Passive stretching is done with the help of a partner or equipment. The examples in this chapter show passive stretching done with a towel or with a partner. When stretching alone, using a towel may help the exerciser achieve a greater range of motion.
Soldiers can do PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) stretches for most major muscle groups. PNF stretches use a series of contractions, done against a partner's resistance, and relaxations.
Obtaining a safe stretch beyond the muscle's normal length requires a partner's assistance. The following four steps provide general guidance as to how PNF stretches are done. Both the exerciser and partner should follow these instructions:
1. Assume the stretch position slowly with the partner's help.
2. Isometrically contract the muscles to be stretched. Hold the contraction for 5 to 10 seconds against the partner's unyielding resistance.
3. Relax. Next, contract the antagonistic muscles for 5 to 10 seconds while the partner helps the exerciser obtain a greater stretch.
4. Repeat this sequence three times, and try to stretch a little further each time. (Caution: The exerciser should not hold his breath. He should breathe out during each contraction.)
Several examples of PNF stretches are provided below in a stepwise fashion. The numbers given above for each step correspond to the general description listed below.
Body composition, which refers to the body's relative amounts of fat and lean body mass (organs, bones, muscles), is one of the five components of physical fitness. Good body composition is best gained through proper diet and exercise. Examples of poor body composition are underdeveloped musculature or excessive body fat. Being overweight (that is, overly fat) is the more common problem.
Poor body composition causes problems for the Army. Soldiers with inadequate muscle development cannot perform as well as soldiers with good body composition. As a soldier gets fat, his ability to perform physically declines, and his risk of developing disease increases. Soldiers with high percentages of body fat often have lower APFT scores than those with lower percentages. Poor body composition, especially obesity, has a negative effect on appearance, self-esteem, and negatively influences attitude and morale.
The Army's weight control program is described in AR 600-9. It addresses body composition standards, programs for the overly fat, and related administrative actions.
The amount of fat on the body, when expressed as a percentage of total body weight, is referred to as the percent body fat. The Army's maximum allowable percentages of body fat, by age and sex, are listed in Figure 5-1.
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