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Can someone tell me how a muscle becomes more flexible? More specifically, what changes occur to muscle tissue that allows it to stretch further? Or am I way off here?


Whoa, it’s not necessarily the muscle tissue that stretches - correct? But the connective tissue (joints, ligaments, tendons). Can someone clarify this? Also, stretching assists greatly with hypertrophy.

Physiologically, you are learning how to inhibit golgi tendon organs and muscle spindles that keep the muscle tight when stretch is applied. There is a significant amount of neural inhibition that limits the amount you can stretch. I have not read Pavel’s “Relax into Stretch”, but I believe that is the crux of his argument.

Prolonged stretching can actually lead to an addition of sarcomeres and actual muscle lengthening, but this requires 15 min of sustained stretch twice a day to acheive.

I also think that aside from shifting the set-point of the feedback organelles, there is actually a physical stretch (much like what happens to plastic when pulled) of the tendons and ligaments. Of course this is small, but little changes over prolonged periods of time can add up.

What you said kinda doesn’t make sense to me. Nothing changes with the muscle tissue, but hypertrophy improves?? To me it would seem that if hypertrophy improves, something has to be happening to the muscle. But, I’m not that knowledgable.

The muscle doesn’t really ‘become’ more flexible. It just allows you to extend it through a greater range of motion with less effort. From my understanding, it has much more to do with the nervous system and proprioception than it does with any type of muscular tissue change. If someones muscles remain in a certain state for too long, the body accepts that as ‘normal’ and they lose a degree of flexibility because it becomes less ‘acceptable’ to the body. Thats why frequency is pretty important with flexibility, by frequently going through a full range of motion, you remind the body how it is supposed to work.
I’m sure a more scientific person could split hairs and discuss the filaments and other fibers in the muscle tissue that allow it to extend further, but in general, your nervous system will only allow a muscle to stretch so far before it kind of sends a ‘thats enough, any further and you might be getting in trouble’ signal to it. Some of this does have to do with strength.
Pete Egoscue explains it in very clear, user friendly terms in his books (anyone else read his stuff? I think its dead-on with a lot of the chronic dysfunction stuff)

When you obtain a plastic stretch the muscle actually gains sarcomeres lengthening it

Part of it is adaptations in the nervous system as well as the connective tissue. There are a variety of mechanisms involved. It’s too complicated to explain in the forum. The best single source for learning this is Michael Alter’s book “The Science of Flexibility”. It’s published by Human Kinetics and costs about $40.

As with increases in size or strength, there’s a lot of things happening that lead to increase in flexibility. First, you do not want to increase the flexibility of the connective tissue under most circumstances. Once ligaments or tendons stretch beyond their yeild point, they won’t return to their original length.

That’s one of the problems I’ve heard lecturers explain about static stretching. They’ve said it stretches tendons, ligaments and the musculotendonous junction and is therefore detrimental. I’m not agreeing with them though.

Some general adaptations that cause increases in flexibility are:

  1. Increase in stretch tolerance (pain tolerance)
  2. Decrease in Neural inhibition via the golgi tendon organ
  3. Increase in skill at allowing a muscle to relax and stretch (streching’s a skill as well)
  4. Decrease in fascial tension

That’s a few off the top of my head. I can elaborate on any of them (or add others), so let me know if that’s necessary. I’m sure someone else can expand on my post as well.

Don’t worry, after I had hit “post message” I even thought “what?”. Sorry, too little sleep this past week - and no real sleep for the near future!

We've been stretching during our workouts these last few weeks, due to the belief that stretching does encourage hypertrophy. SO, I guess stretching "does" affect muscle tissue - but I don't think it's the muscle that gets more flexible from stretching. Right?

www.yoga.com/raw/ exercise/info/stretching_toc.html

all the answers!

Also check Pavel’s Guide to Stretching publication: dragondoor.com/v102.html