Isometric stretching rules

Contract-relax stretching is documented to be at least 267% more effective than conventional relaxed stretching! In addition to fooling the stretch reflex in the manner just described, isometric stretches enhance your flexibility by making you stronger in the stretched position.

Relaxed stretching develops flexibility without strength. This is unnatural. Normally your body does not allow a range of motion it cannot control. A graphic illustration of this is a medical condition known as the 'frozen shoulder'. If, after an injury, you do not use your shoulder for a long time, it will lose much of its range of motion. Under anesthesia though, the surgeon can turn the shoulder through three hundred sixty degrees without trouble.

When the patient wakes up and his muscles start working, the shoulder freezes again. The nervous system knows that the muscles are not strong enough to control the full range motion and will not let the shoulder's owner have it. Without proper rehab the problem keeps feeding on itself. Physical therapists know that muscles habitually kept in a shortened position lose their strength in the stretched position. Before you know it, the weakness-inflexibility vicious circle turns you into a piece of furniture!

The same situation, albeit less extreme, repeats itself with every Joe or Jane when they work out improperly—or are simply inathletic. Your muscles keep losing their strength in the lengthened position—if they ever had it to start with—because your lifestyle always keeps them shortened. Physical therapists call this problem 'tight weakness'. As strength goes south, so does flexibility. The muscles become even shorter which makes them even weaker which makes them even shorter... ad nauseam.

And vice versa. When you become stronger in the extreme range of motion through contract-relax stretching, you send the message to your body that you will not be stuck in that position because you now have the strength to recover from it. Your muscles do not undergo a reflexive contraction since your nervous system perceives the stretch as safe. Your flexibility increases.

The obvious way to develop extreme range strength is by lifting weights but it is not always practical. You get stronger primarily at the angles where you train. If you can do full one hundred eighty-degree splits, it is worthless to use a health club adductor/abductor machine limited to one hundred and twenty degrees.

Isometrics is more practical than weights. You are probably familiar with isometric strength training. It was very popular in the fifties and sixties. You had to push against things that didn't budge, like walls, doorways, or trucks. Your muscles contracted but no movement took place. Isometrics is a very powerful tool for strength development, despite being out of favor and receiving much unjust criticism in the last few decades.

John Ziegler, M.D., one of the pioneers of isometric strength training, explained how it works: ".. .the way you improve is by lifting weights, the heaviest possible. What's the heaviest weight you can lift?—One you can't lift!"

To develop strength-flexibility with isometrics, stretch as far as you can, then flex the stretched muscle. Sounds just like isometric stretching, doesn't it?

0 0

Post a comment