Well, it’s 6:27 am and I am a but tired, I am on day 4 of the “30 day gallon water challenge” which I believe I mentioned in a prior post. Whether I make it to my 6:45 am spin class is doubtful as I want to write this blog and have some new stretching to explore and discuss (and perform later with my trainer).
If not, having found no data to support this, apparently celebrity Beyonce drank a gallon of water for a 30 days and noticed her skin was far more radiant and she felt better. This led to a fad water diet trend to which I, a trained physician, have succumbed to. Hey, I’m human, It’s water. Hold on, chug, chug, chug…half a liter down.
So I had my first session with a new trainer,Shawn, yesterday, an experienced personal trainer my age (41) unlike the the younger trainers I have had in years past. Telling him my goal was to lose 40 pounds over the next 40 weeks (or 1 year, I’m in no rush), he focused on showing me how doing certain basic exercises like lateral pull down in one position would isolate one part of the lateral back muscle while simple changing your grip by 45 to 90 degrees would isolate a different part of the same muscle group. The point: a year from now, I am hoping that the definition of my muscles will be equally distributed and I will not look like a big guy that works out a lot (which tends to happen because genetically, I have always been stocky and quickly put on muscle but always had trouble losing fat and getting lean).
I then asked Shawn “Will stretching regularly lead me to become more lean?” to which he answered unequivocally “Yes.” He explained that regularly stretching out the muscles like a rubber band would ultimately lengthen them in time causing a leaner look.
Shawn has been a trainer for at least 15 years so I will not dispute his personal experience but as a doctor, I wanted the real data and found it here:
CURRENT CONCEPTS IN MUSCLE STRETCHING FOR EXERCISE AND REHABILITATION. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2012 Feb; 7(1): 109–119.
The study answered my question in one specific section which I will italicize below if you want the bullet point: regular stretching does not increase muscle length, it simply increases ones tolerance to prolonged strecthing of a muscle. So the rubber band does not get longer, it just gets less stiff.
The effectiveness of stretching is usually reported as an increase in joint ROM (usually passive ROM); for example, knee or hip ROM is used to determine changes in hamstring length. Static stretching often results in increases in joint ROM. Interestingly, the increase in ROM may not be caused by increased length (decreased tension) of the muscle; rather, the subject may simply have an increased tolerance to stretching. Increases in muscle length are measured by “extensibility”, usually where a standardized load is placed on the limb and joint motion is measured. Increased tolerance to stretch is quantified by measuring the joint range of motion with a non-standardized load. This is an important question to consider when interpreting the results of studies: was the improvement based on actual muscle lengthening (ie, increased extensibility) or just an increase in tolerance to stretch?7 Chan and colleagues8 showed that 8 weeks of static stretching increased muscle extensibility; however, most static stretching training studies show an increase in ROM due to an increase in stretch tolerance (ability to withstand more stretching force), not extensibility (increased muscle length).9–12
That said, Shawn has assigned me home work of stretching for 30 minutes in the AM and PM so I’m gonna buy a yoga mat on Amazon now so I can do my stretching while I watch the evening shows I enoy on Netflix rather than lying on the couch.