Miscellaneous Miscellany Monday: Oscars!, Deadlifts, and Myths of Stretching

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1.  Raise your hand if you stayed up last night to watch the entire broadcast of the Oscars.

*Sheepishly raises hand*

Yes, I stayed up till just past midnight to see 12 Years a Slave win Best Picture and to watch director Steve McQueen and company be handed the statue by Will Smith.

I know it’s borderline silly to spend 4-5 hours of my night watching a bunch of attractive, rich people who make their living pretending to be action heros, real-life heros, icons, and pirates celebrate other attractive, rich people and hand one another a golden statue.  Especially when there are so many other pressing issues going on around us.

Even so, I’m a firm believer that movies and film offer all of us a sense of release and escape. Whether it’s calling a “time-out” from worrying about a mid-life crisis or a recent break-up, or even if it’s just two hours inside, away from this insane Polar Vortex, movies give us everything from joy and happiness to awe and inspiration.  Not to mention there are a select few that do a bang-up job at scaring the bejesus out of us and making us destroy the back of our pants.

What’s more, as someone who loves (LOVES film), I can appreciate the hard work and talent it takes to do what those people do.  Whether it’s sitting there and reveling in the cinematography of Gravity, the costume/set design of The Great Gatsby, the unabashed “holy-shit-I’m-really-uncomfortable-watching-this-but-this-is-what-happened-so-suck-it-up-Tony” realism of 12 Years a Slave,  the side boob and overall “cleavaginess” of American Hustle, or the breakneck speed and cadence of Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks’ last scene in that movie is one of the best acted scenes I have ever watched), I’m always appreciative and thankful for the movies.

So what can I say:  the Oscars are my SuperBowl – albeit without the large pizza and pretzels on the side.

Lisa and I sat down at 7PM to watch the pre-show festivities, although to be honest I’m not really as much of a fan watching and listening to the fashion mumbo-jumbo. It’s all Elvish to me.  I was actually sitting on the couch reading during that portion of the telecast, but I was listening to Lisa’s commentary which was hilarious.

In fact, I was thiiiiiiiiis close to starting a #shitlisasayswhilewatchingtheoscars on Twitter, but I elected not to

All in all I was very pleased with the show.  Ellen was Ellen, and there were a handful of times Lisa and I broke out and laughed our butts off.  How bout those pizzas!

I fully expect that random pizza-delivery guy to have an agent by now, and to have his own reality show greenlit by summer.

I can’t say I was surprised by any of the winners.  I was secretly hoping that DiCaprio would somehow snake out a win for Best Actor for his role in Wolf of Wall Street, but I knew that either McConaughey or Chiwetel Ejiofor (you know, the guy who’s name no one can pronounce) were the favorites.

Spoiler Alert: McConaughey won.

I was happy to see Jared Leto win, and was really happy to see Alfonso Cuaron win for Best Director (Gravity).

And, OMG, can you freakin believe Helium won for Best Live Action Short??????  (<— Yes, that’s sarcasm).

All in all, as always, I loved every second and can’t wait till next year.

2.  This is really out of character for me, and I know this is going to raise a few eyebrows, but I watched a Tracy Anderson DVD over the weekend wrote an article on deadlifting for Men’s Health last week.

You can check it out HERE.

3.  And since we’re on the topic of “stuff I’ve written,” I also contributed to a piece last week on Stack.com titled 13 Fitness Challenges That Will Destroy You.

They won’t literally destroy you – that’s a bit much – but it stands to reason they’ll offer a change of pace to your routine if you’re looking to add a little variety.  Check them out!

4.  I received a question recently that I felt would be better served answering here since I’m able to reach more people on this blog and I’m sure many reading have toyed with the same topic.

Q: Tony, where would static stretching fit into a week of working out? Do you recommend it on recovery days, or a specialized flexibility training day? Post-workout? Before bed?

A: As with anything: it depends. Not a sexy answer, but it’s the truth.

Stretching for the sake of stretching isn’t necessarily a good thing. While their intentions are in the right place, I see many people flopping on the stretch mat at local commercial gyms doing what they deem as “stretching,” but all I really see is a complete waste of time.

Stretching IS important – as a society it’s crystal clear that we sit a lot, and as such things tend to get adaptively short or stiff.  This is something that definitely needs to be addressed, because if it isn’t one runs the risk of developing muscular imbalances that not affects posture but can lead to pain or injury down the road.

The thing is:  the vast majority of people tend to stretch what they’re good at or what feels good.  What’s more, people tend to get into positions thinking they’re stretching one muscle, when in fact they’re not even close. Does this one ring a bell?

Many would recognize this as a hamstring stretch.  Wanna know what I see?  A lower back stretch.

Moreover, you could argue whether or not traditional stretching actually does anything?  Doing a few 30-second stretches here and there won’t really mount to much.  If a tissue is truly short it has lost sarcomeres  In order to really make a difference, you need to increase the series of sarcomeres and that takes A LOT more than a few 30-second stretches.

In fact if you asked Bill Hartman how much stretching it actually takes to make a difference, he’d say you need to cumulatively hold a stretch anywhere from 20-60 minutes!

Of course, that’s not practical for most people.

This isn’t to say that some stretching isn’t better than no stretching……but rather just to give some people a semblance of expectation management.

And then there are other factors to consider.  Someone who scores high on the Beighton Laxity Test certainly doesn’t need to go out of his or her way to perform a lot of static stretching.

Another thing to consider is HOW people stretch.

One key factor that many people tend to conveniently gloss over is alignment.  Stretching the hip flexors is an often targeted area for most people, and rightfully so.  Because we tend to sit in flexion all day, it stands to reason many people need a crowbar to “un-glue” their hips.  To counteract this many will opt to stretch, like this:

Notice the massive extension pattern and anterior pelvic tilt she’s in?  This isn’t really accomplishing anything other than to run the risk of developing femoral anterior glide syndrome (where the femoral head is literally jammed forward.)

Unless this person cleans up he starting position – brace the anterior core, squeeze the glute of the trailing leg, getting, encouraging more posterior pelvic tilt and getting out of extension – she can do this stretch for hours on end and really not accomplish anything.

Now all of this isn’t say that I’m poo-pooing on stretch altogether.  It DOES have its place, and it DOES serve a purpose.  But I just feel more people need to be cognizant of what they’re stretching and more importantly, HOW they’re stretching.

I feel stretching before a training session is best.   What good is it to stretch before bed when you’re just going to lie down anyways?

I’d rather see people address tissue quality, mobilize, stretch, and then “cement” that new length with appropriate strength training.

Again, the idea is to encourage more “neutral,” get into more optimal alignment, and then train.

The order I prefer is this:

Foam Roll—Dynamic Warm-Up—Dedicated Static Stretching—Lift Heavy Shit

After rolling out, you’d hit up your standard dynamic warm-up (THIS or THIS may help), perform some static stretching to help lengthen the tissue (for most people hitting up areas like the glutes, hip flexors, lats, and pecs would be ideal), and then go…..you’re a free bird.  Fly fly away.

Go lift something heavy.

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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Comments for This Entry

  • Health/Fitness Links To Get You Through The Day |

    […] Myths Of Stretching (Tony Gentilcore) – Great article as usual. Does holding a stretch for 10-30 seconds really do anything? […]

    March 5, 2014 at 9:20 am | Reply to this comment

  • Paul Bruce

    I noticed not all major muscles are being foam rolled in the foam rolling series. Are these muscles given most importance because they are hypertonic? Would rolling on your hamstrings be of any good? (I know I ask SO many questions, but I blame you for posting all this cool stuff, turning me into a kinesiology nerd. :) )

    March 7, 2014 at 10:34 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      You can certainly roll the hamstrings if needed Paul....we just tend to target the "big players" and those muscles which tend to be, as you noted, hypertonic (upper and mid back, lats, pecs, adductors, hip flexors, etc).

      March 9, 2014 at 7:24 am | Reply to this comment

  • Brent

    I still don't entirely understand static stretching. Why do tissues get short in the first place is my big question. I know Dean Somerset has written some good stuff on this. I'm not against static stretching ( I do it myself) but frankly I think if anything I think it has more to do with the nervous system than with the muscles themselves. Maybe we are just shifting to a parasympathetic state when we are relaxing and stretching so this is why we feel better and more stretchy (science word of the day!)? But then we go back at it again the next day/session because it's tight again. You'd think there is a pretty strong correlation with optimal breathing mechanics and core stability and optimal tissue length. So I'm just going go breathe now and hold a plank for 40 min. and all will be well obviously :)

    March 8, 2014 at 2:08 am | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      There's a lot of reasons - and as you alluded to, all of them don't revolved around a muscle becoming adaptively shortened. I think protective tension is a huge culprit and I think neural tension is another HUGE culprit. So, yes, I agree with you.....our nervous system is looking out for our own best interests at times.

      March 9, 2014 at 7:23 am | Reply to this comment

  • Health/Fitness Links To Get You Through The Day

    […] Myths Of Stretching (Tony Gentilcore) – Great article as usual. Does holding a stretch for 10-30 seconds really do anything? […]

    March 25, 2014 at 5:04 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Paul Bruce

    Tony! It's been almost a year, but I'm still so grateful you answered my question about static stretching in this blog post - it's been REALLY helpful in my training. Thanks for being so giving. Now that you're all buttered up... Would PNF stretching work similarly to static stretching in this case? Would there be any advantage of using one over the other?

    January 23, 2015 at 7:20 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      You can butter me up all you want. Uh, wait, that sounded weird.....;o) I like PNF stretching a lot. Granted I don't use it a ton, but it's definitely a way to "trick" the body into getting more ROM (assuming the additional ROM is a good fit for someone).

      January 26, 2015 at 9:04 am | Reply to this comment

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