Sunday, May 29, 2016

Basic Fitness : Flexibility : Episode 2

The book Stretching Scientifically makes big claims right at the beginning that caught me off guard:

In short, it tells me to tense my muscles, then stretch, relax, and then tense them again when trying to go further. Dynamic stretches should also be part of the routine since you can't tense during these.

It seems as though warming up is useless. However, this isn't the case since the warm up I prescribed in the previous part has many benefits in addition to improving flexibility in the early phases of training.

Moving on...

Here's my summary of the safety section:
  • Strengthen your joints as well as stretching them.
  • When stretching, follow the full motion of the joint.

So if you swing your leg forwards, make sure to compensate by swinging it backwards. Also include a range of stretches, to not overwork a few. If your muscles begin to twitch, stop. This is an indicator that they will tear if stretched further.

It goes on to describe the different types of stretching.

Dynamic stretching involves moving your limbs until you improve your reach. They are done in sets of eight to twelve, and should be stopped at the point of fatigue.

Dynamic stretch: leg swings

Apparently, progress in dynamic stretching is measure by how far you can stretch as well as how much control you have over the movement. Personally, I can kick above my head. However, when my leg is above my chest I lose control of it and the rest of the motion is caused purely by the initial acceleration. I need to improve this.

The first set of stretches is done slowly, and with control, at a lower range of movement. Gradually, across the sets, the range of motion and the velocity are increased. As the stretch reaches full swing, you should exhale.

Dynamic stretches for legs, arms and trunk respectively.

Static active stretching is when you enter a stretch and hold it using the tension of the antagonistic pair (muscles on either end of the joint). 15 seconds are advised. Don't focus on these as much, since they are not important for Karate combat. Nonetheless, many instructors make their students hold their leg out.

Get creative with static active stretches.

Static passive stretching is when you use either a body part of gravity to stretch. The most famous example is touching your toes without tensing. Simply drop down. Let gravity be your friend.

This guy is probably doing static passive... though it's impossible to tell.
Actually, wait a second... don't let gravity be your friend. This kind of stretching decreases strength which as a karate student you wouldn't want. So only do a few of them.

Isometric stretching is new to me. Apparently it is the most effective. You first attempt a static passive/active stretch. Then you contract your antagonistic muscle. In other words, you flex the muscle opposite the one you are using. You keep this tensed for a while. Then you relax your muscles and ease further into the stretch. This process is then repeated. It is most effective at the end of a workout.

You should only perform one isometric stretch per muscle group, with two to five repetitions per session. Do these stretches only once a day.

The precise method for an isometric stretch is best said by the author:

In other words, stretch the muscle though not too far, then tense for four seconds, then relax, wait for a second and then stretch again.

The book, sets out a sample training program for a kick boxer.
Roughly, I see the following pattern:

Warm up ► Dynamic Stretches ► Main part ► Dynamic and Static stretching ► 
Isometric stretching ► Relaxed stretching ► Cool down

In the next part, I will outline the full flexibility workout.

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