Sunday, June 20, 2010

Understanding Stretching with The Substitute Blogger.

Hello blogosphere, Jaymon here.  Its time for use to have a talk.  Uh huh, that talk.  Lets talk about stretch. 
What is stretching you say?  Well, when two people love each other very much they sometimes exercise together and as part of their exercise regiment they will stretch to maintain healthy, capable, and enduringly healthy bodies.

What is stretching.  Conventional exercise theory says that stretching is an activity done to alleviate and prevent tightness, pain and injury in the body.  This theory is completely wrong, wrong, wrong.  Now you see why stretching is a dirty word.  But I like to stretch you say.  That,s good and stretching is a useful activity so keep it up but lets try and understand what we are doing when we stretch.

First let us explore the nature of muscle.  Our muscles are composed of long stringy molecules that lay parallel to each other.  One is called the myofibril and it has little arms that grab the other called actin and pull it in one direction then the myofibril arms let go and move forward to grab the actin and a further point to give another tug.  Like pulling a rope hand over hand.  I tried to post an illustration but it seems this blog has exceeded some kind of upload quota.  Here is a link to a video.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJ309LfHQ3M  The grab and release nature of this action give muscles all the lengthening capacity they would ever need to actuate a joint.  Muscle can easily exceed the joints range of motion.  In fact muscles cannot be stretched because they are not elastic.  


If that is true then why don't we all have unlimited flexibility?  Why can't I do the splits and kick like Van Dam?  The answer is because you muscle are too weak.  Your body will not let you extend a joint past the point that it can recover from that extension.  But my muscle are strong you say.  There are different kinds of strength.  For example I am emotionally strong.  Muscles have a range of movement and different strength capacities throughout that range.  In order for our muscle to allow us to increase the range, they will allow us to move a joint in, we must increase the strength of the muscle at that range.  Stretching is a muscle building contraction like lifting weights.

There is another component of stretching, you must be aware of, the fascia.  Fascia are super tough membranes that surround our muscles to keep them in place.  Because they must resist all kinds of intense forces and keep those muscle where they should be fascia do not give.  When you increase our range of movement you must stress the fascia to compel it to grow longer to accommodate that new range.
 
So doesn't increased range of motion from stretching benefit the runner.  The answer is no.  Running does not involve a wide range of motion.  In fact using to much of you range of motion in running leads to injury inducing higher impacts and inefficient form.  Many experts try and treat bad running technique with prescribed stretches of the abused areas.  The only solution is to correct your technique.  Use those hamstrings when you run.  

The greatest stretchers in the world are the Yogi.  They have been at it for thousands of years.  Yogi do not stretch in preparation for an athletic endeavor.  They understand that the stretch is the athletic endeavor.  Stretching is great for bringing strength, flexibility and  balance to our bodies as well as peace to our minds.  It is not a solution to running injuries.
 
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