10 “Stretching” the Truth

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It’s almost sacrilegious to say you don’t need to stretch before a workout or a sporting event
because it’s part of our culture. However, recent studies suggest that stretching does
not improve performance, prevent injury or reduce soreness.

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Stretching the Truth

Intro:               You’re listening to the InForm Fitness podcast, 20 minutes with New York Times, best-selling author, Adam Zickerman and friends. Brought to you by InForm Fitness, life changing personal training with several locations across the US. Reboot your metabolism and experience the revolutionary Power of 10, the high intensity, slow motion, strength training system that’s so effective, you’d get a week’s worth of exercise in just one 20-minute session, which by no coincidence is about the length of this podcast. So, get ready InForm Nation, your 20 minutes of high intensity strength training information begins in 3, 2, 1.

Tim:                 Alright. Welcome back InForm Nation. And thanks again for joining us here on the InForm Fitness podcast, 20 minutes with Adam Zickerman and friends. I’m Tim Edwards with the Inbound Podcasting Network joined as always by Sheila Melody with InForm Fitness in Toluca Lake. We also have Mike Rogers from the Manhattan location and Adam Zickerman, the founder of InForm Fitness.

This show is chock full of info to help you supercharge your metabolism and increase cardiovascular endurance which will in turn make you leaner and stronger. In addition to the many health benefits from the high intensity training you’ll experience at InForm Fitness you’ll also enjoy the time you spend with your trainer and other members of InForm Nation such as John.

John:                My trainer, Sheila, very knowledgeable. Incredibly friendly and warm and conversational and, you know, when you come here, you know, obviously you feel like a client but you feel like you’re coming back and just hanging out with friends. Like, “Hey, here’s what we’re doing this week. Cool, alright. How you been?” It’s always very conversational. So, that adds a fun element while, you know, you’re burning your muscles. [laughs]

Sheila:             [laughs] I know John is awesome. He’s been coming for about a year and he takes it very seriously. And so therefor he’s getting a lot of benefit from it. You know, so, he’s a great client. He’s achieved so much. He’s doing like over 300 pounds on the pull down. Very proud of him.

Tim:                 Wow. That soundbite you heard from John is just one of many soundbites that we’re going to include here in the InForm Fitness podcast, 20 minutes with Adam Zickerman and friends. And that came from a series of testimonial videos that my company Inbound Films is producing for the Toluca Lake InForm Fitness location. And if you’d like to see more of John’s story and maybe grab a glimpse of what this slow motion high intensity workout looks like, jump on over to informfitness.com. We’ll have a bunch of videos over there for you.

And while you’re there you can also check out Adam’s blog which has over 30 informative topics regarding this protocol. And one of the topics Adam tackles is stretching. And, Adam, I got to tell you, at first glance, when you first look at Gumby there at the top of [laughs] the stretching blog post. You would think that your twist on stretching your muscles prior to exercise is something you should do. But after reading the article that’s not necessarily the case.

Adam:             It seems to — [siren] it’s almost sacrilegious to say you don’t need to stretch before a work out or a sporting event because it’s part of our culture. Speaking of culture. So —

Tim:                 [laughs] You hear that siren in the background? Just —

Adam:             Yeah.

Tim:                 Just, you know, if you’re listening to this podcast while you’re in your car, you’re not being chased by a police officer. They’re —

Adam:             Well, there’s the thing, stretching is so much part of our culture, even talking about it sends the police over [laughter] to where we are.

Tim:                 I got to tell you. I’ve listened to a few of our podcasts and I do hear sirens in the background and I look in my rearview mirror and I realize that, oh, well, Adam and Mike are Skyping this podcast from New York City and they’re right next to windows. So, that is a sound you hear all the time, all day long in New York City. So, but you’re talking about how it’s almost sacrilegious to mention that you should not stretch prior to an activity.

Adam:             The bottom line is it’s been looked at a lot. This is not one of those subjects that has been ignored and we don’t know much about it. What we have been finding out over and over again is that all studies that talk about stretching and the efficacy of stretching have not proven out. And maybe it’s still true, these ideas that we have about stretching, but we haven’t proven it yet. And I don’t think we will.

I think, I’m not saying we know everything there is to know about stretching the benefits or lack thereof but it’s not a topic that I spend a lot of time on anymore because I’m pretty convinced. I’ve seen it and what are we talking about? We’re talking about the idea that number one, stretching prevents injuries during sports. That has been a big reason why stretching has entered athletics because it will warm up the muscles and prevent injury. Has not been proven to be true, at all. At all.

Tim:                 Wow. See, every time I walk into the gym it’s just natural for me to just start stretching just because you know my whole life playing sports that’s just what we’re taught and told to do.

Adam:             Doug McGuff talks about that a little bit. Doug McGuff talks about the idea that the reason we do all that before a sporting event especially when you have teams involved —

Tim:                 Mhm [affirmative].

Adam:             It’s cultural. It’s preparing for battle. It’s no different from what — Doug McGuff points it out in the movie, Gladiator where he grabs sand in the pit and rubs it in his hands before he starts the fight. What was the actors name again in Gladiator?

Tim:                 Russell Crowe.

Adam:             Yeah, Russell Crowe. So, Russel Crowe before every fight, if you remember, he picked up some dirt and rubbed it in his hands before that. Doing that didn’t give him any actual advantage from a physical point of view. Didn’t add more friction to his hands for some reason that he needed. And Doug McGuff points out that the stretching before sporting events you’re doing it together. You’re all on the sideline. You’re all doing your stretches. It’s a comradery thing. It’s a team thing. It feels good to do that together and prepare. Even if you’re all doing your individual stretching but you’re all doing it together, you’re all stretching and doing — it definitely has a sociological element to it.

Tim:                 But not a physiological element is what you and Dr. McGuff is saying.

Adam:             No. And remember we have to differentiate, I mean, and maybe define what we’re talking about when we talk about stretching. What is stretching, right? We’re not talking about the kind of stretch you do in the morning or a cat or dog does when they wake up in the morning and that [stretching noise] downward dog yoga kind of just feel good stretch. There’s nothing wrong with that. You know, we’re not talking about and some of that stuff will straighten your spine a little bit and get you moving but it doesn’t warm up your muscles. It doesn’t warm up your muscles.

And one of the things that I talk about in my blog and research has shown in regards to warming up your muscles is — what you’re actually doing when you’re stretching — the kind of stretch where it’s a static stretch and you’re holding a position that’s somewhat uncomfortable for a little while until it’s not uncomfortable anymore, that kind of stretch. That kind of stretching for a cold muscle actually it’s very dangerous and not only is it helpful but it’s many times detrimental. To take a muscle and put it at its most vulnerable position which is the stretched position, that is when the filaments of the muscle are at their most vulnerable and weakest point where they’re most vulnerable to tear and here you are going into a static stretch thinking you’re warming up the muscle. Stretching actually takes blood away from the muscle. Only contraction actually brings blood to the muscle which is what you want to do.

So, warm up — you’re much better warming up just by, kind of, you know, light jog in place or, you know, walking around even. You know, just walking around if you just got out of bed and move a little bit. But actual stretching, static stretching has been shown to also make you weaker, not just maybe just tear a muscle and hurt you but if you’re not hurting yourself, at the very least you’re making yourself weaker after a series of static stretches. And think about this. You’re making yourself weaker going into a sport that you’re about to play for 60 minutes or so. Something where you need as much power and speed and endurance as possible and you are doing this ritual beforehand, making yourself weaker before you enter into it. It’s not logical. It doesn’t make any sense. That’s — and this research is out there. It’s not like these coaches don’t know this but you’re never going to see an athlete not stretching before an event.

Tim:                 Well, let’s use — if you don’t mind, Adam, if I could interject. So, I’m a softball player and I’ve been playing baseball my whole life or softball and so before the game we warm up. We take the ball and we, you know, we loosen up and we play catch to warm up. And I find I certainly get much more benefit from that and I can throw harder after about maybe two, three minutes of some light toss and then we start firing it and it feels good.

Adam:             Right.

Tim:                 Now, the other type of warm up is, you know, when you’re almost 50 years old like me and your legs are like they are and I feel really tight and so maybe this is, I’m just conditioned this way but I do stretch my legs and I feel better or looser. Do you think based upon the research off some of the references, that you include at the end of your blog post, indicate that’s all in my head than it is in my body and stretching my legs before I sprint down to first base and pull a hammy?

Adam:             Maybe a little bit in your head but maybe it’s also because you’re not doing the kind of stretching I’m talking about. Again, we have to make sure we understand the kind of stretching we’re talking about. Light stretching before you’re about to go into a game where you’re just kind of bending over a little bit and stretching your back and your hamstrings a little stretch and you’re not doing it very much or very painfully. You know, it’s a little side bends here and there, throwing the ball around lightly, you know, walking around and chatting. If it’s not a serious stretch, you’re okay. And that’s fine. Like, I said, you know, like the way a dog or a cat stretches when they wake up in the morning. That’s all good.

I’m not talking about that but if you ever sat and watched a bunch of soccer players before a match or if you sat and watched a bunch of football players before a match, they are doing all those hurdle stretches where their leg’s behind them and their quadricep is totally stretched and they keep it there for a while and they’re bouncing and they’re trying to make it looser and looser and doing the other leg and they’re all these serious static hold stretches that really are damaging their joints and they don’t realize it right away because they’re athletes and they’re flexible and —

Tim:                 But maybe it catches up to them later.

Adam:             They don’t, they don’t even understand the insidious damage that they’re doing and then they’re going into a sport that’s ballistic and then, you know, by the time they’re retired or way before that actually, their careers are cut short by an injury. They never connect all that stretching to the possible injury. They actually might say, “Well, I might have got injured sooner if I hadn’t done all that stretching.” I mean, all the research is not showing any of this to be true, any of it.

Mike:               You’re promoting ease of mobility. I think the warm up is not in the stretching itself but in a very slow progression of the movement that you’re trying to do. You know, Adam —

Tim:                 So, there’s the difference between stretching and warming up and that makes sense. I can visualize that. Having played softball where instead of, you know, getting down on the ground and doing those hurdle stretches which we were taught to do, get to the point where it hurts and then hold it for 15 seconds and then switch legs. Right, the damage that can be done there really just kind of go through the motion of the sport loosely until your muscles get warmed up. Am I understanding that correctly?

Mike:               Yeah.

Adam:             Exactly, you are.

Tim:                 What about with yoga? Okay. So, let’s go with the yoga. Sheila, I know that you’ve done yoga for many, many years and participated in Bikram yoga and other forms of yoga. How does stretching tie in with yoga and high intensity training? How does that all fit together?

Sheila:             I do yoga for totally different reasons than I would do strength training and yes, it adds — but you’re doing yoga, you’re specifically, kind of, trying to — there’s more of a core balancing and you’re holding positions while breathing and kind of releasing, you know, tension. That’s kind of how I look at it. [Crosstalk 12:06] —

Adam:             Well, Tim, you just — yeah. Tim, you just brought up a question that indicates a common misunderstanding about yoga in general which is yoga is good for your flexibility or good for stretching

Tim:                 Right. That’s how I’ve always perceived it. I’ve never participated.

Adam:             No, I mean what —

Sheila:             Yeah.

Adam:             Yeah, what Sheila is saying is it’s really more about holding certain positions and it’s kind of like static weight training in a way. It’s just holding positions.

Sheila:             Yeah.

Adam:             And sometimes they’re not hard positions to stay in and that’s why you do focus on your breathing and all kinds of other things. It has a meditative, I think, benefit to it. And I’m more of somebody who feels that the more the meditator breathing yoga is more beneficial than let’s say some of the more physical yoga like a Bikram yoga, for example, is very physical. And that is on the continuum of exercise is getting closer to what weight training is. So, if you’re going to go towards weight training you might as well just do weight training because yoga is quite inefficient than when it comes to that.

Sheila:             I do — the yoga — yeah. I mean, for me I feel like the balance is perfect to do this Power of 10 workout and then if I want to do yoga I do that separately and actually the Power of 10 helps me in my yoga. Like, if I do Bikram yoga it is an hour and a half class and it’s very — there’s a lot of endurance and I’m using my muscles. As I said in a previous podcast that I do not get as sore as I used to if I, you know, miss my yoga class for a couple months because my muscles are strong.

Tim:                 So, just one more question as we get close to wrapping up this topic on stretching is, where does flexibility factor into the Power of 10? Of course, I imagine, like myself, most people figure that the only way to become flexible and pliable is through a rigorous stretching regime. Can flexibility be acquired through high intensity training like you do with the Power of 10?

Adam:             Yes. The flexibility will be enhanced through strength training. A lot of times our reduced flexibility comes from the fact that we’re just weak. So, getting stronger will enhance your flexibility but you have to make the differentiation between enhanced flexibility and improved flexibility. Strength training or stretching for that matter will not improve your flexibility or very, very little. And anything that is improved is nominal. You know, even if you can improve your range of motion a little bit through stretching. I mean, I think the most anyone has ever really observed is like 20%. You know, and most people way below that. So, for what purpose? And —

Mike:               If you’re going beyond 20%, you’re often times creating an injury in the connective tissue probably.

Tim:                 Wow.

Adam:             If you’re going — yeah, I probably say, if you’re going beyond 10% you’re [crosstalk 14:55] —

Mike:               Yeah, or whatever the number is.

Adam:             You know, but it’s a very low tolerance for it and then the question is, is there any benefit to that? And again there doesn’t seem to be any benefit. Matter of fact studies are showing the opposite. When, you know, they went into these studies thinking they were going to prove that flexibility is good and then they find — and then these studies end up finding out the opposite.

Tim:                 Wow.

Adam:             That flexibility, not only, isn’t it good but it creates joint laxity and joint problems.

Mike:               And that’s —

Sheila:             And isn’t there a whole thing too about as far as the understanding of what is flexibility. Like, you’re born, basically, it’s just like your muscle, you know the DNA and your genetics and how you’re born, some people are just a little more flexible and they always will be, right and then —

Adam:             Of course.

Sheila:             Yeah and —

Adam:             And a lot of people say they lose flexibility as they get older. Though that’s not necessarily a problem either or a bad thing either. And it might not have to — it doesn’t probably have anything to do with your muscles. It has to do with your bones are changing. Your hip sockets are developing more and deeper and your femur gets larger as we get older and quite honestly you end up becoming less flexible because of that. Which is a physical thing. It’s not something you can change.

Mike:               I think the word flexibility sometimes is — it’s the word that everyone’s used to but it’s not necessarily I think how we should be thinking about it. I always think about ease of mobility to do whatever you’re trying to do. The more stable you are, the less flexible you are. The more flexible you are, the less stable you are.

Sheila:             This is reminding me of a story I heard once about this woman who was really into yoga and she was just like, you know, really flexible and everything and then by the time she was in her, you know, I think late 50s she literally had to get hip replacement because she had totally overstretched and, you know, ruined her hips.

Adam:             Mhm [affirmative].

Sheila:             And, you know, so what we do is protect your joints and hips with you know, this by strengthening the muscles to support them, like what Mike was saying making them stable.

Adam:             So, to sum up, let me just list once again the things that we expect from stretching that we don’t get. Okay, first of all, stretching does not improve your flexibility. Stretching does not warm up your muscles. Stretching makes you weak. Stretching leaves joints and ligaments vulnerable to injury and overstretching causes injury. So, those are the things that we are finding out happens from stretching. So, buyer beware.

Tim:                 Buyer beware. And again we invite you to head on over to informfitness.com to review the blogposts that we discussed today. It’s really easy to find. Just click blog and then look for Gumby. At the bottom of the article you’ll find references to additional articles that support the science behind Adam’s approach to stretching. Alright. Coming up in a mere 60 seconds we’re going to hear from another member of InForm Nation, Nicole, regarding the convenience of her once a week workout and we’ll read an email we received from the Santa Rosa, California area with a question regarding cardio in fitness fact or fiction right here in the InForm Fitness podcast.

You know, we spent a lot of time on this podcast discussing the important of high intensity slow motion weight training and getting the proper rest so that you’re ready to jump back into the gym a week later but let’s not forget the ever so important component or pillar to this lifestyle. It’s nutrition. You got to feed those muscles and be very mindful over what you put in your mouth. Adam does an excellent job simplifying the nutrition system necessary to supercharge your metabolism, burn fat and build muscle in chapter 3 in his book Power of 10.

And you will find plenty of InForm Fitness friendly feed at thrivemarket.com. And at wholesale prices. If you’re into the Paleo diet or perhaps you might be leaning towards being gluten free or even exploring a vegan lifestyle. You’ll find everything you’re looking for at thrivemarket.com. In addition to simplifying the buying process, it’s much more affordable than the grocery store and they deliver your items right to your door. Plus, with all orders over $49 you get your shipping absolutely free.

You can try it for yourself, just visit thrivemarket.com. Register for free. You can start your 30-day free trial and if you’re happy with the service and the products you can join the community. It’s only $59.95 and most customers will save that amount in their first order. And then you can continue to save a bunch of money and grow healthier in the process. As a matter of fact, I’m going to save you some more money right off your first order. Simply email me directly at tim@inboundpodcast.com and I will send you a code that will shave 15% off your first order. Thrive Market’s on a mission to make healthy living easy and affordable for everyone.

Alright. Let’s get back to the show. Let’s hear from InForm Nation member Nicole who absolutely loves the convenience of a once-a-week workout.

Nicole:             The convenience is huge. I do work a fulltime job. So, having, you know, only one day a week that I have to commit to a workout has made my life less stressful because the pressure of having to think you have to work out three to five times a week can kind of take a toll on you. So, the once a week it definitely works with my, you know, job, personal life, and it’s been really great.

Adam:             So, there you have it, the psychological benefit of this whole workout. Just the thought of working out five days a week can raise your cortisol levels. [laughter]

Sheila:             True.

Adam:             Just at the stress of just thinking about what you have to do and the — she said a key thing, something that I wrote in Power of 10 and that is the pressure is off. That’s huge. That is so huge. Not to mention the fact that it’s sustainable because you come, you do your hard workout, it’s hard. I get it. You don’t even want to do that one workout but it’s one workout 20 minutes a week and you do it because you have to do it and it is relatively stress-free and it’s sustainable. Something that you can do. You can kick yourself in the butt to say just do your 20-minute workout once a week, you wimp. And you get yourself to do it. It’s not as easy to get yourself to psyche yourself up to do your five day a week workout every single Monday that you start your week.

Tim:                 I got to tell you, Adam, I’ve been trying various types of workouts my entire life, all of them required me to participate three to five times a week and I quit all of them. [laughs] And now that I’ve been doing the Power of 10 workout at the InForm Fitness location in Toluca Lake, I’ve been going since November, the middle of November and I’ve only missed one week because it’s doable. It’s easy. It’s easy to fit into your schedule. If you can’t fit it into your schedule, then you probably have some other time management issues you need to deal with for sure.

Alright. Time for another feature here on the InForm Fitness podcast. It’s fitness fact or fiction. We’ve got an email here from Rachel from Santa Rose California. Rachel writes:

“Hello, InForm Fitness podcast people. I just –”

[laughter] We’re the “podcast people” [laughter].

“I just subscribed to your podcast and listened to the first five episodes. How come I’m not hearing anything about adding cardio to your Power of 10 workout? I’ve always thought that cardio is necessary for optimal health. I hope I hear my question on the show. If so, does that make me an official member of InForm Nation?”

Yes, Rachel, you are an official member of InForm Nation and we certainly appreciate you listening to the podcast. So, I guess the fitness fact or fiction question is, is cardio necessary for optimal health.

Adam:             Well, that is not a very quick answer. But to give you one, no, it’s not necessary, not in the conventional form that we all think of cardio.

Tim:                 So, give us examples. Such as?

Adam:             Jogging, biking, walking —

Sheila:             Treadmill.

Adam:             The treadmill. These conventional forms of steady state cardio that we have mentioned a little bit in previous podcasts.

Tim:                 There are definite cardiovascular benefits through this slow motion high intensity strength training system.

Adam:             But I also have to add that it is very controversial. And if you think that the idea that you don’t have to stretch is controversial, you know, that’s nothing compared to the controversy that swarms around the idea that you need to do cardio.

Mike:               The thing I want to emphasis is that strength training is cardio. It’s not an addition to cardio. It is cardio. You’re getting your cardio in it and your heart has to support your muscles in order to do that. And if you do something that is a mechanical work, that considered mechanical work that is outside it’s comfort zone, what’s it’s conditioned already to do, then which is what you are doing when you’re doing high intensity strength training big time, then your heart is going to have to work a lot harder. And until it gets conditioned to do so, you are doing cardio.

Tim:                 And Rachel, we dive deep into cardio in episode eight, titled the Cardio Conundrum. So, you might want to go back into iTunes and download that episode. Better yet, you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes and that way, every new episode as its released is instantly downloaded to your phone or whatever device you might be listening from. If you’d like to join InForm Nation like Rachel did and have a question for Adam, Mike or Sheila with fitness fact or fiction, send us an email or record a voice memo on your phone and send it to podcast@informfitness.com. You can even give us a call at 888-983-5020, Ext. 3. That’s 888-983-5020, Ext. 3 and you can leave your comment, question or even a suggestion. All feedback is welcome.

Hey, we have three really cool episodes on the horizon here and we hope you’ll join us. Next week is for the ladies. Especially for the ladies who might be concerned about bulking up with the Power of 10. Many women don’t want to bulk up or have that body builder look. Adam, Mike and Sheila will weigh in on that very topic next week. And in two weeks we will be talking to InForm Nation member Joanie Pimentel. She is also a member of the LA based band, No Small Children. For a glimpse of Joanie and to sample her music head on over to nosmallchildren.com. The reason we’ll be talking to Joanie is she lost 118 pounds over two years with the Power of 10. She is a ton of fun, incredibly talented and can’t wait to get her on the program.

You know, when Joanie’s on tour with her band she takes Adam’s book Power of 10: The Once-a-Week Slow Motion Fitness Revolution and performs the exercises by herself in a local gym. And you can do the same if you are not near one of the several InForm Fitness locations across the US. You can order Adam’s book through Amazon. To see if there is a location nearest you just click on over to informfitness.com. Hey, thanks again for listening to the InForm Fitness podcast. We really do appreciate it. For Adam, Mike and Sheila, I’m Tim Edwards with the Inbound Podcasting Network.