The truth on stretching

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There are a couple schools of thought relative to extending. Got me?

You don’t need an hour each day, but you need to stretch everyday. That doesn’t mean a full blown hot yoga routine. It means a couple of brief, effective stretches for; muscles that you know are tight, muscles associated with those you know are tight, your calves, hamstrings and core. I include the latter because; if your calves are tight, that contracture can cascade up through your hamstrings and into your low back. (A virtual show of hands here, who among you has some back pain?) Your core muscles are always in use, and tend to some tightness somewhere. It is an excellent idea to keep the core muscles flexible if for no other reason than removing some possible causes of back pain.

To better understand how a muscle functions, examine the basic physiology of stretching. (Use the links for further clarification.) Bear in mind that a muscle can be stretched to 1.5 times its resting length. For example, an three inch muscle can be efficiently stretched to 4.5 inches. The stretching of a muscle fiber originates at the sarcomere, the tiniest unit of contractile property in a muscle. As a muscle contractsdown in these sarcomeres, the area of involving the thick and thin myofilaments (miniature protein threads) increases. This is the reason a muscle looks larger when you”flex” it. It’s kind of like a balloon; stretch it, it becomes longer and thinner. When you can get all these fibers lengthening collectively, you have an effectively stretched muscle. (proper credit to the brutally thorough Brad Appleton) The key to getting as many fibers as possible to stretch is relaxation of the muscle. There is a realignment of those muscle fibers when you stretch them. They are reset in a way, like how a chiropractor resets, or realigns your backbone.

Before I discuss the”how to,” I Want to mention my two cardinal rules:

1. Relax into and throughout your stretches. You must think about allowing a muscle to stretch, not forcing the stretch.

2. Never bounce during stretching. When you bounce during stretching you’re triggering the stretch reflex. Your muscle recognizes the”unnatural” lengthening and attempts to protect itself by contracting, nullifying your effort at a stretch.

The first step to extending a muscle is to locate the muscle to be stretched. Easier said than done. I’ve recorded a few sources below for reference so you can get a visual of skeletal muscles and what their responsibilities are in terms of joint movement. A brief cut to learning the body is to analyze which way a muscle moves when you’re working it, say, doing a push up. You want to stretch your torso, and during a push up your arms move toward you. Stretching a muscle occurs when you move that relaxed muscle past its resting length from the opposite direction it moves when it is working (bearing weight.) With that in mind you now know that to stretch the torso you move the arms away from it.

The muscle has to be unloaded, meaning, it is NOT bearing any weight. The worst instance of this is when I see a runner stretching hamstrings with a leg up on a wall. Very inefficient in the muscle he believes he’s stretching is really bearing some of his own body weight. He might feel a stretch there, and might be stretching the muscle somewhat, but there are other ways much more effective and less likely to cause an injury. One of the reason some folks don’t stretch is because they’ve gotten injured during stretching.

Step three is to find the muscle’s resting length. Resting length is a muscle’s maximum isometric tension. Isometric significance static contraction – no motion. When you get out of bed in the morning and raise both arms to a letter Y and down to a letter T, you’re kind of reaching resting length in your chest and biceps. If you “force” that motion, you are stretching those muscles. But you’re stretching them beyond their resting length. To reach a muscle’s resting length, gently trigger the muscle on its other hand. By way of example, if you want to reach resting length on your chest, gently pull your shoulders back.

Let that muscle go. You have to relax in this phase and allow the muscle to stretch. A relaxed muscle will lengthen, it is just up to you to fight the urge to force it to elongate. At the stage when you feel you are going to experience pain, gradually back from the stretch. That is it, the muscle is stretched.

You never need to feel pain while stretching. You need to stretch a muscle to the point of, but not to pain. As you become more flexible your”threshold” and your range of motion will increase. You’ll be able to stretch further without reaching the point of pain.

As you become more comfortable with these steps you will stretch more efficiently, and achieve more moves in less time.

Keys to effective stretching:

As soon as you allow the muscle to lengthen, the stretch is finished. Release and stretch .
Your muscles have no concept of time, the a stretch does not need to be held for quite a long time. If you do the procedure correctly, a muscle can be effectively stretched in 2-4 seconds.

You want to feel the stretch over the complete length of the muscle, not on the joint. By way of example, when you stretch your hamstrings you wish to feel the stretch in the entire back of your thigh, not in back of your knee. Do not force the stretch, permit the stretch, slowly.

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