Dr. David Behm is an award-winning Research Professor at the Memorial University of Newfoundland’s School of Human Kinetics and Recreation. He is the recipient of the Memorial University President’s Award for Outstanding Research (2006), Memorial University School of Graduate Studies Dean’s Award for Service Excellence (2012), National Strength and Conditioning Association Outstanding Sport Scientist award (2014) and Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology Honour Award (2015).
David is also one of the most prolific researchers in the world across a broad range of interests, such as resistance training, balance, and neuromuscular responses to stretching – among many others – with over 200 peer-reviewed articles and over 11,000 citations, and he ranks within the top 2.5% of the most productive researchers in the world, according to ResearchGate. He has made many public appearances on television, radio, and on new media, in addition to being featured in mainstream newspapers and fitness magazines.
With his own athletic background of having been a junior ice hockey player, being drafted into the Canadian Football League, and being a provincial champion in both Tennis and Squash, David’s interests, research, and engagement with the public are informed by his desire to bridge the gap between these worlds for everyone’s benefit.
- Dr. David Behm at the Memorial University of Newfoundland
- Dr. David Behm on ResearchGate
In this episode, we cover:
- What you should know about stretching, injury prevention, and pain reduction
- The science behind stretching and how it can help – or hinder – your workouts
- Why you should warm up before training (and the perfect warmup routine)
- … and much more!
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- Stream by clicking here.
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Some of you may already be familiar with or may have heard of David and his work in passing if you have a habit of keeping your ear to the ground in when it comes to HIT and health & fitness in general. Here is one of his many public appearances, where David speaks at length about stretching and athletic performance on TEDx.
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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: Have you made a habit of warming up or stretching prior to working out? What has your experience been like? Please let me know in the comments at the bottom of this post.
Click the link below to listen from the exact time stamp on Overcast:
- On stretching – a history and an overview of what we know so far [6:58]
- Who can benefit from static stretching, why, and what about dynamic stretching? [10:23]
- On how stretching primes your central nervous system (and how stretching one part of your body affects another) [13:05]
- Understanding Nuclear Bag Fibers and Nuclear Chain Fibers [16:23]
- Is there a benefit to doing stretching for those who do high-intensity training? [19:48]
- Is adding a separate stretching regimen beneficial to those who already do resistance training with regard to range of motion and overall improvements in practical functionality? [22:38]
- How can dynamic stretching prior to resistance training – and physical activity in general – be beneficial? [26:21]
- How you should warm up before starting a workout to improve your performance [28:35]
- Should you still do a warmup routine if you’re going to be doing very slow repetitions that many believe count as an in-built form of warmup anyway? (And what about physical activities that involve explosive movements?) [32:24]
- David talks about his stretching protocol and his perfect warmup routine [39:03]
- Can people benefit from stretching even if they’re not really engaged in heavy physical activity? [44:09]
- David talks about stretching and lower back pain [48:28]
- Can back pain really resolve itself? [50:55]
- What does David do to mitigate back pain? [52:16]
- Does David have any advice for preventing lower-back injury? [55:01]
- How can stretching be beneficial for runners? [55:44]
- What does David think about Tim Noakes’ Central Governor Theory? [56:34]
- What does David think about foam rolling? [1:02:08]
- David talks about Yoga (and what you shouldn’t do in combination with it) [1:09:06]
- Has David changed his mind about anything regarding stretching in recent memory? [1:10:59]
- What bad advice on stretching and exercise does David hear about a lot (and should people bother with Bosu Balls, Swiss Balls, or instability resistance training in general)? [1:11:38]
- What does David think of cross-training across different physical activities and sports? [1:14:37]
Selected Links from the Episode
- Context –> Dr. Greg Wells Podcast #37: Dr. David Behm on to stretch or not to stretch
- Nuclear bag fiber
- Nuclear chain fiber
- Static Stretching and Dynamic Stretching
- Should Static Stretching Be Used During a Warm-Up for Strength and Power Activities? – David Behm et al (Study)
- Reduced strength after passive stretch of the human plantarflexors – Jonathan R. Fowles et al (Study)
- Plantar Flexors
- A randomized trial of preexercise stretching for prevention of lower-limb injury – Rodney Pope et al (Study)
- A review of the acute effects of static and dynamic stretching on performance – David Behm, Anis Chaouachi (Study)
- Increasing Muscle Extensibility: A Matter of Increasing Length or Modifying Sensation? S. Peter Magnusson et al (Study)
- Diffuse Noxious Inhibitory Controls (DNIC)
- Patellar Tendon Reflex
- Stretch Reflex (Myotatic Reflex)
- Alpha motor neuron
- Gamma motor neuron
- Muscle spindle
- Nerve Conduction Velocity
- Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP)
- Henneman’s Size Principle (Orderly recruitment of motor units)
- Ballistic Contractions
- Interstitial fluid (ISF)
- Science of Stretching by Michael J. Alter ( Amazon US / Amazon UK )
- Sport Stretch: 311 Stretches for 41 Sports by Michael J. Alter ( Amazon US / Amazon UK )
- Pelvic Tilt
- The 4 Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat Loss, Incredible Sex and Becoming Superhuman by Tim Ferriss (Amazon US / Amazon UK)
- Nucleus Pulposus
- Central Governor Theory
- Foam roller ( Amazon US / Amazon UK )
- Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMs)
- Self-myofascial release technique
- Tetanic Stimulation
- BOSU | Website ( Amazon US / Amazon UK )
- Swiss Exercise Ball | Website ( Amazon US / Amazon UK )
- TheraBand ( Amazon US / Amazon UK )
- Jonathan Fowles
- Rodney Pope
- Anis Chaouachi
- S. Peter Magnusson
- Usain Bolt
- Roger Enoka
- Michael J. Alter
- Tim Ferriss | Website
- Stuart M. McGill | ResearchGate
- Tim Noakes | Website
- Robert Schleip | ResearchGate
Andrew May says
Great one. Really likeable guy with a really listenable accent, lol.
Really interested in one more question if you’re able to ask David? I was under the impression that muscles and connective tissue couldn’t really be physically “stretched” beyond their natural maximal length. It was my reading that an individual’s limits to their range of motion were due in a large part to neurological inhibition, acting as a “safety net” to stop the body getting into dangerous positions likely to result in injury. An individual under sedation, I am told can be put into all sorts of positions at the extremes of ROM and joint function due to the removal of that neurological inhibition. Is there any truth to what I’ve read?
I was fascinated by the discussion of nerve conduction velocity in regard to orderly recruitment of motor units, don’t let Andy Galpin hear though or he’ll have us all p*ssing fast…! Seriously though I’d be interested in knowing if unique positive adaptations result from those higher hertz nerve impulses.
I was surprised and amused at the answer to my question on foam rolling. I had assumed that, as a fad, it was a load of toss but I’m always happy to be corrected! Definitely chuckling at the second part of the answer though, not very surprised by the lack of evidence for self myofascial release but very surprised by the actual proposed mechanism!
Glad you enjoyed it Andrew. It was a technical one indeed but I know you love that ;-). I’ll ask David to comment but can’t promise.
Andrew May says
No worries if not, thanks either way!
See David’s response above.
Andrew May says
David Behm says
Glad you appreciated the accent! I have lived in most major Canadian cities, so it is a true amalgamation of Canadian and the unique Newfoundland dialects.
Re: your questions
Yes neurological inhibition plays a major role in the limits to ROM. There are definite structural limits to our flexibility. The research is conflicting about the extent to which you can change the structural properties. In animal studies, you see reports of increases of sarcomeres in series to increase the length of the muscle. There are also reports in humans of changes in muscle pennation angle, changes in cross linkages between collagen and elastin fibres, muscle fascicle length and rotation and other factors. But I would agree that neurological inhibition and stretch tolerance can lead to greater ROM increases in the short term than structural changes. However I do not believe that a gymnast who stretches for years and can pull their foot up and touch the back of their head does not have significant structural adaptations.
Re: higher Hertz adaptations. Read my old article and review on the intent to contract explosively (Behm and Sale 1993). We showed high velocity training adaptations with isometric contractions that were the same as with high velocity contractions. Both groups however during their training had the intent to explode into the contractions and thus the high frequency signals coming from the brain were similar.
Behm D.G. and Sale D.G. Velocity Specificity of Resistance Training: A Review. Sports Medicine 15(6): 1-15, 1993
Behm D.G. and Sale D.G. Intended Rather than Actual Contraction Velocity Determines the Training Specific Response. Journal of Applied Physiology 74(1): 359-368, 1993
Tanks b’y; Right on my son, you take it easy! Whaddya at? (Newfoundland dialect).
Hope the response was helpful.
Andrew May says
Thank you, that was very informative. Plenty of food for thought!