Muscles do one thing: create force. This force is used for everyday activities such as walking (low force production) or in the more extreme case lift heavy a** weight overhead! Now that we know what muscles do its time to get into the meat and potatoes of this post... But first a story.
I was 13 when I first trained with Coach Hoke at a place called Optimal Performance Training Center (R.I.P. O.P.T.C. Power on JVH!). At this time I was chubby, athletic, and not exactly flexible. After my first training session Coach Hoke noticed that I had really terrible hamstring flexibility and therefore instructed me to stretch my hamstrings with a rope of some sort everyday. Of course I didn't listen because stretching didn't lead to strong, powerful muscles, I thought only lifting did that. And of course it was noticeable the next time I showed up to train that I hadn't done as I was instructed. However my disobedience isn't the point of this story, it's that stretching leads to more force production. Resulting in more powerful muscles and what's even better is that this is backed up by science ;)
As some of you know, I'm a Kinesiology (Exercise Science) major at CUNY Lehman, which requires me to constantly read boring textbooks. Fortunately for me I found scientific backing, in a seemingly boring textbook, to this 'crazy' notion that stretching leads to insane strength gains. As most people know there are 2 types of energy, potential (unreleased energy) and kinetic energy (energy in motion). For this post potential energy will be the focal point.
Potential energy looked at from a human bio-mechanical standpoint there are two types that are produced, gravitational (think ball at top of hill) and deformation potential energy (think hamstrings). Deformation potential energy is stored when the body is compressed, bent or twisted. In terms of lifting, it is the energy that is used during the stretch/shortening cycle. The easiest muscle to think of is the hamstring, you want short and strong contractions from this muscle.
So the point that I should have been understanding when Coach Hoke told me to stretch my hamstrings was, he already knew I produce more deformation potential energy by increasing my range of motion (ROM). ROM is only achieved through stretching, stretching achieves more deformation potential energy, which therefore produces more force and in turn produces powerful a** muscles.
Now it's my turn to challenge you to statically stretch your hamstrings with a band after every workout. Just wait to see after two months how powerful you become and how less sore you are after leg days.
If you're someone who wants to produce more force, aka lifting heavy a** weights, take this advice. If you're an athlete who needs to lift more to get stronger and train to get FASTER, take this advice. If you're someone who just started training after a long absence from the iron game, take this advice. If you're just browsing the internet and this blog post caught your eye, take this advice. I think you catch my drift...
Stretching works to produce more force.
Improved flexibility + improved neuromuscular efficiency + increased force production + better strength gains x Better Athlete = Awesomeness.
Stretch for GAINS!
- Coach K