Definition: "An ergogenic aid is any substance or phenomenon that enhances performance "
Stretching versus artery stiffening
Strength training has many positive health effects, but there's at least one negative one: studies show that it makes your arteries stiffer. Creatine supplementation and doing cardio training after a strength workout can reduce the damage, and we wrote about these recently. Today we describe another strategy that probably helps strength athletes: stretching.
The researchers measured their subjects' condition and muscle strength. And they used a special instrument – the T.K.K.5112 – to measure how flexible their test subjects were. The subjects sat on the ground with outstretched legs and had to bend forward as far as possible. The more cm the instrument measured, the more flexible the subjects were.
Flexibility was an independent variable. It made no difference whether the subjects' condition was good or bad, their arteries were suppler the more flexible they were. And, flexibility also lowered their blood pressure.
The findings of the Japanese are not completely new. In 2008 American sports scientists stumbled across the protective effects of flexibility. [Eur J Cardiovasc Prev Rehabil. 2008 Apr; 15(2): 149-55.]
Twelve other subjects followed the same schedule but also did aerobic training. [Combination training]. Twice a week, on the days that they didn't do strength training, the subjects ran or cycled for 30-45 minutes at 60-75 percent of their maximal heart rate. Not many strength athletes are likely to be wild about doing this, but never mind.
You can find details of their stretching programme here.
For the record: it would seem obvious that strength athletes can protect their arteries by stretching. But we haven't managed to find any studies that show that strength athletes also actually improve their cardiovascular health by doing stretching sessions. As soon as we find them, we'll let you know.
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