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    #16
    HellYeah excellent question and thank you for the tag . I will take this opportunity to add some depth to stretching and strength and building muscle for the benefit of everyone who comes across the thread. First, we know, scientifically, that stretching statically before exercise de-strengthens muscles and leads to increased chances of injury. One of the studies that mentions this can be found here. The reasons behind the increased injury risk are mostly due to muscle instability that is not motion and sport-specific. So, dynamic and ballistic stretching has been found to be both safer as a warm-up and lead to improved performance during the exercises themselves.

    As kandy has mentioned, long, flexible muscles lead to more explosive power because they can A. Recruit more active muscle fibers at the point of execution and B. They have a greater range of motion. But does that reduce muscle size and strength if a lot of stretching is performed after a heavy weight training session? The first studies to deliver a counter-intuitive answer on this were carried out back in 1993 (they can be found here and here). The suggestion was that improved blood flow and muscle elongation led to strength gains through both increased muscle length and increased muscle girth (i.e. size or hypertrophy). A more recent review in 2013 (which can be found here) added greater depth to this by showing that what changed with stretching was also the hormonal profile of the muscles that improved somewhat.

    A more recent study (found here) adds to a growing body of scientific evidence that shows that static stretching exercises performed between sets of weight training lead to increased hypertrophy and muscle growth and (more significantly) strength gains that those that do not use stretching. Interestingly, light stretching performed as a cool down after heavy training does not help activate hypertrophy and contributes to zero gains in strength (though it doesn't negate the gains made through weight training). That study is here.

    In conclusion, stretching that adds to the time under tension that is experienced by muscle fibers leads to neuromechanical and metabolic changes that deliver greater strength gains and greater hypertrophy than just weight training on its own (review study here). Bro science, fails us here sadly, by suggesting the opposite. One of the reasons, however, why our intuitive assessment of stretching and weights training is wrong may lie in the the neurological adaptations that occur when we train with weights that lead to increased muscle fiber recruitment and increased strength that can be applied in specific directions of movement (study for that here). Stretching appears to decrease the perceived mechanical load on the muscles by activating neurological adaptations (study found here) which can then make us feel that somehow the muscles are not working as they should and we therefore might be losing strength, while the opposite is true.

    This last element is pure conjecture on my part however. I am looking at perception and how that is acquired through sensory input. When that sensory input changes our perception changes but the sensory input does not always reveal the full story of the underlying mechanism, case in point. I really hope this helps and thank you for opening this up.

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      #17
      Damer Another myth busted! At least for me. I love it!
      Let me recapitulate just to be sure, that I got it right:

      For strength training:
      before: dynamic or ballistic
      between sets: static
      afterwards: high intensity

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        #18
        Originally posted by Damer View Post
        First, we know, scientifically, that stretching statically before exercise de-strengthens muscles and leads to increased chances of injury. One of the studies that mentions this can be found here. The reasons behind the increased injury risk are mostly due to muscle instability that is not motion and sport-specific. So, dynamic and ballistic stretching has been found to be both safer as a warm-up and lead to improved performance during the exercises themselves.
        I know it has nothing to do with the discussion but it concerns stretching: "yoga sun salutation" what kind of stretching is considered? Dynamic? I was doubtful since I use it both as a warm up and as a stretch at the end of the workout and I feel very comfortable

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          #19
          HellYeah Perfect!

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            #20
            Fremen Yoga falls somewhere in between the two. The sun salutation in particular has both static and dynamic poses. I am not sure if there are studies on this so what I will say right now is pure opinion. Because the sun salutation is not a particularly taxing Yoga pose it probably serves well as a warm up and a cool down but it will not help amplify strength training and muscle growth. By the same token it is probably a lot safer as a warm up than purely static stretching. (I will see if I can find a little more science to back up this, tomorrow).

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              #21
              Thanks Damer , it is always very instructive to read what you write.
              Some time ago I read an interesting article which said that the sun salutation Yoga was used in the training of the Indian army but repeated quickly.

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                #22
                Fremen thank you and I am glad you opened up this question to this thread. As it turns out there are studies that show that Yoga exercises lead to improved blood flow and oxygenation of the muscles. As a result there are noticeable gains in muscle strength, balance, flexibility and VO2 Max (because of the controlled breathing) but also in resting heart rate (which tends to lower with exercises) and mental equilibrium (which is really important). The studies are recent and have good protocols so their results are reliable. One, using a randomized control group is here. A slightly older one involving a controlled clinical trial that looked at many different aspects of fitness affected over a 12-week period is here. The 12-week time frame is key because many other studies have shown that if we are looking at physical changes at cellular level which then have lasting impact on the health and physical performance of the individual, we need to have that 12-week long period. All of this supports your own intuitive assessment of your anecdotal evidence.

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                  #23
                  Damer Thank you, it's great info that you post here!

                  Now that I think more about it, the process seems to be this: You do some dumbbell curls today and it causes damage to the biceps. Since your muscle doesn't grow at the second after you stop curling but takes a day or two to do so, if you take the chance to static stretch it after the workout, the muscle will become longer, and the growth that happens within, say, the next 24 hours will happen on a healthy basis or optimal muscle length, which results in more quality muscle growth.

                  I also feel like long muscles have long leverages which generate more power/ strength. Like a catapult, the longer the arm the more powerful the machine is.

                  I guess on the other hand the question comes down to how muscles generate strength, which is a big question I believe. I do a little bit of research on muscle fiber recruitment, which basically says that your brain gives signals to your neurons which then contract the muscle fibers they attach to and create movements. The more fibers you have the stronger your muscles are. But to me it still doesn't quite explain why you have great strength just because you have more fibers. How about the "force" that create the contraction, since the fiber is just a tool I guess? The force thing doesn't sound very scientific but. I am still picturing the catapult, and I feel like long muscles require more strength to make it works, but then that strength is another thing that doesn't come from the muscle itself, or it doesn't work that way?

                  You say "long, flexible muscles... recruits more active muscle fibers at the point of execution." Doesn't the same muscles of a person have the same amount of fibers regardless its length?

                  Do individual fiber differs in the strength they process? ​​​​​​For example we both have 100 pieces of fibers in the biceps but are we necessarily as strong as each other?

                  I am thinking about speed, too. Strength doesn't equal to speed but great strength seems to be the basis of high speed.

                  (I was meant to post earlier, but it's not easy to sort this type of things out and put it into words, and I tried to be as clear as possible with my writing. )

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                    #24
                    kandy this is a great way to internalize some of the things we learn. There are many parts to your question and post and you have done a brilliant job at creating structure to it all. I shall begin from the end, backwards because it is simpler to tackle the answers that way.

                    Speed and strength are complementary. Muscle fibers that generate speed are fast-twitch muscle fibers and they have a high activation threshold. Muscle fibers that generate strength are slow-twitch action fibers and they have a low activation threshold. Basically picking up your mouse to navigate a page is using up strength and it is done through slow-twitch fibers. High-load exercises that develop the latter give us speed, lower-load ones give us strength though as this thread here indicates it is not as clear as that.

                    Individual strength is mostly the result of adaptive responses which are then supported or hindered by genetics. If both you and I did the exact same training routine we might both end up with roughly the same number of muscle fibers in the biceps but the fact that I am male would favor me due to my genetic hormonal profile. I would get stronger faster, as a result. Adaptive responses are determined by the type of training we apply which then leads us to the result we seek.

                    This is the part where it gets complicated. Lifting light weights quickly produces the greatest increases in high-velocity strength (through a range of unique adaptations that only occur when we contract a muscle very quickly), while lifting heavy weights produces the greatest increases in maximum strength (through a totally different set of adaptations that only occur when we impose a very heavy external load on the muscle). Muscles that have been stretched behave differently because they contain a greater number of neurons per length. That means that the part of the central nervous system that controls that muscle is different and the muscle itself, internally, is also different. So, length here does play a part in how a muscle behaves when it is under load which is why we see differences in strength when we stretch a muscle.

                    Now why (and how) muscle fibers deliver strength is itself a complex phenomenon. Let's start with activation levels first. We all have muscle fibers regardless. Those muscle fibers have different thresholds of activation that are governed by our training and what the muscles have been conditioned to do. Chris Beardsley who writes a very intelligent blog on strength and conditioning says that "Increases in the protein content (and therefore the volume) of individual muscle fibers can occur because either (1) they increase in diameter or cross-sectional area, or (2) they increase in length." It is worth going through the entire post here. Essentially think of each muscle fiber being like a sheet of velcro hooks that grapple onto velcro loops as they move and pull. The more velcro hooks have been linked with more velcro loops the more powerful the pull is going to be. Longer muscles can have more velcro hooks and thicker muscles can remain taut much longer which means they are resistant to fatigue. Muscles that can pull hard and pull without tiring are strong muscles. So even if two people have the exact same number of muscle fibers the muscle fibers will have different tolerance levels to fatigue and be able to pull differently based upon their length and girth (i.e. the adaptations caused by the training load we impose upon them).

                    Your example of the catapult is a good one but that only truly explains why people with larger bodies (which generally means longer arms and legs) can generate more force than people with shorter ones when all other things are equal between them.

                    I hope I managed to unpack this successfully.

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                      #25
                      So, Damer if I might just interject here. As someone who likes nice clear examples, may I just ask - at the beginning of the workout, I'm doing (examples taken from Flexibility Week) Unbound. Between sets, I'm doing Stronghold, and at the end I'm doing... what? Active, like Anchor'd? Where do PNF, isometric and passive stretching come in then?

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                        #26
                        Damer Thank you for your time! You certainly write well on this and give me valuable information and food for thought. It's a complicated subject which will only keep expanding one post after the other. I gonna take some time to digest things and if I have more questions (which I am sure I will ) I will ask again. Thanks!

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                          #27
                          TopNotch thank you for adding these here and yep, we're running the risk of confusing everyone. So, let's clarify: your example is perfect when you're talking strength and speed gains. When we work for flexibility where we try to increase the effective range of movement of the muscle then we need PNF, isometric and passive stretching all of which are included in the Flexibility week. One workout a month should be just stretching.

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                            #28
                            Damer Let' stay at PNF...

                            I had some problems with Bowman, I think I do not understand the arrows. Click image for larger version

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                            That is how I understood the movements:
                            Green parts are the stretched bodyparts.
                            Blue arrows are the move towards.
                            Red arrows the direction of resistance.

                            But your given arrows are not consistent to my idea... what did I get wrong?

                            ​​​​​​​

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                              #29
                              HellYeah your green parts are 100% correct. When we created Bowman, like everything else we release, we tested it over three months and incorporated in the final design, a lot of feedback. The arrows are a mix of tension (which is where they align with your green body parts) and direction of movement (the Wall Bent Over, indicated differently confused the hell out of everyone). So, the consistency we initially looked for isn't there but in execution, everyone seems to get it right. We're trying to not to be wordy in descriptions and when it comes to some things (case in point), it works against us. Though, it seems to work. We're still evolving our ideas on how to solve this.

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                                #30
                                Damer, Something I just wanted to say was that the 12-weeks=permanent change that you posted above in this thread seems to have really connected with something for me. I have decided every 12 workout weeks = 1 base XP. So it's ok if I never had that strong base of Being Fit In High School -- 12 weeks makes a "permanent" change. (I know there are limitations etc.)

                                30 days in a row seems a lot, and it's easy to fail by missing one day. Working out "forever" or lose it all is also demoralizing. But 12 weeks is a mini-semester -- long for summer session, short for Fall/Spring). So just like you accumulate credits by completing semesters, I will give myself "XP" fAor every 12 weeks of continued work -- and for me, at my level, the work doesn't need to be daily to effect a change -- I'm at 101 level.

                                I just wanted to thank you again for your posts and research.

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