Teacher Discussion: Stretch

We’ve been having a discussion about stretching among the teachers. It’s a bit involved but interesting if you want to follow along:


Yaron said:

I’d be interested to know what points are you disagreeing with him.

I thought this lecture was very thorough about what may happen to ones tissue and performance if one would (leverly) stretch on their own a part of their body. He goes on to caution about how long and what specifically to target.

However Doug Richards did not mention anything about how FRT which is a form of stretching and how FRT COULD influence / improve ones tissue elasticity, flexibility and performance.

Which BTW is fine with me 😉

Carrie said:

I liked a lot of it – especially the specific definitions for things like range, creep, flexibility, elastic, act… I think about these things when I am watching people move in my yoga classes or I am doing Fascial Stretch Therapy with clients. I also really liked the way he touched on the limitations of the sciatic nerve being a limiting factor in a straight leg stretch.

It would be interesting to hear him speak to the slide that you and Robert use regarding crimp and the development of fascial fitness. I will have to watch this a few more times. Not sure that I agree with targeting only the muscle but I do agree that joint laxity is problematic – and I see a lot of folks with Hyper-mobility Syndromes.

I look forward to more thoughts from the group.

Article on Fascial Fitness (PDF)


Andrew said:

Thanks for the video – nice, straight forward and sensical – reminds me of Stu Mcgill’s stuff. Along with FRT, I’d also be interested to hear about how various MET techniques might influence the effects of stretching on the soft tissues.


Carrie said:

Yaron – the crimp I referred to is in response to loading the collagen fibers – this, coupled with the oscillatory movements gives fascia a very different texture (that last part is based on my own explorations with SBL.) The slide image I am referring to is on page 4 of this article (though oscillation to crimp topic is page 3 – 5).


Andrew (or Tom) – what does MET stand for? I understand PNF which is a part of Fascial Stretch Therapy™ (FST).

Tom said:

MET = Muscle Energy Technique is PNF by another name, IMHO, though Leon Chaitow might disagree.


Simone said:

Doug Richards does not give credit to fascia and tendons and ligaments when it comes to load deformation. In his opinion the strain range – how far it (fascia)can stretch before it breaks-is only 3-5 percent before it deforms and 10 percent until it brakes permanent.

Interesting is the creep and visco elasticity he explains that happens in a forward bend of a human spine but what tissue is he talking about that allows to move back to normal upright standing if his argument is that our tissue is visco elastic and hence acts as a slow motion spring if not the medium fascia?

Other than that good explanation of definitions- we need more research when it comes to stretching-our slow death stretching is prolonged posture- bravo- and I mean it.


Holly said:

Thanks for sharing this video Tom and thanks to everyone for their feedback.

If you do not mind reading my lengthy response, here are some thoughts to share. If you are thinking, what is this crazy girl writing about (ha), then please I hope you have some time to look at some research articles on stretching I have attached.

1. Doug Richards presented a great lecture on “stretching” and presenting concepts not always discussed with “stretching (i.e., load deformation curve, stiffness, range, viscoelasticity, and creep. From a movement and exercise physiology perspective, this is a video movement professionals should watch.

2. I appreciate the discussion on the seated forward bend and how the sciatic nerve may limit ROM. I do not remember hearing any discussion on myofascial limitations in the SBL? Was there any discussion on how the soleus and gastrocnemius could limit a person’s ROM in this sit-and reach position/test? These muscles reach “antagonist” insufficiency (reach their eccentric limit) in this sit and reach position (i.e., knee extension, hip flexion, and dorsiflexion) and impact the SBL. Not that it matters, but the sit-and-reach test is not a very valid measure of hamstring and low back flexibility anyway. The YMCA sit and reach test has a relationship (r) of. 64 for measuring hamstring flexibility and an r = .47 for low back flexibility. The modified sit-and-reach is a bit better respectively at r = .71 and r. = .77.

3. The MGill and Brown Study (1993) was very interesting on creep, especially discussing the importance of moving after long periods of slouching. My one issue it the test instrument they used to measure lumbar ROM (i.e., inclinometer). Attempts at measuring spinal motion by drawing a straight line from L1-L5 and measuring angle of change is very hard and even inaccurate. We do not know the individual joints’ exact contributions to the motion occurring between these points. This is a minor issue and I am hoping there was moderate to high test reliability and validity. Another thought -Did they look at lumbar flexion only or did they look at the amount of hip flexion? Would that make a difference? No need to answer this question, just writing my thoughts out. I need to go back and read this study again. It has been a long time.

4. I greatly appreciate Doug Richards not saying stretching is good or bad. He just presented the facts. There are a lot of myths out there and he helped to put some facts out there to dispute these myths. I am also glad we have people like Tom who are bringing attention to the fascial aspect of stretching. That is an area that has been neglected in the movement profession.

5. By the way, what does “stretching” mean anyway? Stretching seems to conjure up the idea of lengthening a muscle (and some people think permanently). In mechanical engineering “stretch” means to apply a load (stress) (Eli-check me on this), but the marketing aspect of the fitness industry has altered the definition to get more permanent flexibility. Gee, possibly to sell more equipment (oops, there goes my cynical nature-ha!). I think the term “stretching” needs to be redefined or at least use other terms, such as flexibility or range of motion, when talking to our clients.

6. As for the research, the problem is there are so many variables to look at when analyzing the effects of “stretching” (i.e., frequency, intensity, load, time, type or method, goal, type of person (i.e., older adult, athlete, etc.), structures being affected. I am glad there is more research coming out on “stretching.” However, most of the research is looking at the effects of acute stretching on strength, power, and speed and athletes. I have not seen many studies on the effects acute stretching on eccentric strength or the effects of stretching on the sedentary population (our couch potatoes)?

As Carrie mentioned, in yoga there is an emphasis on “stretching” with the thought of lengthening the muscles. We need to understand our students/clients’ expectations of “stretching.” As with Carrie, I see there many incorrect concepts and stretching techniques being taught in the yoga world. I hope we can educate the yoga community, as well as movement community, about the realistic short- and long-term outcomes and concepts of “stretching” (i.e., elasticity, plasticity, stiffness, creep, etc.).

7. I am enclosing a meta-analysis that came out from ACSM’s Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise (January 2012) titled “Effects of Acute Static Stretch on Maximal Muscle Performance A Systematic Review.” In a nutshell, the meta-analysis indicated that the detrimental effects of static stretch are mainly limited to longer duration (greater than 60 secs.) which may not be typically used in pre-exercise routines. I hope you find it interesting.

8. In the last 5 or so years in the fitness industry, there has been more of a negative view of “stretching.” However, that is changing. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is the lead organization in getting position stands out to the fitness industry. I have included some documents on what ACSM is currently discussing in the areas of flexibility.


Sorry this was long winded, but I am very interested in this topic. I hope to do future research in this area next year. I am looking at incorporating some techniques I have learned from Anatomy Trains and FST (Fascial Stretch Therapy) in regard to “stretching” methods on range of motion, strength, and even well-being. Fingers crossed I can get this going.


Meredith said:

Finally had time to watch the video in its entirety and to read everyone’s feedback. Great discussion.

I particularly liked the physics review in the beginning of the lecture.

Thanks, Holly, for the articles you sent.

Here are some of my thoughts:

Richards is working with a single muscle theory vs. the concept of continuity. This is evident in his description of the hamstring stretch. Yes, the slump test biases the nerves, but also stretches the SBL tissues.

Specificity in stretching is important, but so is the global stretching as we see in yoga. He makes a good point about aging and the generalized shortening of tissue (I can attest to this!) and the need for global range of motion.

My understanding is that currently dynamic stretching or warm-ups are the more readily accepted form of pre-exercise stretch as they increase core temperature, work through range of motion of multiple joints and can be made to be sport specific. They do not run the same risk of transient loss of muscle function as prolonged stretches.

I recall some research out there that showed that PNF style stretching was more effective at increasing range of motion (short term) than static stretching. e.g. consciously using the neuromuscular system enhanced the outcome. But, as Holly’s ACSM position stand noted, all are acceptable forms of flexibility training.

That being said, I would agree on his assertion that there is no one best way to stretch. I choose to use MET/PNF, AIS (active isolated stretching) static stretching, dynamic range of motion depending on my client (age, injury, goals, cognitive status) the workout (warm-up or cool down etc.), the goals, etc., with no one choice being superior to the other at all times. They are “tools” in my toolbox that I select to best address my clients’ needs at the time.

thanks for the posting,

I would really like to know more about collagen, crimping and collagen fiber alignment, elastin, energy storage and the elastic recoil mechanism. Eli and I were talking about this the other day and I feel I could use more clarity on the subject.


Tom says:

Just to close this out for now – it’s a big subject to which we will return – I can send you to the chapter on Stretching in Fascia The Tensional Network of the Human Body I co-wrote with Chris Fredericks of Fascial Stretch Therapy – available, of course, from our store. ‘Stretch’ is a loaded and confusing term – I tried to starighten it out, but it’s a big job, as you can see here.