Tyler Robbins Fitness

B.Sc. Biochemistry, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Certified CrossFit Trainer (CCFT/CF-L3), USA Weightlifting Level 1

Stretching to Improve Performance

You may have heard of the benefits of stretching and recovery before, but I will throw even more evidence your way. A study done by the Department of Kinesiology at Louisiana State University titled, "A 10-week Stretching Program Increases Strength in the Contralateral Muscle" found a strength increase in untrained individuals simply by stretching their muscles, not using any resistance training.

To test this, 13 untrained individuals participated in a 10-week stretching program while 12 other untrained individuals served as a control group. For the experimental group, the right calf muscle was stretched 4 times for 30 seconds, with a 30-second rest between stretches, 3 d·wk for 10 weeks. Strength, determined via 1 repetition maximum (1RM) unilateral standing toe raise, and range of motion (ROM) were measured pre-post. In the treatment group, the stretched calf muscle had a significant (p < 0.05) 8% increase in ROM, whereas the nonstretched calf muscle had a significant 1% decrease in ROM. The 1 RM of the stretched calf muscle significantly increased 29%, whereas the 1RM of the nonstretched calf muscle significantly increased 11%. In the control group, neither 1RM nor ROM changed for either leg. The results indicate that 10 weeks of stretching only the right calf will significantly increase the strength of both calves. Hence, chronic stretching can also induce a crosstraining effect for strength but not for the ROM. This study also validates earlier findings suggesting that stretching can elicit strength gains in untrained individuals.

What seems to be most surprising (at least to me) is that in this study, the untrained participants did not include any resistance training (that is known) to supplement the 3-day-a-week stretching program that they followed, yet they still experienced significant strength gains. Now, I am sure most individuals would eventually reach a point, especially if they are already currently active, where stretching will no longer elicit any strength gains. This is great proof, however, that stretching does at least aid in strength gains, or to the very minimum, maintain strength from being lost.

The applications explored at the end of this article discusses the advantages to using a stretching program for injured individuals who can therefore either maintain strength in their muscles or potentially even gain strength while being relatively inactive.

I know for myself, at least, I will be aiming to continue stretching as much as possible, especially post workout, as well as including stretch and recovery routines (i.e. yoga) to my weekly workout regimens.