Stretching: Common Misconceptions

Stretching- Common Misconceptions: Static vs. Dynamic

Stretching is commonly used by athletes, rehabilitation patients, older adults, and anyone who may be participating in a physical activity. Although stretching has many benefits, there are a lot of misconceptions as to which types of stretching will help you reach a particular goal or outcome.
Human movement is dependent on our range of motion (ROM), which is available in our synovial joints. In general your range of motion may be limited to 2 anatomical entities: joint and muscles. Your muscle provides both active and passive tension. Differences are that muscle tension is dependent on the structural properties of the muscle, and whether the tension is active or passive. Structurally, muscles have properties that provide both a passive tension (viscoelasticity), and active tension (neuroreflexive).

When someone says “my muscles are really tight” they are referring to the results of increased tension from active or passive mechanisms. Passively, muscles are shortened through postural adaptations’ or scarring. While actively, muscles can become shorter through due to spasms or contraction. Overall what muscle tightness does is it limits one’s ability to complete full range of motion and can cause a muscle imbalance.

It is important to use appropriate stretching techniques to improve muscle tension, depending on the cause of the tightness.

These are the commonly used stretching techniques.

1. Static Stretching: means that the stretch is held in a challenging yet comfortable position for 10 to 30 seconds. Static stretching is the most common form of stretching found for general fitness and is considered a safe and effective form of stretching for overall flexibility improvement. However, static stretching is much less beneficial than dynamic stretching for improving range of motion for functional movement, including sports and activities for daily life. Static stretching can also be performed passively by a partner, or actively by yourself.
2. Dynamic Stretching: means a stretch is performed by moving through a challenging but comfortable range of motion repeatedly, usually 10 to 12 times. Although dynamic stretching requires more thoughtful coordination than static stretching (because of the movement involved), it is gaining favor among athletes, coaches, trainers, and physical therapists because of its apparent benefits in improving functional range of motion and mobility in sports and activities for daily living.
3. Active Stretching: means you are stretching a muscle by actively contracting the muscle, in opposition to the one you’re stretching. With active stretching you relax the muscle you’re trying to stretch and rely on the opposing muscle to initiate the stretch. Active stretching can be challenging however, because of the muscular force required to generate the stretch, but is generally considered a lower risk because you are controlling the stretch force with your own strength, rather than an external force.
4. Passive Stretching: means you’re using some side of outside assistance to help you achieve your stretching capability. This assistance can be your body weight, a strap, leverage, gravity, another person, or a stretching device. With passive stretching you are relaxing the muscle you are trying to stretch and rely on the external force to hold you in place. You usually don’t have to work very hard to do a passive stretch, but there is always a risk involved with using an external force, because it will be stronger than you are flexible, which may result in injury.
5. Pre-Contraction Stretching: involves a contraction of the muscle being stretched. This is better known in exercise physiology as proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching or active isolated stretching. These techniques are all simply variations of these four types of stretches. Pre contraction stretching includes; contract relax, and hold relax. The last one being the contract relax agonist contract. What this would mean is I would have my client contract the muscle being used during the technique at 75% to 100% of maximal their maximal contraction (hold for 10 seconds), and then relax.

In conclusion:

Most stretches you see and do are likely static-passive stretches. Static-passive stretches are the most commonly used and also the easiest to perform. If performed correctly with good technique, these stretches can be effective in improving range of motion and flexibility. Because dynamic-active stretches require you to use and build your own strength while moving through the stretch, it is more helpful for improving functional movements used in everyday life and in sports. In addition since dynamic-active stretching is more movement oriented, these stretches help to generate heat and warm up the muscles, making the muscles more flexible. Finally, evidence does suggest that since dynamic-active stretching requires muscle activation and contraction, the muscles being stretched are triggered to relax even more than they might if during a static-passive stretch, thereby reducing the risk of injury while increasing functional benefits.

For a well rounded exercise program the American College of Sports Medicine recommends static stretching for most individuals that is preceded by an active warm up, at least 2 to 3 days per week. Each stretch is to be held 15-30 seconds and repeated 2 to 4 times. Older adults may need longer stretch time. After 40 years of age it is recommended that stretches be held 30-60 seconds long for static stretches, showing greater improvements in older adults compared to shorter duration holds.
For athletes and exercise stretching performed as part of a warm-up prior to exercise is thought to reduce passive stiffness and increase range of movement during exercise. In general, it appears that static stretching is most beneficial for athletes requiring flexibility for their sports (e.g. gymnastics, dance, etc.). Dynamic stretching may be better suited for athletes requiring running or jumping performance during their sport such as basketball players or sprinters.
Stretching has not been shown to be effective at reducing the incidence of overall injuries. While there is some evidence of stretching reducing musculo-tendinous injuries, more evidence is needed to determine if stretching programs alone can reduce muscular injuries.

Exercise Induced Asthma

When I first started noticing symptoms of asthma it was spring 2013, and I was training for a fitness show. Training six days a week, extra cardio, and certain days I would train twice in one day, my body was at peak performance. However, something was holding me back.

As I trained harder and implemented more cardio and plyometrics to my workout routine I found myself gasping for air, chest tightening, and unable to take in full breaths.  At night lying in bed I could barely breathe. What could possibly be wrong? My body was getting properly taken care of with exercise, clean eating, vitamins, and rest, but something was taking over my body that I was not prepared for.

*Back track to a year prior I was training at Acceleration Sports Training Center in Grand Rapids Michigan. There I trained athletes of all ages and sports. We specialized in athletic performance enhancement training programs. Specific training protocols and specifically designed exercises to enhance athletic performance. It was here that I noticed a trend of bad seasonal allergies and sinus pressure. I would have so much pressure in my ear (sphenoid cavity), that I could hear myself talking and breathing. My breathing was difficult due to the (maxillary cavity); it was hard to take a full breath in when running on the treadmill doing specific protocols with my former boss (Chris Davis). It slowed me down considerably. I knew I wasn’t a strong runner and that aerobic exercise wasn’t my forte, but I knew this couldn’t be normal.

With all of the right that I thought I was doing to my body, the wrong was happening to my health. Not being able to perform to my best performance while training for a show was not only difficult but a major setback and concern for my own well being. At night I couldn’t take a full breath while lying in bed, and that’s when I knew I had to go see a doctor immediately. A few days later I went and spoke with a doctor where she checked my vitals, and breathing, where I expressed my concerns.  The doctor prescribed me to two inhalers, and allergy medication. It seemed to help reduce my symptoms, and allow me take in full breaths and train longer.  I now train to ensure I get a good cardio in that is based on my limitations. I have good days and bad days depending on the pollen count and air pollution and also the humidity outside. Although exercise induced asthma has taken control of my workouts, I now have a better understanding of how to control it.

  • If you think you have exercise induced asthma contact your doctor today and get on track to being able to do the things you enjoy.

Some signs and symptoms of Exercise Induced Asthma include:

What is EIA?

eMedicineHealth defines EIA as:

Asthma is a chronic inflammation of the breathing passages (bronchi) of the lungs. Asthma is characterized by sudden attacks or periods of bothersome or severe symptoms separated by periods of mild symptoms, or no symptoms at all. The inflammatory reaction of asthma is triggered by external factors or specific situations. When a person with asthma is exposed to one of his or her triggers, the inflammation worsens and symptoms begin.

  • Triggers include contaminants in the air, such as smoke, pollution, vapors, dust, or other particles; respiratory infections, such as colds and flu (viruses); allergens in the air, such as molds, animal dander, and pollen; extremes of temperature or humidity; and emotional stress.

Exercise is a common trigger of asthma attacks

  • Exercise can even induce an asthma attack in people who have no other triggers and do not experience asthma under any other circumstances.
  • People with exercise-induced asthma are believed to be more sensitive to changes in the temperature and humidity of the air.
  • When you are at rest, you breathe through your nose, which serves to warm, humidify, and cleanse the air you inhale to make it more like the air in the lungs.
  • When you are exercising, you breathe through your mouth, and the air that hits your lungs is colder and drier. The contrast between the warm air in the lungs and the cold inhaled air or the dry inhaled air and moist air in the lungs, can trigger an attack.

Once the attack is triggered, the airways begin to swell (broncho-spasm) and secrete large amounts of mucus.

  • The swelling and extra mucus partially block or obstruct the airways. This makes it more difficult to push air out of your lungs (exhale).
  • When asthma is left untreated and the inflammation persists, permanent narrowing of the airways can occur. If this happens, this chronic asthma can also be referred to as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease(COPD), like emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

For some forms of asthma, it is important that chronic maintenance medications are used to prevent the development of COPD. Asthma cannot be cured, but it can be controlled by medication. Fortunately, in those with only exercise-induced asthma (EIA), maintenance therapy is often not required and medication can simply be taken before exercise.

  • With appropriate treatment, almost everyone with EIA can enjoy the mental and physical benefits of regular exercise.
  • The large number of elite athletes who have asthma attests to the effectiveness of asthma medication.
  • Whether you walk around your neighborhood or run marathons, asthma doesn’t need to stop you from reaching your exercise goals.

What is it like to be overweight?

The other morning I was listening to the radio on the way to work and this couple came on and they were discussing their goals to lose 70lbs each, so 140lbs total before their wedding date. As the man on the radio was telling his story and saying with great confidence and excitement that they were going to reach their goals, you couldn’t help but be excited for him as well. This made me think in a way that I have never truly considered before in my life. See I have always been naturally thin and athletic so being overweight was never an issue for me. As a personal trainer I have been training overweight and obese clients for years, but I never considered how it may be hard for them not only physically but more mentally challenging as well. If I were to put myself in their shoes…I would be concerned about where to start with becoming a healthier individual. I thought to myself “what if I was that person who had to lose 25lbs, 50lbs, or even 100lbs to lose?” The thought of those numbers and knowing as a trainer how difficult it truly is to get on track with health and wellness is not just an over the night fix, but a lengthy process that takes a lot of time and dedication to get where you want or even need to be. The thought scared me, and made me realize what being an overweight client actually feels like for the very first time.

Normally when someone puts on weight it can be associated with certain behavioral patterns or sometimes health related. The top reasons being…

  • Genetics
  • Processed foods “junk food”
  • Food addiction
  • Medications
  • Sugar
  • Inactivity
  • Depression
  • Less sleep
  • Increased calorie intake

Where people gain the weight at is normally determined through further verbal analysis with a client, and I know that the thought of having an extreme amount of weight to lose is intimidating.  A lot of people don’t know where to even start when it comes to how to properly and effectively lose the weight that they need too.  But the help of fitness professionals and dieticians is a step into the right direction after getting medical clearance from your physician.

Most clients know how much they need to lose based on their past history of weight. However the desired weight is not only for you but for your overall well being,  so when you meet with your physician or personal trainer he or she should give a desired weight loss goal based off of your body fat, and lean body mass, as well as the guidelines for your gender and age to be at.  Living a healthy lifestyle and making proper lifestyle changes can have a very positive impact on YOUR life, and YOU can be a wonderful example to not only those around you but to your family, friends, and children if you have any.

Weight loss is not an easy undertaking but with a high desire to reach your goals, you will get there! To be a personal trainer you need to have a deep understanding and respect for your clients. Listening and becoming an active supporter of my client’s goals and interests are my top priority. Just know that there is support out there to help you in every aspect of your fitness journey.


Respect yourself, love yourself, and push yourself to be a better you each and every day.

5 Ways to Break Your Habits

A habit is a routine or behavior that is repeated regularly and tends to occur unconsciously. In the American College of Psychology it is defined as; “A habit, in the standpoint of psychology, is a more or less fixed way of thinking, willing, or feeling acquired through previous repetition of a mental experience. Habitual behavior often goes unnoticed in a person exhibiting it, because a person does not need to engage in self-analysis when undertaking routine tasks. Habits are sometimes compulsory. Wikipedia states that the process by which new behaviors become automatic is habit formation. Old habits are hard to break and new habits are hard to form because of the behavioral patterns we repeat are imprinted into our neural pathways, but it is possible to form new habits through repetition.

There you go “through repetition.”  This is how we can form new habits.

Think about this for a minute. When you were a young child you had to brush your teeth before bed, wash your hands before dinner, say please and thank you, and so on and so forth. Thinking back on what created these habits are performing “repetitions” of a particular movement right? But if we were to break down what habits we execute each day we can see that most of these are performed without even truly acknowledging it…meaning we just do it because we have to. For instance, I don’t want to brush my teeth, but I know I have to or else I would get cavities, or have bad breath. So I brush my teeth each day to ensure that I don’t get cavities or have bad breath. These daily habits or routine has been adapted, changed, and modified since we were young kids, well into our adult life.

Well let’s think of some more detail of what could be considered some habits or routines.

For example:

Your daily habits may include:

  1. Health
  • Sleeping 8 hours
  • Eating
  • Brushing teeth
  • Using the restroom
  • Getting dressed
  • Showering
  • Shaving
  1. Recreational behaviors
  • Working
  • Drinking
  • Eating out
  • Watching television
  • Binge eating
  • Inactivity

So you are ready to form new habits, but you’re at the point where you just don’t know how to form them. Well let’s think and analyze why you aren’t going to the gym. Maybe your closets in another room and you have to walk out into the cold hallway to put on your clothes. Maybe it was just easier to stay in bed. Once you learn what the “bad habit” is or what “needs to change” you can start there.

  • Use SELF REFLECTION for figuring out what can be causing this behavior of not going to the gym. It’s easy to make excuses, and those excuses add up over time. Try this instead.
  • Form PREPARATION to go to the gym prior to the excuse. Set out your gym clothes, water bottle, gym bag, gym shoes, all ready to go right there in front of you, so when you wake up there will be NO EXCUSES! Visualization is a great way to help see yourself doing things, and according to a study from UCLA it states that “mental simulatations can enhance the link between thoughts and action.
  • Create REINFORCERS, preferably positive ones. Positive Reinforcement can be more pleasant and effective than any other training methods. If you’re trying to improve exercise adherence, you can use positive reinforcers such as; since I went to the gym four times this week, and that was my goal, I will treat myself to a bubble bath. Creating a positive outcome for yourself will only make you more opt and more willing to do so in the future. Same as positive reinforcement, you can use negative reinforcers. Such as, I didn’t make it into the gym four times this week like I had planned, so I will not be able to watch my favorite TV show. For negative and positive reinforcement, it’s important to remain consistent. To be consistent enough, you will simply have to choose your criteria and stick with it, until the behavior is good enough to up the ante.
  • Choose a CUE, such as going to the gym as soon as you wake up, and a reward, such as a smoothie after each workout. Then think about that smoothie, about that endorphin rush you’ll feel. Allow yourself to anticipate the reward. Eventually that craving will make it easier to push throughout the gym doors every day. Of course this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Forming new habits is hard. Just because you are telling yourself that there is a reward at the end doesn’t necessarily mean that the habit will stick, but creating that repetition with it will help it sink in, so your brain comes to crave the reward.
  • Starting a ROUTINE and breaking the old one is the most difficult tasks, but when your brain starts expecting the reward, craving the endorphins or sense of accomplishment, it will become automatic to hit the gym each morning. The cue, in addition to triggering a routine, must also trigger a craving for the reward to come.

Step 1:


∙ What is causing the behavior?

∙ What can I do to change the behavior?

Step 2:


Visualize the behavior change.

∙ Put clothing, shoes, gym bag, water, driving or walking to the gym, arriving at the gym, doing your workout routine, all helps to insure your first thought when you wake up is ok, “I WILL BE GOING TO THE GYM TODAY,” giving you no time for excuses.

Step 3:


Positive Reinforcement

∙Negative Reinforcement

Step 4:


Reward system

∙Creating repetition

Step 5:


∙ Brain starts expecting reward

∙ Cue — Routine — Craving Reward — New Habit

We have all managed to implement new habits for a month or two, only to have them compromised when we are under extreme stress. If we truly want to avoid slipping back into our old ways, there is a final key ingredient: Belief. For habit to stay changed you must believe that change is possible.

“We are what we do repeatedly. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”



As we embark into the New Year I am meeting many new clients who are getting back from the holidays, where if they had a routine prior to holidays they were officially broken during. The holidays bring about traveling, working longer hours, holiday shopping, decorating for the holidays, wrapping gifts, kids coming home over break, and probably a high amount of stress. Whatever the reasoning the once routine is now a broken one for a short period of time. As someone whose birthday happens to fall into the lovely month of January I have always found it to be a horrible time of the year to have a birthday fall on since its winter, and let’s face it nobody really loves winter. Looking at it now; I see it as a sense of new beginnings, a time to set new goals, and change your outlook of how things did or didn’t go the year prior. The New Year brings new hope and change of lifestyle choices. Since I am in the fitness industry, this new beginning brings a new hope to personal trainers who want to help people like you. Unfortunately gym memberships fade as people fall back into their old ways and into last year’s routine. Year after year people seek out this New Year and new beginning, but fail, but why? So I ask you, what makes this year so different? What is going to make 2015 stand out for you? The biggest resolution that the vast majority has as a goal is to lose weight, lose inches, change their eating habits, and to get healthy. These are all wonderful goals to have, but my question as a fitness director and personal trainer is HOW WILL YOU REACH YOUR GOALS?  Well… most think they have it in the bag, they know what they’re doing in the gym. All I need to do is cardio, and cardio, oh and if I can really make the change in my diet. Yes all doctors say with diet and exercise. Although exercise is extremely important most people can start the year off right and not know how to end it on the high note that they started it on.

If you have goals, and you want to achieve them in or out of the gym, seek a fitness professional! Personal trainers, I believe have one of the best jobs in the world; to lead people into healthier lifestyles.  I like to say HEALTH IS WEALTH, and without health you will have many limitations in life and probably a shorter life expectancy, and probably not be as happy and fulfilled with what once seemed like such a simple task of walking or standing up is now such a difficult one. So let’s set those goals, let’s devise a plan, and let’s succeed with our diet and fitness regimens! This is your year, so let’s make it the best one and a year where you took back your life and made positive changes that will last you the rest of your life!!!