NASM CES Chapter 4: Lengthening Techniques
NASM CES Chapter 4: Lengthening Techniques 1

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    Chapter Goals:

    • Define muscle length, extensibility, and flexibility. 
    • Describe the function of lengthening techniques in a corrective exercise program. 
    • Discuss the guidelines for applying stretching techniques. 


    This is the second phase of the corrective exercise continuum , and it follows the previous phase of inhibiting.

    Lengthening refers to the elongating of the connective tissues for increasing the range of motion at the tissue and the joint.

    The most common methods of static, dynamic, and neuromuscular stretching ae going to be focused on in this chapter.

    The goals of stretching in all three ae going to be improving the range of motion available, increasing the extensibility of the tissues, decreasing muscle and tendon injuries, and enhancing neuromuscular efficiency. 

    Flexibility is defined as the range of motion available to a joint or a group of joints. 

    Stretching is an active process trying to elongate the muscles and the connective tissues to increase the state of flexibility. 

    Types of Stretching Techniques

    Stretching is the technique to lengthen muscle and tendons and has been the subject of debate for several decades, thus leading to a lot of research in the effects, duration, and methodologies for stretching.

    It might be the most widely studied topics in all of human performance. 

    Static Stretching

    This has been the most common stretching technique for health and fitness professionals. It is characterized by three things:

    • The elongation of myofascial tissue to an end-range and statistically holding that position for a period of time.
    • Max control of structural alignment.
    • Minimal acceleration into and out of the stretched position. 

    This form of flexibility training is associated with the lower risk of injury in a stretching routine and deemed the safest because people can do them on their own and with slow or no motions. 

    Mechanical Adaptations

    It is believed that static stretching produces adaptations that lead to a greater range of motion in the joints stretched. 

    Neurological Adaptations

    Static stretching to the end range of motion is seen to decrease the excitability of motor neurons.

    With passive stretches, we see the muscle extending at a slow or moderate rate into an elongated position and held for some amount of time.

    The muscle spindles in the muscle are used for detecting the changes in length and the rate of said changes.

    The nuclear chain fibers inside the muscle spindles will respond to changes in elongation and the nuclear bag fibers are for the rate of elongation and the extent of the stretch.

    Muscle relaxation occurs as a response to the amount and rate of lengthening. 

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    Other mechanism affecting the stretch are things such as the golgi tendon organs and the Renshaw cells.

    The golgi tendon organ is activated by tension exerted on the muscle tendon, and this contributes to the reflex inhibition.

    The Renshaw cells contribute to the relaxation or inhibition of muscles with large amplitude stretches. 

    Psycho-physiological Adaptations

    One of these responses would be in the increase in stretch tolerance that occurs from stretching chronically.

    This is seen as one of the greatest contributors for increasing the range of motion. 

    Chronic Adaptations to Static Stretching

    All of these previous ones may occur acutely with a single session, but long term stretching is going to cause chronic changes that affect many factors.

    Changes in muscle and tendon stiffness are known to occur long term.

    Tissue creep may occur over the long term.

    This is where the muscles and tendons do not return to their original length following prolonged stretching. 

    Neuromuscular Stretching

    This is also going to be call proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation.

    It has received a lot more attention as of late and is an optimal way to lengthen myofascial tissues.

    This stretching involves a process of isometrically contracting a specific muscle in a lengthened position in order to induce a relaxation response in the muscle and then allowing it to elongate further.

    Many researchers believe that this is a combination of static and active stretching. 

    There are four stages that characterize neuromuscular stretching:

    • Take the muscle to the end range of motion and hold it for 10 seconds.
    • Actively contract the muscle that is going to be stretched for 5 – 10 seconds. 
    • Passively elongate the muscle to the new end range of motion. 
    • Statically hold this new position for 20 – 30 seconds and repeat these steps three times. 

    There are some variations that you might see done for this process like the contract-relax technique or the contract relax, agonist contract method. 

    An advantage that neuromuscular stretching has over static stretching is that the contraction of the stretched muscles places more mechanical stress on the tendon than what happens during the passive stretches. 

    Since the muscle is already elongated, the next contraction will emphasize the tendon being elongated, and this provides an additional mechanical factor.

    One usual weakness of the neuromuscular stretching is that it usually requires assistance of another person, or at least the use of a band to replace that person. 

    Mechanisms of Neuromuscular Stretching

    The reflex inhibition techniques are seen to likely have a part in neuromuscular stretching.

    There is a similar increase seen in the tolerance to stretching, just like we had with the static stretching. 

    Dynamic Stretching

    This has also become popular lately, like the neuromuscular stretching.

    It has been seen as a great addition into the warmup routines of clients.

    Dynamic stretching works to use controlled movements in their whole range of motion in the active joints. 

    It is similar, but also very different, to ballistic stretching.

    Ballistic stretching emphasizes high velocity movements and bouncing actions at the end range of motion, and this makes it a tad more dangerous.

    Static stretching is use for inhibiting the nervous system, while dynamic stretching is used for activating and exciting the nervous system.

    Dynamic stretching has more advantages for use prior to sports performance or exercise that is more demanding.

    Muscle contractions also work to increase the activity of the metabolism and this elevates the temperature of the muscles. 

    Improving Range of Motion

    Stretching exercises are used mainly for increasing the joint range of motion that is available.

    This is truer if the range at the joint is limited by tight tissues.

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    Stretching is needed to be done both acutely and chronically.

    It is not conclusive stated that one type of stretching is better than another.

    Some researchers have found that the ability to change range of motion is possibly different with the use of different stretching methods at different joints.

    Some simply respond better than others to stretching types.

    The fitness professionals should work to evaluate movement and decide what is best for the desired outcomes.

    Impacts on Athletic Performance

    There is a common misconception that stretching will reduce someone’s athletic performance and thus, it should not be done before athletic activity. This is not necessarily true.

    Dynamic stretching, for example, is very beneficial prior to sporting events and actually should be implemented for optimal performance.

    Some studies have found that static stretching in the warm up, at least to a great degree, has some negative effects on performance potentially. 

    Warm up components based on type of stretching

    For myofascial rolling, 5 – 10 minutes of time will help.

    For static stretching, less than 60 seconds per muscle group is ideal, and you should not have discomfort or pain.

    For dynamic stretching we see a need for less than 90 seconds of time per muscle group and the use of moderate speeds for the exercises.

    And task specific or specific warmup, we should have a total of 5 – 15 minutes. 

    Obviously we will not do all four types for a warmup, this is if you only chose to do one of these. 

    Effects of Stretching on Improving the Resistance to Injury

    Many health professionals and athletes perform their stretching before activity as a part of their warmup, and this started the idea of it preventing injury.

    The studies show that pre-event static stretching does not actually affect the injury risks.

    On the other hand, long term stretching protocols have been found to decrease the rate of injury in the muscles and the tendons. 

    Application Guidelines for Lengthening Techniques

    Precautions for Stretching:

    • Special populations
    • Seniors
    • Hypertensive patients
    • Neuromuscular disorders
    • Joint replacements
    • Fibromyalgia
    • Marfan syndrome

    Contraindications for Stretching:

    • Acute injuries or muscle strains or tears in the muscle to be stretched
    • Recent musculoskeletal surgeries or treatments
    • Acute rheumatoid arthritis within the affected joint
    • Osteoporosis

    Static Stretching Acute Training Variables

    • Frequency should be daily or some other specified days.
    • The reps should be 1 – 4 repetitions
    • The duration of the stretches are 20 – 30 second holds or 60 seconds for the older patients. 

    Neuromuscular Stretching Acute Training Variables

    • These can be done daily unless told some other order. 
    • 1 – 3 reps or cycles is normal per stretch.
    • The contraction time is 7 – 15 seconds with 10 being the ideal amount. 

    Dynamic Stretching Acute Training Variables

    • 90 seconds of time or less of the dynamic stretches should be done for each of the muscle groups. 
    • The velocity needs to be under control and performed at a rate of one cycle every second. 
    NASM CES Chapter 4: Lengthening Techniques 2
    NASM CES Chapter 4: Lengthening Techniques 3
    NASM CES Chapter 4: Lengthening Techniques 4

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