Welcome to our second Fact Friday!
This week we're talking about stretching your muscles. Grab your notebook, pen and take notes. This information can improve your performance in the gym!
The Potential Importance of Stretching Your Muscles
There has always been a debate about whether stretching your muscles affects the force you can exert. It depends on the person whether stretching actually helps or not with strength. To find out if it works for you, we need to look at the muscles under a microscope.
Your muscles are made up of thousands upon thousands of strands of muscle fibers. These fibers are then made up of hundreds and hundreds of myofibrils. These myofibrils are made up of thousands of so-called sarcomeres. These incredibly small things, called sarcomeres, are responsible for the contraction of your muscles.
They look like this:PHOTO
As you can see in the picture, the so-called "H zone" disappears when the muscles contract because the heads of the myosin and actin within the sarcomeres contract. For this contraction to take place with the best results, the heads of the myosin and actin must be perfectly aligned. If your muscles are too tense, the "H-zone" in your muscles is too small for efficient muscle contraction, ultimately limiting your strength. Unfortunately, there's no way to know exactly how long your sarcomeres are, but if you always have tight muscles, it might be smart to stretch them and see if it affects your performance.
Now you may be wondering, "What if I stretch too much Wouldn't I lose strength?" Well, that's doubtful. When your muscles are overstretched, this builds passive tension in the muscle, which can help your muscle contract more quickly, resulting in more explosive power. The correlation between the length and the power delivery is shown in this figure:: PHOTO
The conclusion we can draw from this is that stretching the muscles is not equally beneficial for everyone. This is something you could try, paying close attention to the results it produces and how it feels. How much you benefit from stretching also depends on your goals within the sport you practice. For a powerlifter, a high degree of passive force could be beneficial for the squat, as large muscle groups are stretched at the end of the lift. This passive force builds up making it easier to get up.