Sunday, September 6, 2009

Stretching Primer

This is something I posted elsewhere a while ago and I wanted to include it here as well. I have come to view stretching primarily as recovery enhancement. During exercise (especially repetitive motion stuff like running) muscles are firing and contracting a lot and at the end of exercise tend not to return to a fully relaxed state on their own. Stretching helps to pull the fibers fully so that blood flow can more readily get into the muscles and carry in rebuilding agents and carry away waste. With that preface, here it is:

Not long ago, I opted to take in a clinic on stretching given by highly-regarded local ExPhys guru Andy Pruitt (he is the one that Mark Plaatjes has gone to when he has had problems). I took notes, which I shall attempt to present in a clear fashion here:

The four keys to remember are:
Regular exercise
Balance - proprioception

Why stretch and be flexible?:
Range of motion: gain and/or maintain
Body awareness - proprioception
Muscle relaxation

Stretching cons: stress on joints, excess range of motion (congenital and post trauma)

What to stretch?:
Musculotendinous junction
Tendinous insertion into the bone

muscle: active, contractile, elastic
tendon: semi-elastic, small range of elasticity

An effective method of stretching involves contracting and relaxing of the muscles just prior to the stretch, which allows the muscle to stretch further.

A recommended method of incorporating stretching into the training routine:
Gentle static stretch into a slightly ballistic stretch
Static into PNF (contract/relax) stretch

Mandatory areas to stretch for running:
Lower back
Quads - extensor mechanism & hip flexors
Calf - achilles

Stretches to accomplish this:
High calf: push against wall, heel on ground, drive hips down & forward
Low calf, soleus: like above, with bent knee, driving knee towards toes
Quad stretch: pull foot up and back behind with opposite hand
Hamstrings, lower back: toe touch or lying in doorway with one leg up on the doorjamb at right angle to body and other leg
Back, upper legs: butterfly stretch - move feet out to vary the stretched areas
Also: split stretch, one leg behind and one in front, with cushion under lower knee
Glutes: figure-4, while seated bring one foot and leg up and in front of the body and use hands and arms to pull it upwards, both towards and away from the body
Also: hurdler stretch, foot of bent leg in against opposite thigh, keep pressure off knee
Finally: lay stretch, on the floor with arms above head and legs out straight, spend several minutes just stretching out the vertebrae

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