When we are asleep, we are capable of amazing flexibility. It’s the unconscious mind that allows us to move and bend as we please. When we are awake, our brains over think each movement and asses the danger factor. It will tell your body that bending that far should hurt and you will feel the stretch create a pain.
Not being flexible and feeling stretches hurt is all in our heads. Our muscles are long enough to do things we never thought we could do; the problem is that we just don’t know it yet.
There are many different styles of stretching that people have tried over the years to become more flexible.
Your normal static stretch is the most commonly used method. Bend down as far as you can and hold that position for a certain amount of time. Basically this is the simplest definition that people can think of when they hear the word stretch. Unfortunately what many people are doing when using static stretching is they bounce throughout the movement because they are trying to increase their range of the stretch. Bad news.
The only thing you get from bouncing is that you can finally touch your toes a couple times for the first time since high school.
Russia has some of the best fitness experts out there; their scientists research everything and put them to the test. Pavel Tsatsouline is one of the top experts when it comes to fitness. He has a method that he calls “Relax into stretch.”
What this calls for is getting to a point where you cannot go any further in that stretch and tense the muscles hard for a few seconds. After the tension, the muscles will relax and then you can stretch deeper and tense hard again, continue until you are at your limit for that day.
This method takes into account that once muscles are tensed for a certain amount of time, they have to completely relax before that can happen again. By doing this you are showing your body that your muscles can bend and move as you please, you just have to learn to totally relax them first.
It sounds easy but this will take time. Patience is a virtue, especially when it comes to preparing your body to be healthier. Get rid of the want it now mentality that we have in America, if you push too hard with flexibility or anything with the body you can cause serious injury.
You must think about the muscles you are attempting to stretch and tense that muscle to help them relax after all the tension is gone. This will take some time to understand how tensing certain areas will affect others due to the antagonist relationship. This says that when you tense one muscle, its antagonistic muscles will relax.
So you want to be careful to tense the right area so that you are not actively relaxing the area you are concentrating on because there is tension in its antagonist.
If this method sounds difficult, here is something you can start with and work your way up to.
Simply pick a stretch, and then get into your stretch to the point where your body tells you to stop. Hold this position for a couple seconds, take a deep breath in and as your release the breath, bend deeper into your stretch.
This is the beginning stage of understanding how to relax into your stretch. You will be able to make small increments into the stretch with each deep breath. Do not bounce, if the pressure is too much to handle then stop for the day. You can also move slightly upward or away from the stretch as you breath in then deeper into it as your breathe out.
There are many other ways to help increase your flexibility but this is the safest and, from the research done, most efficient way to get the job done.
It will also teach you about creating tension in your muscles which is extremely important in weight training. By creating more tension in that muscle, you will actually be forcing that muscle to work more throughout the movement. After relaxing into your stretch you will learn a lot more than just how to increase your range of motion, you will be teaching your body about tension and mind over muscle control.
Tony is a strength and conditioning coach, whose passion truly is anything fitness or sport oriented. When away from the gym or the fields, he's a home body who loves spending time with his dog Norbert.
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