Stretching: It’s Necessary, Not Optional

Are you too cool to stretch? I used to be– or I thought I was. And then I strained a few muscles, had some back issues while surfing, and had sore legs and tight hips from running. Now I can’t seem to stretch enough. Oh, and I am 30. That hurts to type.

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Why Should You Stretch?

Stretching can balance the length and tension of muscles around a joint, decreasing the likelihood of overactive muscles and joint stress. However, it is important to identify the muscles that are actually overactive (no guessing). Once you do that, then you can develop a plan for lengthening them and strengthening their counterparts. Click here to see how to find overactive muscles.

If you do not balance the muscles around your joints, you will develop faulty movement patterns over time. Essentially, you will succumb to the following series of events:

Muscle Imbalances–> Poor Posture–> Improper Movements–> Injury

(Clark, Lucett, McGill, Montel, & Sutton, 2008)

When & How to Stretch

  1. Use a posture assessment to determine which muscles to target
  2. Do SMFR (Self Myofascial Release, AKA Foam Rolling) first!
  3. Corrective, Active, or Functional stretching
    • A trainer is especially beneficial at this stage

You should stretch before and after each work out. However, one caveat is necessary. There is some scientific research suggesting that acute static stretching before a performance can slightly decrease power and/or strength (Clark, Lucett, McGill, Montel, & Sutton, 2008). Conversely, long-term (chronic) stretching has been associated with increased strength and power.

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So start implementing stretching now to increase your long-term power, strength, range of motion and neuromuscular efficiency, and to decrease joint stress.


References

Clark, M. A., Lucett, S. C., McGill, E., Montel, I., & Sutton, B. (2018). NASM essentials of personal fitness training. Burlington: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

The 30 Second Stretch: Yes, It’s Backed by Science

I’ve heard it all my life. Hold the stretch for about 30 seconds or so, but I never asked why. According to our anatomy and physiology, it matters!

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Mechanoreceptors (Sensory receptors)

What tells us that a muscle is stretching too much or that it needs to stretch more? Our bodies have muscle spindles and golgi tendon organs that provide that particular service.

Muscle spindles are the major sensory organ of a muscle. They are microscopic fibers that run parallel to a muscle fiber. The main function of a muscle spindle is to alert the brain, via the central nervous system, that a muscle is lengthening too far or too fast (Clark, Lucett, McGill, Montel, & Sutton, 2008). When excess lengthening occurs the muscle spindles contract, resulting in micro muscle spasms or a tight feeling.

Golgi tendon organs are located between a muscle and a tendon, also referred to as the musculotendinous junction. Their job is to to relax a muscle when it is placed under excess tension (Clark, Lucett, McGill, Montel, & Sutton, 2008) For example, if you try to lift a weight that is too heavy, then the GTOs will send a message to the muscles involved to stop the action. The relaxation prevents a muscle from tearing.

Hacking the Body With the 30 Second Stretch

You can hack your body’s system by holding a static stretch for a prolonged period of time. Doing so starts a process called autogenic inhibition. In short, autogenic inhibition is an override of the muscle spindles by the golgi tendon organs, allowing the muscles to relax and lengthen (Clark, Lucett, McGill, Montel, & Sutton, 2008). The 30 second rule is based on this process. Generally speaking, most static stretches should be held long enough for the golgi tendon organs to override the muscle spindles– approximately 30 seconds.


References

Clark, M. A., Lucett, S. C., McGill, E., Montel, I., & Sutton, B. (2018). NASM essentials of personal fitness training. Burlington: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

My Car was Destroyed, so I Ran

Exercise has always been a mainstay in my life. I became a PE teacher so that I could share my love of exercise with others. Right now I am going through my NASM certification to supplement that teacher pay with more exercise-related work.

Sometimes we forget the value that our hobbies and passions can and do provide us. I was reminded of it this past weekend when I woke up to find my car was missing.

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I am currently living with my girlfriend, and we are in the process of moving to start our new lives in Summerville/Charleston, SC. We live in Charlotte, and street parking is a must in some places. My car was parallel parked right outside of our apartment, but I couldn’t find it…

My first thought was that somebody stole the car. There was glass on the ground and some plastic. Who did this?

As I walked up and down the street looking for my car, checking and rehashing my previous day’s memory of my parking location, a neighbor leaned over her balcony to tell me that my vehicle was involved in an accident. She met me on the road and showed me what happened.

My car is on the top

I was instantly surprised, frustrated, mad, and then entirely annoyed. Why wasn’t I notified? What’s going to happen? I can’t afford this right now… How do I get to work? Was the perpetrator driving a stolen car (the person fled the scene)? Does the car have insurance? F*@%!

The following 24 hours included lots of phone calls, confusion, stress, and more stress. I had to investigate to find out what happened to my car, and I couldn’t get in touch with the officer on duty because he was 3rd shift.

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Eventually all the frustration boiled over and I began to channel my anger in a negative way. The stress was overwhelming, and I had so much energy that I needed to release.

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So I ran… I ran fast and hard. I went to the gym. I worked my butt off and focused my frustration. And the frustration started to ease. The myopic, anger-filled lens I was looking through began to clear.

I did it when my teacher died in middle school– I ran.

I did it when I didn’t believe in myself in college– I ran.

I did it after self-sabotaging behavior– I ran.

I did it when I got my first real job– I ran.

I did it when I didn’t think I could do it– I ran.

I did it through the failures and the successes, the highs and lows, the amazing and dull times– I ran and I will continue to run.

Can you relate?

Posture & Health Part 2

Did your static posture check go well? If you don’t know what I am talking about, then go back here to see. Now on to part two of the assessment– the overhead squat.

Dynamic Posture Assessment

Your ability to perform an overhead squat can reveal a lot about your structural and functional strengths/weaknesses. As we talked about before, the focus is on the kinetic chain (feet, knees, hips, shoulders, head).

One imperfection in the chain causes problems elsewhere, which is why it is important to understand and identify the significance of static postural imbalances before moving to the dynamic.

Brain Break


Stand up– now. Stand up, force the arches of your feet into the ground, and then look at your knees. Notice how they move towards each other when the function and structure of the ankle & foot are slightly compromised. Now imagine the amount of extensive wear and tear that is being endured by someone’s body over weeks, months, or years when suffering from that imbalance. What other parts of the kinetic chain are affected?

How to Perform the Overhead Squat Assessment

The purpose of the overhead squat is to assess balance, core strength, neuromuscular control, and dynamic flexibility.

BEGINNING STANCE

  1. Stand with feet shoulder width apart with good static posture– no tilts or leans, just a neutral, relaxed stance.
  2. Extend arms above head, palms facing out, as if you are hanging under a bar. There should be a line from the fingertips to the heels.

MOVEMENT

The squat should be looked at from the side (lateral) and anterior (front).

  1. With arms above head, act as though you are sitting into a chair; you do not need to go farther than that.
  2. Repeat movement with control 5 times. Record the movement or have have friend record it for you.

What to Look for and Record

Anterior (front) View

  1. Do the feet flatten/ sink towards the midline of the body? Do the feet turn out?
  2. Do the knees move inward? There should be a straight line from the ankles through the knees.

Lateral (side) View

  1. When looking at the hips, is there an excessive forward lean? Is there an extensive arch in the lower back? The tibia (shin) and back should be close to parallel if you draw lines through them.
  2. Are the arms falling forward? You should be able to draw a line from the fingers to the bottom.

After reviewing the image above and the information I presented, what am I doing right? What is an area I may need some work on?

Be on the look out for the next post, which will look at correctional exercises and stretches we can do if we find large imbalances or issues.

The Journey Begins

So, this is my first post. I don’t know what to write exactly, nor do I know why I just spent $48.00 to begin a website that I may not use; however, I suppose the name of the site suggests all that I need to know. This is going to seem futile and a waste of time, but I do believe it will be fruitful in some sense (just not for you, dear reader). What exactly do I plan to do with the site? What will be the underlying theme? Will I try to traffic as many people through it as possible through deceiving, click-bait type articles and all that comes with them? Or will I have something interesting to say, build an audience, become the blogger of the year, and go on to become a bajillionaire through the selling of a site that never had a point to begin with? I have no idea. Probably not, actually. More than likely, this will be useless and kind of boring. But it is mine, and it will keep my mind busy and working when I have nothing else to do!

Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton