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Supplement Savvy - 9/01/05.

After taking a little break and finishing my PhD I am back and ready for more. Today I am going to talk about the effects of static stretching and psyching-up.

After a month long hiatus, I'm glad to say I'm back here contributing to Thanks to all who have written asking when I would start writing again; I've since completed my PhD and am rarin' to go with a stack of studies on my desk to fuel 100's of more columns. This week is a combination between supplement studies and some strength training studies. With that said, let's get started.

Effects Of Static Stretching For 30 Seconds And Dynamic Stretching On Leg Extensions Power.

There are constant conflicting reports on how it's best to stretch; one article you read suggests stretching before a workout to warm up another says to do so after a workout to cool down, a third may recommend during a workout to loosen up, and yet a fourth may state not during a workout because it weakens the working muscles.

The Truth About Stretching!
If you believe stretching is not important before some kind of exercise then you may want to read this. While the evidence does need to be stronger it seems clear that stretching before any activity is beneficial.

On top of this, there is often confusion about how to stretch; it is best to hold the stretch for a length of time (static stretching) or is dynamic stretching better? Or maybe ballistic stretching or proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) is best.

Some studies have demonstrated a reduction in strength and power with static stretching meaning if you stretch your biceps between sets of curls, for example, you would be weaker in the subsequent set(s).

The problem with some of these studies conducted, however, was that the stretches performed were very long (100 seconds to 30 minutes); it is rare for folks to spend that much time stretching one specific muscle group, making the results difficult to extrapolate to "real life."


    Therefore, the purpose of this study was to clarify the effects of static stretching for 30 seconds and dynamic stretching on power in the leg extension. The researchers hypothesized that static stretching for only 30 seconds would not reduce performance and, in fact, dynamic stretching would enhance power.


    Eight college aged males participated in this study who were all active and accustomed to weight training. Leg extension power was measured in all subjects prior to beginning any testing.

    Then, during the static stretching part of the experiment, the researchers stretched the target muscle of the subject's leg until the subject instructed them to stop stretching; this position was held for 30 seconds.

    Five stretches were performed for the legs; one for the plantar flexors (ankle), one of the hip extensors, hamstrings, hip flexors, and quads.

    During the dynamic phase of the protocol, each subject contracted the antagonist (opposite) of the target muscle (e.g., contract the hamstring prior to stretching the quads).

    This stretching pattern was performed five times, which started off slowly, and then followed up with 10 times as quickly and powerfully as possible without bouncing. The same muscle groups were stretched during the static and dynamic stretching procedures.


    The results of the study demonstrated that static stretching had no effect on leg extension power, but power after dynamic stretching was significantly greater than after nonstretching.

    It is important to note that this was the first study on dynamic stretching showing a positive effect on power production; therefore, it needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

Take Home Message:

    Many folks have suggested that dynamic stretching will lead to injury, but if you think of martial arts, which are a series of dynamic stretches in and of itself.

    This study isn't saying anything about warm up, so don't forget that this is an important part of working out too. Be sure to work within your limits and next time you hit the gym, maybe try some different dynamic stretches during the workout and see what it does for you.

How Important Is Warming Up?
How important is warming up? Find out what other people from the message boards think...
[ Click here to learn more. ]

"Psyching-Up" Enhances Force Production During The Bench Press Exercise.

You've all seen it (or maybe you do it)... it's time to do the bench press, so you have to yell and essentially beat your chest so the entire gym can hear.

Don't be pointing at the guy next to you like "Lloyd Christmas" in Dumb And Dumber when "Seabass" asks "whose the dead man who threw the salt over his shoulder."

I used to train at Gold's Gym at Penn State. There was a guy there who really wanted to show the others how much he was lifting; he would let out a scream that sounded like he was trying to knock over the wall at the gym.

The only problem was that he would do this and then get under the squat bar with maybe 135 or slightly more loaded up. It often ruined many others' workout from laughter, but maybe this guy was ahead of the game and knew this study would be published - let's see if his "gorilla" yell was anything worthwhile.

Do You Pysche Yourself Up For A Workout By Yelling In Public?

Yes - The Barbells Quake At My Approach!
No - I'm Timid And Shy.


    The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of "psyching-up" on force production during the bench press.


    There were 20 subjects in this study (12 men and 8 women) who were all experienced trainees. After warm-up the participants in the study performed three sets of five bench press repetitions with seven minutes rest in between sets.

    Click To Enlarge.
    Bench Press.

    Participants were asked to participate in the "psych up" experimental conditions during the final 30 seconds of their rest.

    These conditions were as follows:

    1. Free-choice psych up: this was a personal thing and each subject was instructed what to do.

    2. Attention-placebo control: this was put in place to see how subjects would do without psyching-up; subjects were asked to record their heart rate.

    3. Distraction control: this was put in place to totally distract participants from engaging in "psyching-up." Subjects were asked to count backward from 1000 in groups of 7 (e.g., 1000, 993, 986, etc) so they would be totally distracted before their lift.


    The force produced after the "free choice psych up" was greatest in subjects compared to the other two trials. This study showed the women produced 17.8% more force and men produced 8.3% more force after psyching up.

Take Home Message:

    Engage in your normal "pre lift" mental prep; it appears that this enhances power more than talking with your buddy or hitting on the cute girl on the treadmill. Just remember that the entire gym doesn't need to hear your yelling and prep work before getting under the iron.