Loaded Stretch Article
It has been vouched time and time again that static stretching is terrible when it comes to both hypertrophy and athletic performance.
“It will make you weaker”
“It puts the muscle at an increased risk of injury”
While these are both true statements, it really depends on both the application, execution and timing of stretching.
By no means is static or passive stretching bad, but in a performance based setting there are number of cons we quickly approach.
Negatives of Static Stretching:
– Perceived improvement of flexibility as opposed to mobility
– Static stretching improves your body’s ability to sit into that given stretch, not improve whole bodily movement
– Stretching can temporarily decrease the strength, endurance and force potential of given muscle.
With this being said, these negatives only really arise when passive stretching is all pre-training. Save those static stretches for post workout to calm yourself, drop the heart rate and bring you in to that para-sympathetic state.
Now seeing how detrimental passive stretching can be on our performance, here is where loaded stretching really takes the cake. Once applied, I guarantee you’ll be left asking yourself why you haven’t been doing this all along!
The premise behind loaded stretching is that our muscle is constricted by fascia, if that fascia is not gliding well over the muscle, movement will be restricted, optimal mobility is harder to achieve and we cannot optimize given muscles’ performance potential. Loaded stretching itself aims to loosen the grip fascia has, allowing the muscle more room to glide, lengthen and contract forcefully.
But why does this work in making us bigger, stronger and more mobile?
Benefits of Loaded Stretching:
When muscles are contracted blood is restricted within, the same thing occurs when the muscle is stretched out in the fully lengthened position. So, during a loaded stretch, you are contracting as hard as you can, in the fully stretched position, you’re trapping all the blood inside the muscle and causing 2 incredibly positive outcomes.
1) It prevents the clearance and disposal of metabolites in lactate and hydrogen ions,
2) Deprives the muscle of oxygen.
Both conditions lead to the release of local growth factors (IGF-1), which can increase potential for local muscle hypertrophy.
Due to the blood flow restriction nature of loaded stretches, once we release the stretch, the muscle is supplied, very quickly, with a fresh source of blood, delivering nutrients directly to the muscle as the body works to clear the build up of metabolites.
Increase Muscle Size:
When in that fully lengthened position and we are contracting incredibly hard, the body is recruiting all potential muscle fibers it has in that local area, hitting both fast and slow twitch muscle fibers (Type I & Type II), with the potential of increasing both density and size of given muscle
The method of Loaded Stretching has been tried and test by many coaches originating with Chuck Sipes hanging from a bar to grow his lats in the 60’s, Bodybuilding programing “DC Training” from Dante Trudel and Hypertrophy experts like Dr. Scott Stevenson and Jordan Peters being major advocates of loaded stretching for maximal results.
Personally, seen in myself and clients, loaded stretching rapidly improves recovery and mobility. In a matter of a single training cycle you will begin to notice significant improvements with how your body can move in lifts as well as building your neural connection (mind-muscle) to areas you apply these techniques. Then applied across the course of 3,6 and 12 months of solid, progressive training and we see the growth benefits.
It’s all well and good having this knowledge but now the application.
What we want to do is focus on isolating a single muscle group, getting it into it’s fully lengthened position, under load ,in a safe manner and both stretch and contract simultaniously. We want to think, where is the origin and insertion of the muscle and how do I put them as far apart as possible and squeeze it like it owes me money!
Chest (Pectoralis Major/Minor)
My preferred go to is a cable stretch on these. Strap up to a D-Handle, walk out and brace against something, from here, pull your shoulder blades back and down allowing your humerus to pull away from sternum
Front Shoulder (Anterior head of Deltoid)
Set a barbell up at chest height in a rack, spin around and place both hands as close together as you’re able to WITHOUT PAIN. Don’t over-crank this one as you walk your feet forward
Side Shoulder (Lateral head of Deltoid)
Put a cable down to the bottom attachment, grab it so the cable is running behind you and walk out slightly. Maintain the shoulder blades back and shunted down
Vertical Back (Latissimus Dorsi)
Grab a single D-Grip handle and attach that to the lat-pulldown machine. We want to slightly supinate, as the lat is an internal rotator, tuck the pelvis underneath you and reach up, leaning back slightly. Think reaching and contracting.
Horizontal Back (Rhomboids, Posterior Delts)
Prop a bench up on a 45º and we’re going chest supported by the bench. Grab a dumbbell in either hand, internally rotate and allow the dumbbells to “spread out” your back
Glutes (Gluteus Maximus/Medius/Minimus)
If you don’t have access to a 45º extension you can hang over the edge of a bench, but we want to think about dragging the heels down and pushing your ass to the roof the whole time
Hamstrings (Biceps Femoris/Semitendinosis/Semimembranosus)
Knees locked and come down by shifting your weight back as you come into the bottom position. Your foot placement will dictate where about in your hamstrings you feel this most, so play around with it based on your needs/wants
Quads (Vastus Lateralis/Medialis/Intermedius & Rectus Femoris)
Best bet is doing these in a smith machine setting the bar at hip height, walk your feet slightly forwards and swing your hips under. Focus on trying to keep the hips extended. These are nasty.
Calves (Gastrocnemius & Soleus)
Hopefully you are training your calves properly, if you are doing so, bodyweight will suffice for these. Elevate the feet on something lean over like we’re in a Donkey Raise position and then drive the heels down while pulling the toes up.
We want to hit these stretches when we’re done training that group while there’s lots of blood within the muscle and we can “feel” the area.
1-3 Sets, 30-60seconds – Accruing a total time of 2-3minutes in that loaded stretch position. Overload the movement by small increments in time or weight. By nailing these stretches once finished training a muscle group, we’re in a primed state to reap all the benefits surrounding loaded stretches.
From here, work these into your sessions next time you train and make them a staple in your programming, the potential benefits you will be awarded with far outweigh the brief period of discomforted that arises from the loaded stretch.
I look forward to seeing your progress!