Waiting out the Tensionrelaxed stretching as it should be

The most obvious way to control muscular tension is ... well, just relax.

Get in a comfortably stretched position and stay in it until your muscles relax. It usually takes a couple of minutes—although timing yourself is a decidedly bad idea. The relaxation time will vary greatly depending on your training level, fatigue, stress, the given muscle group, and many other variables. Just listen to your body.

The technique of Waiting out the Tension works well only in select lower body stretches that are comfortable enough to stay in for a long time. For instance, the Leg Straddle is a winner and the Good Morning is not.

Stretching Your Relaxer Out

Once the muscle has relaxed, increase the stretch. Your muscles will tighten up again. One more time, wait the tension out. Breathe deep, easy, and slow. Repeat until you are close to getting spasms.

If you paid attention, you have understood that what has been described is not the literal stretching of a relaxed muscle, but rather a patient waiting for the muscle to relax and picking up the slack.

Your reflexes, like everything else in your body, get tired.

When the doctor taps your quad tendon with a hammer, your leg kicks out and the muscle gets stretched. If the doctor persisted at whacking you under your kneecap, your kicks would get progressively weaker and weaker until the hammer could not get a rise out of you at all. By the same token, if your muscles tighten up once you have assumed a stretched position, you can wait the stretch reflex out.

This involuntary neural mechanism is what makes your muscles resist the stretch. If you stay down long enough, usually a couple of minutes, the stretch reflex will get tired of firing up your muscles, allowing them to finally relax. Now it is time to carefully increase the range of motion until the muscles start resisting, and repeat the process... You may massage the stretched muscles and/or gently 'twitch' them once in a while to help the relaxation process and ease the discomfort.

If you would like to know why these maneuvers help, read my book Fast & Loose!: Russian Champions'Dynamic Relaxation Secrets.

While many Russians and Orientals have been successful with Waiting out the Tension, I believe that Americans are generally not patient enough to stretch in this manner. No offense intended,just a cultural observation. You guys tend to get eager and start forcing the muscle into more stretch. The results are injuries and zero progress. Perhaps you will overcome your busy nature by following the example of world champion kickboxer Bill 'Superfoot'Wallace who stretches at night in front of the TV when he is not in a hurry and does not feel competitive.

From personal experience I can tell you that you should never, ever stretch when you are tight on time, no pun intended. Rushing through your stretches makes it impossible to relax, delivers no gains, and almost guarantees injuries.

Do not abuse relaxed stretches and stay away from them altogether when it comes to your back. Soviet sports scientist L. P. Orlov warns: "While most large joints are stabilized by muscles and the ligaments do not affect their position, in the case of the spine it is the ligaments that play the important role of maintaining the normal spinal alignment. Insufficiency of the ligamentous apparatus makes it difficult to maintain the normal spinal curve with muscle tonus and tension alone. Weakening of the ligaments unavoidably leads to deformation of the spinal column."

In other words, don't do relaxed stretches for forward flexion of your spine or toe touching.

And make sure that Waiting out the Tension is not the only stretching method you employ. "Flexibility must always be in a certain relationship with strength," Orlov states—and unlike ForcedRelaxation and other specialized techniques you are about to learn, Waiting out the Tension does not develop strength.

Finally, if you insist on doing relaxed stretches, remember the words of a famous Russian coach who said that in sports conditioning—as in an intimate situation— trying too hard just dooms one to failure. Do not will your muscles to relax. Let it happen.

Waiting out the Tension

• Get in a comfortably stretched position and patiently stay in it for a few minutes until your muscles relax.

• Increase the stretch. Your muscles will tighten up again. One more time, wait the tension out. Breathe deep and easy. Repeat until you are close to getting spasms.

• You may massage the stretched muscles and/or gently 'twitch' them once in a while to help the relaxation process and ease the discomfort.

• The technique of Waiting out the Tension works well only in select stretches that are comfortable enough to stay in for a long time.

• Never use the Waiting out the Tension for forward spine flexion or toe touching type stretches

• Don't get eager and start forcing the muscle into more stretch.

• Never stretch when you are in a hurry

• Don't apply the Waiting out the Tension technique to your back.

Relaxation Audio Sounds Lazy Summer Day

Relaxation Audio Sounds Lazy Summer Day

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