That’s a stretch

Pax Arcana

It is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain a disciplined training regimen, as each new day seemingly brings news of some new way of exercising.

First I was forced to give up my vibrating belt machine, despite its proven track record of success (my grandfather used it to vault himself to preeminence in the Svalbard eastern district herring fling 5 years straight). Next I was forced to quit smoking Chesterfield brand cigarettes, when it turned out they were actually no healthier than other brands — despite what a respected study had reported.

Now it appears that I may have to abandon my stretching routine, as modern science has deemed it outdated.

From the Times:

The old presumption that holding a stretch for 20 to 30 seconds — known as static stretching — primes muscles for a workout is dead wrong. It actually weakens them. In a recent study conducted at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, athletes generated less force from their leg muscles after static stretching than they did after not stretching at all. Other studies have found that this stretching decreases muscle strength by as much as 30 percent. Also, stretching one leg’s muscles can reduce strength in the other leg as well, probably because the central nervous system rebels against the movements.

A better way to warm up, kineseologists say, is to do some light jogging for 5-10 minutes, followed by a routine designed not only to prime your muscles, but also to convince your opponent that he will soon do battle with a crazy person:

Stretching muscles while moving, on the other hand, a technique known as dynamic stretching or dynamic warm-ups, increases power, flexibility and range of motion. Muscles in motion don’t experience that insidious inhibitory response. They instead get what McHugh calls “an excitatory message” to perform.

Dynamic stretching is at its most effective when it’s relatively sports specific … For runners, an ideal warm-up might include squats, lunges and “form drills” like kicking your buttocks with your heels. Athletes who need to move rapidly in different directions, like soccer, tennis or basketball players, should do dynamic stretches that involve many parts of the body. “Spider-Man” is a particularly good drill: drop onto all fours and crawl the width of the court, as if you were climbing a wall.

Modern science also recommends dynamic stretches with names like the “Scorpion,” the “Straight Leg March,” and “Handwalks.” Pax Arcana recommends the “Sprinkler,” the “Lawnmower,” and the “Whack-a-Mole,” but those are technically dance moves and not stretching exercises. So I guess you could say I’m the next generation’s Billy Blanks.

Stretching: The Truth [NYT]


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