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Old 08-20-12, 07:39 PM   #1
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The Good, the Bad, and the Unsure: Stretching

Basically what the title says. I've read so many different things about stretching. It helps prevent injuries, it doesn't prevent injuries. Flexibility is good, flexibility can be bad. It helps performance, it hurts performance. It helps soreness, it doesn't. Etc.

I stretch currently, but mostly out of habit and tradition. About 10 minutes after a ride. Hamstrings, quads, calves, feet, achilles, back, hip flexors, groin.

Doing it mostly to increase flexibility and because I feel like it helps reduce my soreness (whether it does or not).

Do you guys do it? Do you think it helps? Is it more superstition and tradition? When/what do you stretch and why?
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Old 08-20-12, 07:46 PM   #2
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I think the current consensus is that stretching before exercise is unnecessary but after exercise can help keep injuries to a minimum. Basically you want to increase your flexibility in your everyday life. So stretching everyday helps limit your overall injury chances but stretching prior to exercise has no noticeable benefit to the ride you're about to go on.
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Old 08-20-12, 08:31 PM   #3
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I find stretching to be most beneficial when its hard to move or feeling sore. + heat or man bath.
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Old 08-20-12, 09:02 PM   #4
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It feels good, so I do it.
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Old 08-20-12, 09:21 PM   #5
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i just stretched. it hurt, but ill wake up tomorrow feeling nice!
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Old 08-20-12, 09:27 PM   #6
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Some pros, at least this one, seem to swear by it: http://manualforspeed.com/2012/07/stretching/

I do a little, nothing involved or with devices.
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Old 08-20-12, 09:30 PM   #7
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I find stretching to be most beneficial when its hard to move or feeling sore. + heat or man bath.
Man bath? WTF?
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Old 08-20-12, 09:38 PM   #8
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Man bath? WTF?
Instead of candles, maybe you put a sheen of gas on the surface and light it on fire? Manly!
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Old 08-20-12, 10:56 PM   #9
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I've had a sports doctor tell me to stretch and it's made me feel a lot better. It's especially great for training rides when I'm already tired, I ride for like 30 mins then get off and stretch at least the quads, keep doing it every 30 mins or so until I feel good to go for the rest of the ride.
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Old 08-21-12, 06:16 AM   #10
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I stretch daily. It is part of my regimen to prevent back injuries, many of which can be caused or exacerbated by tight hamstrings.
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Old 08-21-12, 06:21 AM   #11
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post ride stretching and hitting the foam roller 2 x a week keeps me feeling good. when i dont do it i can feel the tightness and potential for muscle snapping at every turn. ymmv. later.
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Old 08-21-12, 06:24 AM   #12
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Stretch after riding...Foam roller every morning...Keeps me going...
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Old 08-21-12, 06:57 AM   #13
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I lived with a physical/massage therapist for a couple years. She recommended stretching and I stretched for those years. The other 28 years I've been racing (evenly spread before and after the stretching) I didn't stretch. My best years weren't when I was stretching, but that's correlation, not causal.

I view stretching as idling the car in the driveway to warm up. I can warm up the car in the driveway or I can drive it down the road just a bit slower than all out. I do many races with no warm up and the longest cool down I'll do is a minute or so (often I stop within 50-100m and get off my bike). Even when I train a lot, like a SoCal training camp, I don't stretch unless it feels good or I feel like I need to (like when my calf feels tight so I stretch it a bit). I don't consciously stretch.

For my back I find that core work is critical. That or actual labor. I no longer move lots of weight around (lift 40-80 lbs bags, stack 1-10 at a time to move them manually, 1-5-10 times a day; high would be 5000-10,000 lbs in a day, low 500-1000 lbs) and I noticed my back is getting a bit more finicky.
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Old 08-21-12, 07:07 AM   #14
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not another stretching thread ... does anyone tell you to breath? just stretch and be done with it.
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Old 08-21-12, 09:01 AM   #15
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I'm a Holistic Health Practitioner (which is a fancy way of saying I took a crapton of massage certification classes and kind of makes me sound like a barefoot hippie.) This question comes up quite a bit at work.

The general consensus is that stretching or massage directly before an activity-- i.e., less than an hour before an activity-- can negatively impact performance, but LIGHT stretching a little over an hour before is alright. A lot of people try and stretch too deeply and too quickly, which actually tears muscle fibers.

As echoing a lot of earlier responses, stretching AFTER an activity is much more critical because you've accumulated lactic acid in your muscles which are then having a difficult time returning to a relaxed state after contraction. Stretching is basically akin to self massage, in that you're essentially releasing your own tension and working some of the lactic acid out, so best results generally come with staying hydrated/not drinking the entire pitcher later that night.

I usually tell my athlete clients that flexibility can improve your performance significantly, but you have to work at it. A lot of people try and only stretch a little bit when they're sore/right before a big event/whenever they feel guilty about doing it, which is basically akin to only training hard the week before a race. Additionally, stretching for 5 seconds and then moving on to a new stretch is generally considered lip service; you're not really benefiting from a stretch until the around the 30 second mark.

One last thing that may help: with cyclists, keep in mind we all spend our time hunched forward, shoulders rolled slightly forward with pour hands in the drops, and, over hours and hours and months our bodies shift so that our shoulders are protracted forward. It can affect the way you breath deeply and is just generally uncomfortable, but most of us never think to try and do some chest-opening stretches. It'll make life generally better. (Think the same about most of your muscles-- ex: our knees are usually up near our chests so our hip flexors end up really short, and doing some extension stretches can prevent you from feeling like an old man.)

Sorry if that was a long response on a subject that has been beaten to death, but it's something I'm actually knowledgeable about for once, dammit.
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Old 08-21-12, 09:38 AM   #16
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FWIW, I remember seeing Ullrich stretch in a Tour TT start house just before he got on his rig. He was going deep enough on the hamstrings to put his face against his knees. That was a day that he beat Lance.

I pretty much have to stretch before a TT or my legs will fall asleep after 15 minutes.
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Old 08-21-12, 11:39 AM   #17
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I always stretch before and after rides. I don't know if theres any benefit but I tend to feel better when I stretch and when you feel better I say you perform better.
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Old 08-21-12, 07:55 PM   #18
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not another stretching thread ... does anyone tell you to breath? just stretch and be done with it.
Thanks for the wisdom, but the research isn't quite that cut and dry.
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Old 08-21-12, 10:44 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by CoyoteEatsGirl View Post
stretching AFTER an activity is much more critical because you've accumulated lactic acid in your muscles which are then having a difficult time returning to a relaxed state after contraction.
While the majority of your post is very good, the comments about lactic acid are not accurate. Lactic clears fairly quickly and is not responsible for muscle soreness or inability to return to a relaxed state.

Good article here


In fact, lactic is used as fuel.

But again, much of what you posted is good and I'll both augment and add to your other points:

We do a lot of repetitive motions in the same position. Stretching is both an exercise (see: yoga) and a recovery tool to recover range of motion that can be lost by cycling. For an overall health strategy, there are worse ideas to both prevent injury and to feel better.

The addition I would make is that stretching can sometimes "cure" issues that western medicine is incline to throw knives and pills at. I suffered several back injuries over the years and the best relief I ever received form chronic pain was from stretching; my hypothesis is that it relieved muscle tension that was causing alignment issues and nerve pressure.
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Old 08-22-12, 09:45 AM   #20
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While the majority of your post is very good, the comments about lactic acid are not accurate. Lactic clears fairly quickly and is not responsible for muscle soreness or inability to return to a relaxed state.

Good article here


In fact, lactic is used as fuel.

But again, much of what you posted is good and I'll both augment and add to your other points:

We do a lot of repetitive motions in the same position. Stretching is both an exercise (see: yoga) and a recovery tool to recover range of motion that can be lost by cycling. For an overall health strategy, there are worse ideas to both prevent injury and to feel better.

The addition I would make is that stretching can sometimes "cure" issues that western medicine is incline to throw knives and pills at. I suffered several back injuries over the years and the best relief I ever received form chronic pain was from stretching; my hypothesis is that it relieved muscle tension that was causing alignment issues and nerve pressure.
Holy crap, I stand corrected. I'm about to go blow someone's world apart at work with this. Every massage therapist I've worked with recite (as the article mentions people commonly do) that an accumulation of lactic acid is responsible for soreness and that you're "releasing" some of the lactic acid out of the muscles when you perform a circulatory massage. Which is apparently untrue.

Gracias for the informative link.
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Old 08-22-12, 10:07 AM   #21
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for anyone else interested in fatigue and soreness, may i suggest this:

https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/~jfliu/18573378.pdf

lots of hypotheothis, but nothing definitive.
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Old 08-22-12, 10:12 AM   #22
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I've been stretching and doing tai chi and yoga for over 30 years and so I really don't care about what the current "research" says, I enjoy it and feel that I am benefitted by it so I will just keep on doing what I am doing.
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Old 08-22-12, 10:19 AM   #23
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I found that adding some specific stretches into my weekly routine has allowed me to ride comfortably in a more aero position. No point in doing all those intervals if you're going to give watts away to the wind.
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Old 09-12-12, 04:04 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by CoyoteEatsGirl View Post
Holy crap, I stand corrected. I'm about to go blow someone's world apart at work with this. Every massage therapist I've worked with recite (as the article mentions people commonly do) that an accumulation of lactic acid is responsible for soreness and that you're "releasing" some of the lactic acid out of the muscles when you perform a circulatory massage. Which is apparently untrue.

Gracias for the informative link.
That tightness in the muscles and knots are caused by a couple of things other than lactic acid. One source is bound-up Z-bands in the muscles. The fibres slide over each other and when pushed hard, they can rupture and the surfaces are no longer smooth. The muscle can't fully relax and stretch out to its original length. These tears also leak out cell-plasma fluids that trigger rebuilding. There's an optimum amount of muscle-damage that needs to be done for rebuilding that leads to the fastest improvements in strength, but beyond that, you slow down the strength-building because you have to use such extended recovery periods. You can track the degree of muscle-damage by measuring levels of creatine kinase and hydroxyproline.

The role that stretching and massage plays is to provide an external source of stretching to relax the muscles and restore it to its original shape. The kneading also disperses the leaked out cell enzymes and triggers rebuilding faster.

Note that this after-workout tightness is different than DOMS (typically shows up after 2-3 days), which is more severe and may be considered a borderline injury. That kind of soreness can be attributed to myofibrillar disruption, macrophage and fibroblast accumulation, and even some necrosis in the muscle.

------------------------------------------------
references:

Stone MB, Merrick MA, Ingersoll CD, et al. Preliminary Comparison of Bromelain and Ibuprofen for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness Management. Clin J Sport Med. 2002;12:373–378.

Rowbottom DG, Keast D, Morton AR, et al. The emerging role of glutamine as an indicator of exercise stress and overtraining. Sports Med. 1996;21:80–97.

Smith, Lucille L., Causes of delayed onset muscle soreness and the impact on athletic performance: a review. Jn. Appl. Sport Sci. Res. 6(3): 135-141, 1992.

Armstrong, R.B., G.L. Warren and J.A. Warren. Mechanisms of exercise-induced muscle fiber injury. Sports Med. 12(3): 184-207, 1991.

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Old 09-12-12, 12:50 PM   #25
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I don't stretch. I did a bit when I was training for IM until I came across this article (http://www.runnersworld.com/article/...7001-0,00.html). I happen to be a pretty bendy guy. If you're not, you will have a different take home message. The logic resonated with me so I quit but for specific circumstances (when I'm tight or injured).
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