Stretching & Self Myo-Fascial Release: Basic Concepts
| EnFuse Staff
Category: Strength & Rehabilitation
Stretching & Self Myo-Fascial Release: Basic Concepts
Stretching and basic self myo-fascial release (SMR) is not an activity exclusive to athletes and seasoned weight-lifters. Nearly everyone should participate in some form of full body stretching and basic SMR as part of their daily routine. Proper stretching and SMR may help to promote muscle lengthening, which over time can lead to an increase in flexibility and improved joint range of motion. Increasing and subsequently maintaining your body’s level of flexibility is important for many reasons, most notably- poor flexibility can ultimately lead to muscle tightness, decreased range of motion, and in severe cases, pain and or loss of function.
Muscles tend to become tight if the body stays in fixed positions for extended periods of time; as it is the case for many office workers who spend the bulk of their days behind a desk and or seated. Muscles may also become tight from overuse creating micro traumas. Microtraumas (*) can occur within muscles when repetitive tasks are performed. This is commonly seen in laborers or tradespeople who are required to perform repetitive tasks from day to day and are not counterbalancing their primary movement patterns with oppositional movements and or relegate themselves to poor movement mechanics (improper lifting, bending, turning, pressing, pulling, etc.)
The human body tries to naturally repair these tears (microtraumas) by laying down scar tissue. By consistently stretching and incorporating some basic SMR techniques during this process, you may help to improve the elasticity of the tissue, thus maintaining / improving flexibility and joint range of motion over time.
Before we continue, it is important to note that duration and frequency are two critical components to consider when stretching. Duration is the length of time you hold a given stretch for, while frequency is how many times you perform it. Duration will vary depending on the goal of the stretch being performed. For example, if you are incorporating stretching into your pre-workout warm-up, they will have different durations from the stretches you would perform post workout. The two types of stretching that this article will focus on are dynamic and static; each of these are unique from one another in duration and are specific to a desired physiological outcome.
The Dynamic Stretch
Essentially, this is your “warm-up” stretching. Dynamic stretching uses body movement to engage muscles without overly fatiguing individual muscle fibers. This method usually involves multi-joint movements and is used to warm the body / joints up while increasing the circulation of blood. Dynamic stretching involves active movement for short periods of time. This type of stretching can also serve as a good way to bump up your heart rate. A good rule of thumb to follow regarding a dynamic warm-up is this- base the movements of your warm-up off the movements of your upcoming workout. For example, if you plan to do heavy barbell squats, a good dynamic warm-up might be body-weight squats 15-20 for repetitions at a (188.8.131.52) tempo.
Note: Always listen to your body. Never force range of motion. Warm-ups and workouts should leave your feeling pain-free and energized. For a guided session, please contact our team- support@EnFuseFitness.com
The Static Stretch
Static stretching involves holding a stretch for a designated period of time, typically 30 – 60 seconds and repeating 3-4 times. This type of stretching can be extremely effective in achieving plasticity (**). Traditionally, this method of stretching is incorporated as part of cool down / post-workout.
An example of static stretching is performing a toe touch while maintaining a neutral spine and holding for a designated period of time (30-60 seconds).
Note: Never force a stretch and always maintain proper body mechanics. Stretching can be highly beneficial, but can also lead to injury if performed improperly. For a guided session, please contact our team- support@EnFuseFitness.com
Stretching throughout the day and before / after workouts is ideal. To make this accessible, you can simply add quick stretches while waiting in line for coffee, standing on an elevator, or waiting for dinner to cook. In addition, taking short breaks at work to move around and stretch may help to decrease muscle spasms while simultaneously improving energy and focus.
Stretching before a workout helps prepare our bodies / muscles for strenuous activity, improves range of motion, and helps prevent injury. Post-workout stretching decreases the chances of our muscles tightening up and, in some cases, going into spasm. Overall, stretching and basic SMR can help us lead healthier, more active / robust lifestyles.
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(*) Microtrauma: the general term given to small injuries to the body. Microtrauma can include the microtearing of muscle fibres, the sheath around the muscle and the connective tissue. 
(**) Muscle Plasticity: is defined as the ability of a given muscle to alter its structural and functional properties in accordance with the environmental conditions imposed on it. 
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- Behm DG, Chaouachi A. A review of the acute effects of static and dynamic stretching on performance. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 2011;111(11):2633-2651. doi:10.1007/s00421-011-1879-2.
- Herman SL, Smith DT. Four-Week Dynamic Stretching Warm-up Intervention Elicits Longer-Term Performance Benefits. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2008;22(4):1286-1297. doi:10.1519/jsc.0b013e318173da50.
- Weerapong P, Hume PA, Kolt GS. Stretching: Mechanisms and Benefits for Sport Performance and Injury Prevention. Physical Therapy Reviews. 2004;9(4):189-206. doi:10.1179/108331904225007078.
- Microtrauma. (2015, August 8). Retrieved June 14, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microtrauma
- Gransee, H. M., Mantilla, C. B., & Sieck, G. C. (2012, April). Respiratory Muscle Plasticity. Retrieved June 14, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3962767/
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