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Contract-relax - what is the best way??

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Hi! I have a question about the contraction phase in the contract-relax stretching procedure: 
Some experts emphasize that increasing the stretch should be done immediately after the contraction, while others (e.g Kit Laughlin) recommend to take time to relax after the contraction. Many experts says that stretching immediately after the contraction take advantage of a mechanism called "autogenic inhibition", which relaxes the muscles immediately after the contraction, but only lasts a few seconds. So by waiting many seconds after the contraction, the "autogenic inhibition" mechanism will diminish and the less will be much less effective. However, I believe that Kit Laughlin`s approach is the most effective, at least for my flexibility. But why do the experts disagree about this, and what do you thunk is the best approach??




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Hi Marty,

Welcome! I've moved your topic to a more appropriate forum.

Autogenic inhibition, which I more often see referred to as the Golgi tendon reflex, is what you will find here on the ST site under Post-contraction Inhibition reflex.


Once in  a position where the stretching sensation is being experienced, an isometric contraction is done for a period. This is stopped, and a full breath taken. The re-stretch is performed during the period of the breath out. New range of movement is the result.

So the contraction is released on a breath out, a full breath is taken in, and the re-stretch occurs on the breath out. Unless you are breathing very, very slowly, this will likely not result in "waiting many seconds after the contraction." I'm not familiar with the latest research, so I don't know how many seconds have been determined "optimal," but experts disagree about things like this because not only is research in this area still very limited, but there is just so much individual variation and situational factors that come into play when stretching.

I think the best approach is the Stretch Therapy approach: experiment and find out what works for your body, right now. Start with a sensible middle ground, which is what ST prescribes above, and adjust as needed. You might find that immediately re-stretching gives you a better result. Or you might find that waiting even longer seems to be beneficial. Either way, you've discovered the only answer that actually matters with regard to your own practice.

Just my two cents!

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