HI, Maik Wiedenbach NYC personal trainer here talking about recovery.
Recovery is a big part of your puzzle if you want to build a great body. So far we covered training and diet and those are very important components. But what about other components that might help recover faster? Namely, stretching and foam rolling. In the following article, we will take a closer look on each one and see how it might help us with building a better body.
Stretching- is it necessary?
It’s a common belief that when you stretch a muscle, it becomes longer for good. Is that true? Absolutely not! Your muscles are attached at one point on a bone and end at another point, origin and insertion. Stretching can’t change those two attachment points – so how would you lengthen a muscle permanelty just by stretching it?
The truth is you don’t actually lenghtne the muscle permanently. Instead, when you stretch you soften your body’s protective response, or stretch reflex. It’s this protective reflex that keeps you from overstretching a muscle and causing injury aka ripping your biceps off the bone.
How does it work?? Within your muscle fibers are proprioceptors called muscle spindles.
These receptors send sensory input to your brain ( mainly via a pain impulse) to tell it what state your muscle is in. For example, the muscle spindles monitor muscle length. If you stretch a muscle quickly, it activates the muscle spindles. The muscle spindles, acting through a sensory nerve, send input (ouch!! Stop that) to your brain.
The brain then senses impending disasters and ends an email through a motor nerve, telling the muscle to shorten so it won’t be overstretched and potentially injured. This is called the stretch reflex.
How does this relate to stretching? When you elongate a muscle in a slow, controlled manner (especially in a warm environment), as when you stretch, it’s not perceived as a threat and the stretch reflex isn’t activated. As a result, you can extend the muscle further than you would normally be able to. The goal of a good stretch is to get the muscle to relax a little more by bypassing the stretch reflex. Although the muscle may be more relaxed and extended, it’s only temporary. So depiste what Gwyneth Paltrow and several Yogis tell you, you can not create long muscles!
What are the different kinds of stretches?
To give you a full overview, there are three kinds of stretches:
1. Static stretch: Static stretching is the most common one. It can be seen in trainees holding on to door frames, pulling their foot behind them or trying to touch their toes. This is best done AFTER your workout if you feel like it since it might help with recovery. DO not perform those before the workout as it will impair power output
2. Dynamic stretch: Dynamic stretching occurs when you move the muscle through its full range. This is a great way to stretch and happens naturally during properly done weight lifting. Think flyes for the chest, pull overs for the lats, sissies for quads, Incline curls for biceps, stiff legged dead lifts for hamstrings and overhead extensions for triceps.
3. Ballistic stretch: The older ones among us (like yours truly) might remember your old high school gym teacher telling you to reach your toes in a whipping motion or tilt your head to the side by pulling it in short spurts. This type of stretching has no place anywhere as it can actually tear the muscle and the ligament.
1. Static stretches to be done post workout, there is some indication it might help with recovery but it is scant. Do not ever start a workout with static stretches as it will set you up for less performance and potentially injury.
2. Dynamic stretches which means working through the full range of motion while using the antagonist well should be done as the first exercise during the workout.
3. Ballistic stretches should not be done. Ever.
What about foam rolling?
Foam rolling has become very popular recently, you end up seeing people on the floor everywhere, doing… something. Let’s go to the video tape what is the thought process behind foam rolling? the idea is to eliminate trigger points.
Trigger points are tiny, very irritable spots located in your skeletal muscle. They produce pain locally and in a referred pattern. What does referred pain mean? it means that you can have a trigger point in your trapezius causing pain in your deltoid
How do trigger points come into existence? Via. Acute trauma or repetitive micro trauma such as weight lifting may lead to the development of stress on muscle fibers and the formation of trigger points.
You can have some very persistent pain locally resulting in a decreased range of motion in the affected muscles ( meaning fewer gains)
Trigger points are found in neck, shoulders, triceps IT band, piriformis and pelvic girdle. Those little suckers can also cause tension headache, tinnitus, joint pain, decreased range of motion in the legs, and lower back pain
So you need to get rid of them.
How to eliminate trigger points?
How do you know you found a trigger point? it hurts like hell! But it gets better once you pass the 30 second mark.
So lets look the different methods to get eliminate trigger points.
At the bottom level, there is foam rolling. Why at the bottom level? It is a very broad based approach especially when you consider that most foam rollers at commercial gyms are beat up. At the very least, purchase your own with a PVC interior and small nodules on the surface.
The next level would be using a golf or lacrosse ball, the smaller surface makes for a higher impact.
After that comes the theragun, followed by active release massage therapy. A good massage therapist will find the trigger points and provide relief. Warning: this will be a very painful massage but 48 hours later you will feel fantastic!
While static stretching has limited value for recovery, dynamic stretches are a must before training as they increase work capacity. As for recovery and overall performance, look into any form of trigger point release.
If you are searching for a workout to bring it all together for you, check here!