Flexibility WorkoutsBy: David Martens |
Whatever training program you are using, adding an effective stretching routine makes good sense. Whether you exercise or not, I firmly believe that flexibility workouts to relax the muscles is something that everyone can benefit from. In my opinion, the best stretches for flexibility are included in a PNF stretching routine. Other terms that PNF stretching is known by are contract-relax and isometric stretching. Relax Into Stretch, a program created by Pavel Tsatsouline, is where I introduced to these flexibility stretches.
Muscle tension is the primary thing preventing the average person from doing a full split. Pavel has a great test: put one leg to the side at a ninety degree angle and then repeat with the other leg. In essence, you can do a split with each individual leg, but when you try to do both at once, your body simply won't let you. What happens is that based on previous experiences, your nervous system doesn't let you stretch your muscles beyond a certain point. Your muscles get tense because this automatic reflex makes them stiffen.
The terms that are commonly used for Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Fascilitation or PNF are contract-relax and isometric stretching. You will be able to increase your muscles' range of motion when you practice this effective stretching protocol on a regular basis. Stretching using PNF is done by the act of contracting the muscle for short periods, giving it a rest, and then stretching the muscle out a little more. When you extend the muscle as quickly as possible, it stretches because you don't give your reflexes time to react. Your muscles will keep on stretching even though you have relaxed them. And you will be able to move the muscle past its previous stretch-point, despite the fact that you don't have a lot of time before your reflexes come into play to stop the stretch.
Isometric stretching actually improves your flexibility by making you stronger as well. The body is more at home when it is stretched out if it has the strength to go along with it. Your reflex responses are minimized as your body realizes that it is strong enough to handle the stretch out position which allows you greater stretching abilities. In other words, you get more flexible.
Pavel covers three techniques to incorporate into a stretching routine. To begin you should breath deeply and then exhale the breath immediately while engaged in stretching. Not only will your body relax thoroughly, but your range of motion will increase as well. 2) Forced relaxation constitutes the second method. Although it sounds easy to accomplish, you are going to need a lot of mental strength to do it. Stretch and then hold it until your muscles can't sustain the stretch any longer. The third method detailed by Pavel is called the Clasp Knife which has you counterbalance the stretch response by applying extreme force.
There's no reason why you can't start a stretching routine since you can do these stretches just about any time and any place. You can simply perform PNF stretching in front of your favorite nightly TV show if you'd like. These simple and easy-to-perform isometric stretching exercises go along way toward not only making your body stronger, but providing you with increased muscular flexibility. Workouts incorporating these stretches for flexibility only need to be done a few times per week for noticeable benefit. Who knows, after 3-6 months, you too may be able to perform a full split!