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Data Source: Zamparo P, Bonifazi M (2013). Bioenergetics of cycling sports activities in water.

Coded for Swimming Science by Cameron Yick

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Acute effects of antagonist stretching on jump height, torque, and electromyography of agonist musculature

Sandberg JB, Wagner DR, Willardson JM, Smith GA. Acute effects of antagonist stretching on jump height, torque, and electromyography of agonist musculature. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 May;26(5):1249-56


The practice of static stretching prior to exercise has been recently scrutinized. Recent literature suggests static stretching is unlikely to prevent injuries and likely impairs strength and power performance. However, the studies typically analyze the agonist muscles, even though the agonist and antagonist muscles contribute to force and power output. In fact, if the antagonist muscles are inhibited, it is likely the agonist has a higher force/power/strength potential.

The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of static stretching of the antagonist muscle on peak torque of the knee extensors and vertical jump height and power.

What was done
Sixteen recreationally resistance trained men were tested for peak knee extension torque and vertical jump height. These tests were performed with and without preceding antagonist stretch. Each participant performed stretching and nonstretching routines with 1 -3 days between trials. Electromyography (surface EMG) was also recorded on the vastus lateralis and long head of the biceps during the knee extension.

For the knee extension trial, a hamstring stretch was performed and for the vertical jump, a dorsiflexor and hip flexor stretch were performed. Stretches were held for 30 seconds and repeated 3 times with 20-second rest between the stretches.

Stretching the antagonist muscle elicited significantly greater torque for the fast knee extension, but not the slow knee extension.

Vertical jump height and power were both significantly greater after the stretching protocol.

No differences were noted in EMG.

Despite the improvements in vertical jump height, power, and fast knee extension torque, the effects size was small.

Practical Implication
In swimming, isolated muscle activity is uncommon, so inhibiting power of one muscle group to increase another muscle group results in zero overall improvement. However, if strength and conditioning is performed, this could be used to increase land strength, likely beneficial in short sprint swimming.

Future studies must asses dynamic stretching of the antagonistic groups, for example kneeling falls before deadlifts, as this form is popularized by some strength and conditioning coaches (Pavel Tsatsouline).

Swimming Science Research Review 

This is a piece of the Swimming Science Research Review. Read Swimming Science Research Review October 2012 for a complete list of the articles reviewed.

Sign-up here to receive this month's edition and all future publications for only $10/month. Each edition covers articles ranging from biomechaincs, physiology, rehabilitation, genetic, and much more! These reviews explain the latest sports science research in straightforward language.

This will help you apply knowledge in the review to the pool deck, separating yourself from your peers!

And don’t worry, there’s no fixed commitment period, so if you don’t want to continue receiving the monthly publication, you can just cancel your payment whenever you want.


Dryland Mistake: Stretching Part III

Dryland mistakes exist on pool decks across the World. This is an extended series hoping to improve these flawed programs and give practical methods for improvement.

If you have not read the other aspects of this series, make sure you get to them first! Dryland Mistake Stretching I and Dryland Mistake Stretching II cover the basics of stretching. This article discussed dynamic movements and mobility to improve an athlete’s blood flow and functionality outside of the pool.

Overall, the goal of these early installments was to question your current view on stretching. Moreover, hopefully it brought to light the risks and benefits of stretching, especially static stretching. In short, static stretching is ideal after an exhaustive exercise for reducing sympathetic over-activity.

Swimmers are busy, therefore finding each individuals ‘minimal effective dose’ for every activity helps limit waste. However, many people over stretch, spending far too much time on this process considering these benefits are possible in as little as 30 seconds of stretching daily (also checkout Yoga and Swimming).

In dryland misake: stretching part I, static stretching was the emphasis as this is the most common form on pool decks. However, there are different, beneficial types of stretching, this piece will address each of these forms.


As seen in the functional warm-up, dynamic stretching is ideal before exercise. Dynamic stretching utilizes dynamic movements thorough a full range of motion. This complex form of stretching involves contracting certain muscles (agonist) and relaxing other muscles (antagonist). In a front to back leg swing, such as, when your leg is swinging forward (similar to a downkick in freestyle) the hip flexors (quadriceps, iliopsoas) are contracting and the hamstring muscles are relaxing. This improves blood flow and prepare the body for exercise.

Unlike static stretching, dynamic stretching does not negatively affect running performance in trained runners (Zourdos 2009) and should be utilized before dry-land or workout for swimming warm-up and injury prevention.

Contract - Relax

Contract-relax (PNF) is what it sounds like: you stretch a muscle, contract it, then relax. To stretch your hamstring such as, first get into the stretching position, such as standing with one leg on a couch. Contracting a muscle inhibits the stretch reflex in this muscle, via an element in your spinal cord called a Renshaw cell. Renshaw cell tells the stretch reflex “don’t panic the muscle is already contracting, don’t overdo it” Feeling lasts for about 5 second window.

Short-duration static stretching appears to have a harmful effect on muscle strength, particularly in relation to proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching. However, short-duration proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching has no harmful effect on strength (Davis 2007).

Dr. Rushall reviewed one study indicating the negative effects of stretching, he elegantly described the current state of PNF stretching:

“PNF has an acute negative effect on muscle force production in both isometric and dynamic tasks. It might not be the type of stretching to be employed before performing activities that require high force production.

[This is the first study reviewed by this editor that has reported negative findings associated with PNF stretching. There are a number of considerations that need to be heeded when contemplating this investigation. From this editor's perspective, and that of the Coaching Science Abstracts, there is only one form of PNF stretching that is worthwhile. It was originally promoted by Lawrence E. Holt, Ph.D. as "3S Stretching" in his now out-of-date book, (Holt, L. E. (1973). Scientific Stretching for Sport. Halifax, Nova Scotia: Dalhousie University). Recently, the 3S technique was re-introduced by Humana Press of New Jersey (Holt, L. E., Pelham, T. W., & Holt, J. (2008). Flexibility: A Concise Guide to Conditioning, Performance Enhancement, Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation).
When evaluating stretching research, and in particular PNF stretching, it is helpful to consider the following factors:

  • What was the method used?
  • What controlled PNF sequence was used?
  • What were the tests used and the delay of time between exercise and testing?
  • How were the tests related to the stretching technique, that is, were the tests truly valid? [For example, in the study reported here, it is not clear when one and two legs were involved in stretching and/or testing.]
  • Was there a follow-up with a second test after a delay period to measure the duration of the effect?
Despite the various forms of PNF stretching that have developed deliberately or by a failure to adhere to the original protocol standard, there still is an overwhelming body of evidence that supports PNF stretching as being the only safe and beneficial form of deliberate stretching work. When it is combined with free-form "safe" ballistic stretching (now commonly referred to as "dynamic stretching"), its use in performance preparation is beneficial and advisable. BSR]”.

Self Soft Tissue Mobilization

Another form of “stretching” is self soft tissue work. The easiest and most commonly seen use of this form of stretching is self myofascial release (foam rolling, tennis ball rolling, etc.). Self soft tissue mobilization incorporates an external device to induce pressure on your muscles with the theoretical goal to 1) change muscle length, 2) decrease muscle tension and 3) create a counter-irritant to pain. This includes foam rolling, tennis balls or mobility sticks. These mobilizations are a poor man's massage tools is best suited before dry-land, practice, or on an off day.

This form of mobility is suggested to improve the quadriceps range of motion by 10 degrees after 10 minutes (Macdonald 2010).


  1. Zourdos, M. C., Wilson, J. M., Sommer, B. A., Hornbuckle, L. M., Park, Y., Lee, S., Panton, L. B., & Kim, J. (2009). The effects of dynamic stretching on endurance performance during a 30-minute time trial. ACSM 56th Annual Meeting, Seattle, Washington. Presentation number 807.
  2. Davis, J. E., & MacConnell, T. D. (2007). Acute effects of static and Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation stretching on muscle strength and range of motion. ACSM Annual Meeting New Orleans, Presentation Number, 2575.
  3. Moe, V., & Aune, T. K. (2009). The effect of stretching on muscle force production in hamstring muscles. A paper presented at the 14th Annual Congress of the European College of Sport Science, Oslo, Norway, June 24-27.
  4. Macdonald G, Penney M, Mullaley M, Cuconato A, Drake C, Behm DG, Button DC. An Acute Bout of Self Myofascial Release Increases Range of Motion Without a Subsequent Decrease in Muscle Activation or Force. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 May 10.
By G. John Mullen founder of the Center of Optimal Restoration, head strength coach at Santa Clara Swim Club, creator of the Swimmer's Shoulder System, and chief editor of the Swimming Science Research Review.

Yoga and Swimming

Yoga is a common pastime for many athletes. Although an ancient practice, yoga has expanded exponentially in American sports and fitness. Many claim yoga is effective in improving range of motion, breathing, stress, and even pain relief. Sounds like a total “Win” for swimmers!

However, when evaluating these benefits we must also consider potential risks, including inefficient time usage. Swimmers train a lot as it is...most don’t have the time to become full time yogis. The most important question is this: Does yoga translate into better swimming? In this post, we’ll explore some claims about yoga’s purported benefits and how yoga may fit into a supplementary conditioning regime for swimmers.

Before getting into yoga specifics, the choice to include any supplementary training must answer two questions.

1. Is there a need for the intervention?

Yoga is often heralded for improving flexibility and range of motion; two traits valued by many swimmers. Unfortunately, many swimmers have too much mobility relative to stability. Length, strength, and timing are all needed in swimming. However, serious yoga practitioners (both swimmers and non-swimmers) often focus disproportionately length aspect, with strength and timing suffering.

Also recognize there are only twenty four hours in the day. Yoga’s greatest asset (a holistic system of practice to elicit specific physical and psychological benefits) may be its greatest liability when used to supplement swim training. There’s no doubt that yoga can improve range of motion in certain people….but lots of things can! For example, Sherman (2011) found similar functional improvements among back pain sufferers comparing yoga with static stretching (but better outcomes than merely studying a booklet).

If we can elicit these same changes with three minutes of self myfascial release, and other three minutes of specific mobility drills, and another three minutes of stabilization directly targeted for an individual athlete’s traits, that’s a much more efficient time usage than driving to the yoga studio, spending an hour there, and then driving home. Ultimately, we’re seeking the minimal effective dose.

Yoga defenders may counter “just pick a few quick poses,” but in that case are you really doing yoga or just static stretching and calling it yoga to appear progressive? (see, Dryland Mistake: Stretching
Part I and Part II) Ultimately, the goal is to get the most done with the least effort possible, not expend more effort on a generalized approach and hope something good comes from it.

2. How is the intervention being delivered?

Yoga can range from a DVD at home, to cramming into a hot room with forty people at a “big box” gym, to a boutique yoga studio, to meditating on the side of a Himalayan mountain pass. The truth is yoga practice is hardly homogenous. To suggest that yoga is generally beneficial says a lot, but means nothing given the lack of uniformity in delivery. Further, even practice in a serious yoga studio might not address a swimmer’s specific physical limitations.

To suggest yoga is “good for everyone” skirts the main issue, which is finding the best intervention to elevate that particular swimmer’s performance. On the flipside, yoga may be ideal for some swimmers, particularly if the yoga instructor has the knowledge and skills to identify the swimmer’s relevant needs for swimming, and not just presuppose that everyone needs to improve range of motion.

What does the Literature Say?

Yoga has been under scrutiny lately for risk of injury (recently, Zhu 2012), but I believe it would be a “cheap shot” to get too much into this research, as many injuries have less to do with the practice itself and more to do with how yoga is commercially delivered in our modern era. All forms of exercise can be safe or unsafe based on how they are delivered. It’s not about the exercise...its’ how you’re doing it!

The literature is clear that yoga might improve various measures of health and performance from breathing (Telles 2011), low back pain (Tekur 2012), stress (Shankarapillai 2011), and even Functional Movement Screen scores (Cowen 2010). In fact, there are far too many studies pronouncing the benefits of yoga for several conditions to completely cover here. That said, to my knowledge, there have been no studies applying yoga to high level athletes, let alone competitive swimmers. Anecdotally, we know some elite athletes do yoga on some level, but its unclear if they succeed because of yoga, despite yoga, or if yoga is simply an innocuous pastime.

When evaluating those studies it is critical to revisit our two questions above: need and delivery. For example, yoga has been shown to improve heart rate variability (Muralikrishnan 2012), which is a sign of autonomic nervous system health. But can we really expect those same benefits in a swimmer already bordering on overtraining who leaves a 108 degree yoga room saying, “Wow, that class really kicked my butt today!”? That may be an extreme example, but the evidence supporting that yoga can improve stress, breathing, and relaxation becomes irrelevant if yoga is being delivered in an aberrant fashion.

Further it is also important to consider the quality of those studies. One fundamental problem with yoga in the literature is that subjects are never blind to the intervention they are receiving (Li 2012). Many have an expectation they will improve due to yoga. While psychological expectation may be seen as a treatment benefit, I’m sure yoga proponents would like stronger evidence than the possibility that yoga may function as a placebo!

Simply introducing control groups doesn’t solve all evidence problems. Li (2012) notes that, “Further difficulties arise from lack of appropriate controls in some studies. These are imperative to validate the effectiveness of yoga in reducing stress and anxiety symptoms. Control subjects should experience the same camaraderie as the yoga intervention group to determine whether the results obtained were from the practice of yoga or from the personal friendships and support developed during yoga practice.” As with psychological expectation, camaraderie may indeed be a benefit of yoga, but sitting in the bar with a bunch of friends offers camaraderie too!

Finally, remember our primary question is whether yoga improves swimming performance. There’s a clear lack of studies on yoga in athletic populations, and an even bigger void with high level swimming. One of the few (Boyle 2004) examined the effect of a single yoga session on delayed onset muscles soreness. After an endurance step test involving healthy females, a group that did yoga after test had significantly less muscle soreness than the group that did not do yoga, though remember this control group was not swimmers.

Note there was no other experimental group to compare yoga…was it anything specific about the yoga or did the yoga group simply have less soreness because they actually had a cooldown, unlike the control group? Interestingly there was no difference in body awareness or ratings of perceived exertion between the yoga group and control group, but again note this study involved stair stepping, not elite swimming.


Evidence suggests yoga potentially has many health and performance benefits, but whether these transfer to swimming is unclear. Always consider not just yoga itself, but also how it is delivered and how it blends with the rest of the swimmer’s training, needs, and available resources. Interventions must strive for minimal effective dose.


1) Tekur P, Nagarathna R, Chametcha S, Hankey A, Nagendra HR. A comprehensive yoga programs improves pain, anxiety and depression in chronic low back pain patients more than exercise: an RCT. Complement Ther Med. 2012 Jun;20(3):107-18. Epub 2012 Jan 28.
2) Muralikrishnan K, Balakrishnan B, Balasubramanian K, Visnegarawla F. Measurement of the effect of Isha Yoga on cardiac autonomic nervous system using short-term heart rate variability. J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2012 Apr;3(2):91-6.
3) Cowen VS. Functional fitness improvements after a worksite-based yoga initiative. J Bodyw Mov Ther. 2010 Jan;14(1):50-4.
4) Li AW, Goldsmith CA. The effects of yoga on anxiety and stress. Altern Med Rev. 2012 Mar;17(1):21-35.
5) Shankarapillai R, Nair MA, George R. The effect of yoga in stress reduction for dental students performing their first periodontal surgery: A randomized controlled study. Int J Yoga. 2012 Jan;5(1):48-51.
6) Telles S, Singh N, Balkrishna A. Heart rate variability changes during high frequency yoga breathing and breath awareness. Biopsychosoc Med. 2011 Apr 13;5:4.
7) Zhu JK, Wu LD, Zheng RZ, Lan SH. Yoga is found hazardous to the meniscus for Chinese women. Chin J Traumatol. 2012 Jun 1;15(3):148-51.
8) Boyle CA, Sayers SP, Jensen BE, Headley SA, Manos TM. The effects of yoga training and a single bout of yoga on delayed onset muscle soreness in the lower extremity.J Strength Cond Res. 2004 Nov;18(4):723-9 .
9) Sherman KJ, Cherkin DC, Wellman RD, Cook AJ, Hawkes RJ, Delaney K, Deyo RA. A randomized trial comparing yoga, stretching, and a self-care book for chronic low back pain. Arch Intern Med. 2011 Dec 12;171(22):2019-26. Epub 2011 Oct 24.

By Allan Phillips. Allan and his wife Katherine are heavily involved in the strength and conditioning community, for more information refer to Pike Athletics.

Dryland Mistake: Stretching Part II

If you missed part I, checkout Dryland Mistake: Stretching.

Stretching Scares
Let me ask a quick question, would you do something if it increased injury risk, decreased power production, and increased soreness?

If you answered no, then why do you stretch?

If improvements were believed to occur due to changes in neural structures, would you still be interested in stretching? Or if you knew stretching a ligament by only six percent will tear it?

Hop on any deck and you'll see people performing stretching during warm-up and the main thought is to prevent injuries. This is commonly performed on the high injury areas in the sport (shoulders, knees, low back). However, injuries keep arising! Perhaps stretching isn't preventing injuries as we once thought.

Well the literature is a bit mixed. Hartig and Henderson in 1999 felt high frequency flexibility reduced injuries. However, Ingraham felt the opposite in 2003.

Who to believe?

Well both could be true, as Hartig and Henderson feel high frequency is key and Ingraham votes for low-intensity...more on this later.

Stretching may not even help during the recovery of an injury (Moseley 2005).

Moreover, increased mobility in the low-spine increases one's risk for injury (Parks 2003).

In the shoulder, excessive overhead motion (overhead sports, ie swimming) cause microdamage to the tendons, which is believed to result in instability and an increased risk of shoulder injury (Sein 2008).

As these are the two most common sites of injury in swimming, every step to prevent injury is essential and discontinuing stretching in these areas is a must!

Power/Strength/EnduranceSports performance is the name of the game in swimming. However many studies have found stretching directly before exercise results in decreased performance! This goes for force production (Behm 2001; Power 2004; Nelson 2001; Fry 2003; Kay 2012) and endurance (Kokkonen 2001, 2005).

One theory is stretching prevents the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC) of the musculotendinous junction, decreasing stiffness and the ability to recoil. Another theory is stretching breaks down muscle fibers and results in soreness (see below), causing performance decrements.

Despite popular use, stretching directly before competing does not improve performance.

Stretching is a form of exercise and breaks down muscle fibers. This is believed to contribute to muscle soreness and result in more soreness (Smith 1993). In fact stretching has been shown not to effect muscle soreness (Henschke 2011).

Cryotherapy, stretching, homeopathy, ultrasound and electrical current modalities have demonstrated no effect on the alleviation of muscle soreness or other DOMS symptoms (Cheung 2003).

Maybe not all bad...

Some studies have found strength gains are associated with stretching (Kokkonen 1995; Kokken 200). However, this is typically with proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching.

Heart rate variability (HRV) is believed to measure sympathetic nervous system activity. This is the time between two consecutive heart beats.

Static stretching programs of 30 seconds are associated with an immediate increase in parasympathetic activity (Farinatti 2011). Mueck-Weymann 2004 suggests a 20 day stretching program is beneficial in decreasing sympathetic activity.

These improvements are larger in less mobile patrons, but potentially aide in recovery.

Dr. Rushall put it nicely in this Swimming Science Bulletin:
“The basic tenet of increasing flexibility needs to be reconsidered. What is the value of being able to move a joint through a greater range of movement than that which is endowed naturally or required for an activity?”

Rethink your mobility program, look at the research and anecdotal evidence, but don't just follow the herd!

  1. Bandy WD, Irion JM, Briggler MDepartment of Physical Therapy, University of Central Arkansas, Conway 72035, USA. J Strength Cond Res. 2005 Feb;19(1):27-32
  2. The effectiveness of 3 stretching techniques on hamstring flexibility using consistent stretching parameters. Davis DS, Ashby PE, McCale KL, McQuain JA, Wine JM.
  3. Parks KA, Crichton KS, Goldford RJ, McGill SM. A comparison of lumbar range of motion and functional ability scores in patients with low back pain: assessment for range of motion validity. Spine. 2003 Feb 15;28(4):380-4.
  4. Sein ML, Walton J, Linklater J, ct al. Shoulder Pain in Elite Swimmers: Primarily EXie to Swim-volume-induced Supraspinatus Tendinopathy. Br. } . Sp
  5. Clin Auton Res. 2004 Feb;14(1):15-8.Stretching increases heart rate variability in healthy athletes complaining about limited muscular flexibility. Mueck-Weymann M, Janshoff G, Mueck H.
  6. J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Jun;25(6):1579-85 Acute effects of stretching exercise on the heart rate variability in subjects with low flexibility levels.
  7. Farinatti PT, Brandão C, Soares PP, Duarte AF. Effects on musculotendinous Junction
  8. Ryan, E. D., Herda, T. J., Hull, H. R., Hartman, M. J., Beck, T. W., Stout, J. R., & Cramer, J. T. (2008). Time course for the effects of passive stretching on musculotendinous stiffness: A dose-response study. ACSM 55th Annual Meeting Indianapolis, Presentation Number, 1365.
  9. Guissard, N., & Duchateau, J. (2004). Effect of static stretch training on neural and mechanical properties of the human plantar-flexor muscles. Muscle and Nerve, 29, 248-255.
  10. Kato, E. (2009). A 6-week stretching program alters mechanical and architectural properties of the gastrocnemius muscle-tendon unit. A paper presented at the 14th Annual Congress of the European College of Sport Science, Oslo, Norway, June 24-27. Effects of Stretching on Exercise
  11. Wilson, J. M., Hornbuckle, L. M., Kim, J., Sommer, B. A., Lee, S., Diah, T., Dalmau, B., Mendez, D., & Panton, L. B. (2008). The effects of static stretching on energy cost and endurance performance during treadmill running. ACSM 55th Annual Meeting Indianapolis. Presentation number 699.
  12. Esposito, F., Limontal, E., Cè, E., & Veicsteinas, A. (2009). Effect of acute passive stretching on maximum aerobic power and time to exhaustion. ACSM 56th Annual Meeting, Seattle, Washington. Presentation number 742.
  13. Kokkonen, J., Nelson, A. G., & Arnall, D. A. (2001). Acute stretching inhibits strength endurance performance. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 33(5), Supplement abstract 53.
By G. John Mullen founder of the Center of Optimal Restoration, head strength coach at Santa Clara Swim Club, creator of the Swimmer's Shoulder System, and chief editor of the Swimming Science Research Review.

Dryland Mistake: Stretching

We've discussed low back instability in swimmers before, but the flaws and ecclesiastic teachings surrounding stretching and mobility are immense.

First of all, let's break down some terminology.

Stretching is a mode to improve mobility.
Mobility and flexibility are closer in terminology, but slightly different.
By definition:

  • Flexibility is the property of being flexible; easily bent or shaped.
  • Mobility is the ability to move or be moved freely and easily.

By strict definition, mobility implies less aggressive within a larger scope.

Kelly Starrett (Physical Therapist and Strength Coach) defined mobility as 

“a movement-based integrated full-body approach that addresses all the elements that limit movement and performance including short and tight muscles, soft tissue restriction, joint capsule restriction, motor control problems, joint range of motion dysfunction, and neural dynamic issues. In short, mobilization is a tool to globally address movement and performance problems."

I prefer the broad, proactive terminology of mobility and will use it during this series.
Now, let's break down mobility!

Mobility is a diverse topic and recent research suggests statically stretching a muscle for 30 seconds daily improving extensibility (Davis 2005; Brandy 1997).

I always felt this was inadequate and tried various other means to enhance my stiff, immobile body.  I have done elongated stretching routines, mixing contract/relax (PNF), resisted, and passive stretching. I have done this by myself, with partners, and even in a 100 degree yoga room.

Mobility is a subject I’m constantly researching and exploring new means, as I’m not satisfied with the results I’ve seen, read and observed. Moreover, there is a discrepancy between the research and anecdotal evidence.

Prior to my research, I tried all these various modes in attempt to be more mobile, simply put, because I've seen elite athletes stretch and do acrobatic measures on television and in real life my whole life! If Michael Phelps, David Beckham, and LeBron James stretch, then isn't it beneficial?

However, within my doctoral program and since, I've truly became obsessed with research. This is mostly driven for rehabilitative purposes, but I'm still interested in the differences between elite athletes and regular folks.

My most visited websites were PubMed and the CoachSci forum attempting to find answers.

I'll admit, research doesn't hold all the answers, but for stretching I found numerous articles.
This series will discuss what I've learned, how to implement mobility into your training program.

Known and Unknowns
Many basics on mobility are unknown 1) how much do the tissues change in length 2) what is the optimal duration, 3) w
hat structures influence mobility?

Think of all the factors influencing mobility:
  • Muscle structures: muscle with proper extensibility is generally associated with an optimal usable range of motion
  • Ligaments and joint structures: ligaments can limit the range of motion due to their role as joint stabilizers. On the other hand, ligaments that are too loose can be problematic causing joint instability
  • Nervous system: sometimes there will be a lack of usable range of motion despite adequate extensibility of the muscles and ligaments. In this case, the nervous system can send sensation limiting range of motion.
  • Other factors: elasticity of skin, adhesion between the muscle fibers and adhesions between the muscle and fascia
Some of these basics are unanswerable due to individual variation. But even broader more important subjects are not commonly known: Does stretching prevent injuries? Does it improve strength? Does it warm up the body? When should each type of stretching be used?

The rest of this series tackles the pros and cons of stretching, be ready for a wild ride!

By G. John Mullen founder of the Center of Optimal Restoration, head strength coach at Santa Clara Swim Club, creator of the Swimmer's Shoulder System, and chief editor of the Swimming Science Research Review.