Music vs Stretch


Good day, my friends. I have finally made it to my laptop to share another interesting thing with you. This time I will talk about stretching and music.


Spending a significant part of my day in the gym I keep noticing many people who train or stretch wearing earphones with their favorite music on. Why not, sound, literally, like a lot of fun and helps fight boredom and monotony of the training process. Let’s have a look at it from a different perspective.


To help you wrap your mind around what I am about to say I need you to know some little simple-worded science behind how the Brain receives and processes the information and what is the information per se.


As you all know we can interact with the world using our five sensory inputs: visual, audio, tactile, smell and taste. Some of us might even have the Sixth Sense. My cat definitely has one, no matter where she is in my apartment she always meows when I am in a very close proximity to her food storage.


Whereas it is very convenient for us to divide the sensory inputs into categories for the Brain it is a simple matter of electrochemical reactions spreading along the nerves and reaching different regions of the Cerebral Cortex. A couple of examples.


Audio. When a sound wave hits your eardrum, it vibrates passing the vibration into the inner ear. The inner ear has thousands of hair cells (shaped like a hair). The vibration bends those hairs triggering electro-chemical reactions which spread along the auditory nerve and reaches the audio cortex.


Visual. When a particle of light, called photon, hits a cell inside your eye’s retina, it sparks an electrochemical reaction in that cell which spreads along the visual nerve and reaches the visual cortex.


The similar situation with touch, smell, and taste. It is all about the electrochemical reaction and which area of the Brain it goes into. In a way, it is like a drop of water in sugar. Once there it keeps spreading around the entire area.


Once we received a sample of a sound or a picture in the form of an electrochemical signal, it continues interacting with different regions of the brain depending on its nature. If that signal represents a cry for help then it might interact with the region responsible for activating your leg muscles so you can run to help. If that sound is a “funny sound” then the region activating your facial muscles might be engaged so you can laugh. Of course, it is oversimplified but you got the idea.


How is it relevant to the stretch training? The essence of stretching is to relax the muscles and allow the Central Nervous System to adapt to their new length. How exactly it happens you can read in my other article “Stretch Overkill”. Now if you are listening to your favorite music while stretching, then your Brain keeps receiving a tremendous input of the audio information each piece of which might be associated with different emotions, situation, and movements. The fact that the source of the music is very close to the eardrums means that this information is given a priority to be processed.


This constant and very vivid audio stream will “light up” your Brain with electrochemical reactions spreading into many different regions of the cerebral cortex, including ones responsible for that or another muscle activity. Thereby almost all of your major muscle groups might be kept in tonus, the constant low-level activity.


Every morning I listen to my favorite music in the shower and I am always a little bit “dancy”. It speaks for the fact that my music sparks my muscle activity. That is why I inadvertently engage my quads, hamstrings, shoulders, biceps to produce those little dancing moves…still in the shower.


Now imagine it is happening while you are stretching, trying to achieve an ultimate calmness in the muscles. Of course, you will be suppressing any movements, but whether you want it or not mild electrical stimuli from the Brain will be persistently coming into your muscles you are trying to get relaxed. The result? Less effective stretching session and more muscle soreness the following day.


I tested my theory on myself for a month. I can definitely say that after my “musical” stretching sessions I always experienced a tremendous amount of muscle soreness the very next day vs my “non-musical” sessions with no or very little soreness on the following day.

Whereas music is a lot of fun I will leave it for you to make a decision.

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