Tag Archives: muscle

Stretching: When should you? How long? Why?

Chris Hunt Blog StretchingStretching: When should you? How long? Why?


When is the best time to stretch? How long should we stretch for? Why should we stretch? Does Pilates help to improve flexibility in a safer way? All questions that provoke different opinions and attitudes. I have people come from all over the world to work with me here in Barcelona on my fitness holidays or retreats, and I also train teachers in many different countries, so I hear a lot of different ideas and opinions. So….

Today I want to talk about stretching. Whilst I write my articles aimed at fitness professionals to get different opinions, I also know that many members of the public read my blog as well so I want to make this post informative. However this is still a blog post so by its very nature it needs to be short and sweet.

Let’s start with what is not in dispute (at least I hope we can agree on this).

Your body relies on three main types of tissue when it comes to movement: muscles, ligaments and tendons. However, these tissues can become tight over time, resulting in a reduced range of motion and a higher risk for injury. Stretching can help remedy this problem, when used the correct way and at the correct times within your weekly workout schedule.

One of the main long-term effects of stretching is an increase in your overall flexibility. When you make stretching a habit, you slowly stretch out the connective tissues of your body. Over time, this lengthens the tissues, improving the range of motion in your joints, and in turn your overall ability to move. Stretching these muscles and connective tissues can also help relieve muscle stiffness and reduce the risk of joint degeneration.

More flexibility may also decrease the risk of injuries related to overstretched or overextended muscles and other connective tissues. This is true as long as stretching is thought of as a regular routine, instead of acute stretching directly before exercise, sports practice or a game. Stretching after exercise can also help reduce aches and pains, according to the American Council on Exercise. This is due to stretching’s ability to reduce the shortening and tightening effect of tissues that occurs after exercise and leads to aches and pains.

Static flexibility is stretching one muscle or joint for a duration of time, usually about 30 seconds. This method relaxes the muscles by reducing the amount of neural stimulation which also lengthens any tightness in the muscles and tissues. You should perform static flexibility after your workout, not before, to cool down and relax your body.

Dynamic flexibility is moving one or more joints or muscles in their full range of motion repetitively with control. This method increase neural stimulation, prepares your mind and body for the upcoming workout or activity and increase body temperature. You should perform dynamic flexibility before your workout or activity.

Since the body moves in three primary directions, perform your stretches in all planes of motion that your joint allows. For example, rather than stretching your shoulder in one direction, move your shoulder and together in various directions repetitively until it feels looser, such as over your head, out to the side, in front of you and across your body. Add a rotation to your arm and wrist as you move to experiment with different stretches.

Agreed? I hope so. But now let’s talk about the areas where there is less agreement. There is evidence that static stretching before a game or practice may actually hurt athletic performance (Dr. L.W. McDaniel). The negative effects of static stretching before athletic competition can last up to an hour after the stretching has been completed.

Several papers have been published which has produced a substantial body of evidence that stretching may not be the way to improve performance and decrease risk of injury. There are two studies that have reported that strength was reduced up to one hour after static stretching (Fowles et al. 2000] and Kokkonen et al. 1998). Another study that focused on peak torque during concentric isokinetic leg extension discovered that after one active and three passive stretches, strength decreased at both high and low speeds (Cramer et al. 2004)

So in conclusion, in most cases static stretching before exercise reduces an athlete’s power and strength. If the athlete participates in power or strength exercises acute stretching may not be recommended. For many competitive athletes warming up completely prior to competition and stretching after competition or training may be more important. By stretching afterwards the athlete gains flexibility without compromising power and strength. An additional consideration related to stretching would be to not over extend your range of motion (over stretch a muscle) this practice may cause muscle damage.

How does this evidence relate to the public in general, personal training clients and Pilates client’s in particular? What is your experience personally and with your clients? What are your routines for stretching with your clients?

Chris is an international Pilates presenter and educator based in Barcelona, Spain. He is the creator of Pilates EVO©, bodyFUNC©, and CEO of Pilates Rehab Limited and Sport Core Strength.  He also organises Pilates Carnival and Fitness Carnival, conventions where all profits go to local children’s charities. For more information about Pilates with Chris in Barcelona, please click on Barcelona Bienestar. To learn more about Chris, please read Just who is Chris Hunt anyway? You can also subscribe by completing the form on the this BLOG to receive articles and special offers straight to your inbox.

Chris pays all profits made from this BLOG to his charity partners. More details can be found by clicking on www.chrishuntwellness.com and selecting the “charity partners” tab.


Chris Hunt Wellness Pilates Triceps Push Up


Click here to see the first in my series of 15 second videos, the Pilates Tricep Push-up.

This is Level One, starting in all-fours neutral. It’s really important that the nose starts in line with finger-tips. On the in-breath we lower the nose towards the floor so there is a slight movements forward with the body. We return on the out-breath to the starting position. Muscle recruitment is as always vital, so  elbows must stay tucked to ensure we are engaging the tricep muscles. The movement is carried out as slowly as possible.

To make the exercise more difficult, we simply move the hands further away from the knees but still maintain the above rules; nose in line in finger tips to start and moving slightly forwards as we lower, elbows tucked into the sides of the body.

It may look and sound easy, but most people really struggle with this if it’s done correctly. It’s easy to cheat (elbows coming wide and body moving backwards during the move) but of course that just reduces the effectiveness of the exercise.


How to gain muscle and then keep it!



For many men and women, the toning, creation and retention of muscle mass is a mythical journey shrouded in gossip and hear-say. It is a complex issue dependant on many factors that vary person to person, but let’s try to simply some things.

So many myths… 

I am often asked by worried people, especially ladies, that they will quickly gain muscle size and look unfeminine. It takes time for a muscle to grow in size and strength. It also takes the right combination of muscle stress, recovery time, nutrition, hormones, and genetics. It typically takes people dedicated to muscle growth a lot of time and effort to reach their goals, so relax, you are not going to sprout bulging muscles over-night, although you might notice some quick improvement in strength in the beginning.


Another common comment is that muscle weighs more that fat. This one is true, so if you add muscle and lose fat, you can add weight, but the muscle will take up less space than the same amount of fat so you’ll look better. Muscle also speeds up your metabolism so you burn more calories day and night trying to maintain that muscle mass. With this is mind, it is clear that no weight loss plan is complete without strength training as well.

When it comes to the number of repetitions, there are some things to consider. Using lighter loads does not necessarily mean longer and leaner muscles. You can lift a weight 40 times without feeling tired, but you’re not challenging the muscle enough to develop good muscle tone or get significantly stronger. Doing high numbers of reps doesn’t get your heart rate up either, so you’re certainly not burning much if any fat. If you use a weight that will cause muscle fatigue after no more than 15 repetitions, this can get the best results in endurance, muscle tone and strength. Also it’s important to mix up your workout by using a variety of weights (from 50% to 90% of maximum capacity) and repetitions (between 5 to 20 per set). Doing higher reps with lower loads helps build endurance; lower reps with higher loads helps build strength. Variety is, as always, the spice of life.


Some athletes I work with are initially worried that if they grow muscle mass then they will lose their speed. It’s obvious that for some sports too much mass is not required, but weight training, especially at a high intensity or with explosive movements, can actually help sports such as running and cycling by building strong, powerful muscles that can rapidly react when called upon to accelerate. Also, a well-rounded weight training plan can also reduce injuries by balancing key muscle groups and reinforcing vulnerable joints.

One thing that my Pilates clients learn is that doing exercise slowly makes a big difference. It’s not always necessary to load on more and more weight to get stronger. By slowing down the speed while lifting and lowering weights stresses the muscle and forces it to get stronger.

Here is the mother of all myths when it comes to muscles. How many times have I been asked if by stopping weight training, will my muscles will turn to fat? This question does have a simple answer. No! Muscle and fat are two distinct types of tissue, so it’s physiologically impossible for one to “turn into” the other. Muscle will lose tone, however, if it’s not used, which may result in a flabby appearance where you used to be solid, and if you don’t adjust your diet and workout after you quit training, some of that food you’re eating could turn to fat.

Old age comes to us all

Getting older doesn’t mean giving up muscle strength. Not only can adults fight the battle of strength and muscle loss that comes with age, but the Golden Years can be a time to get stronger, says recent research from the USA.

ImageResistance exercise is a great way to increase lean muscle tissue and strength capacity so that people can function more readily in daily life, Through resistance training, adults can improve their ability to do anything that requires manipulating their own body mass through a full range of motions.

Normally, adults who are sedentary beyond age 50 can expect muscle loss of up to 0.4 pounds a year. That only worsens as people age. But even earlier in adulthood; the 30s, 40s and 50s, you can begin to see declines if you do not engage in any strengthening activities.

Recent analyses of current research show that the most important factor in somebody’s function is their strength capacity. No matter what age you are, you can experience significant strength improvement with progressive resistance exercise. This means that the amount of weight used, and the frequency and duration of training sessions is altered over time to accommodate improvements.

Evidence shows that after an average of 18-20 weeks of progressive resistance training, an adult can add 2.42 pounds of lean muscle to their body mass and increases their overall strength by 25-30%.

Recommendations for those over 50

Anyone over age 50 should strongly consider participating in resistance exercise. A good way for to start, especially for people who are relatively sedentary, and after getting permission from their doctor to do so, is to use their body mass as a load for exercises. Such exercises you can do include exercises that progress through a full range of motion, such as Pilates and Yoga.

Transition to the gym

After getting accustomed to these activities, you can move on to more advanced resistance training in a gym, with the help of a fitness professional. You should feel comfortable asking a trainer whether they have experience working with aging adults. I suggest that you participate in strengthening exercise two days per week as the minimum.

Don’t forget to progress


As resistance training progresses and weights and machines are introduced, you should keep in mind the need for increased resistance and intensity of your training to continue building muscle mass and strength. A good fitness professional can help plan an appropriate training regimen, and make adjustments based on how you respond as you progress. Progressive resistance training should be encouraged among healthy older adults to help minimize the loss of muscle mass and strength as they age.

So there you have it, a quick and simple guide that I hope will help and encourage you to reach greater heights this year than ever before. Good luck. Let me know if you need any help.