contract later.)

Looking at the microscopic units of the muscle, the myofibrils, we can see that once the sliding filaments have contracted all the way, there is no more room for the sliding filament to “slide” or move any more. By definition, and if we follow this model, a tight muscle, where the actin and myosin are slide to the limit, is a weak muscle because the muscle filaments are already shortened leaving no more room for them to contract or slide further, thus if they can not shorten anymore, they can not create the power needed to move.

Now the question; is it stretching bad for you? And the answer; it depends. It depends on the reasons why you are stretching. This will be discussed further in the next blog.

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