Most of us perform stretching and mobility as a complement to our endurance and strength training. Mobility work clearly has a role in our programs to reduce stiffness, soreness, and improve our ability to move more comfortably through a functional range of motion. Our previous blog posts have described the debates around the roles of stretching and the evolving mechanisms behind its effectiveness.
Recent research has demonstrated that improvements in flexibility testing take place without an appreciable improvement in muscle length. The lack of observable tissue changes after a stretching program highlights an individual's improvement to stretch tolerance, how far they can move before stopping the stretch. More trained or experienced individuals who stretch daily have a higher tolerance for the movement allowing them to move more freely through the range of motion. A new article highlights this change in stretch tolerance not only in the stretched muscle but across the whole body.
Behm and colleagues placed individuals through a static and dynamic hip and shoulder stretching session and then assessed its' impact on whole body flexibility. Individuals were given static or dynamic stretching exercises to the shoulder or hip consisting of 10 stretches x 30 seconds with 15 seconds rest between reps. All individuals flexibility was assessed at the shoulder or hip regardless of performing the stretch at either the shoulder or hip. Interestingly, lower body dynamic and static stretching increased upper body flexibility and upper body stretching improved lower body flexibility. For example, individuals who were given shoulder stretches improved their short term hip flexibility testing. It appears, the stretching exercises created a whole body increase in stretch tolerance.