Stretching_and_Warming_UP

Stretching_and_Warming_UP - 16 / Stretching and Warming Up...

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Unformatted text preview: 16 / Stretching and Warming Up 134 APPROACHING THE WEIGHTS N some respects, the most important minutes you’ll spend working out will be those first 5 to 10 minutes when you stretch and warm up, before you ever touch a weight. Warming up — bringing blood into the areas to be exercised —is especially important among older trainers. As we discussed earlier, the increasing lack of flexibility we all encounter as we age is among our most serious problems. Unless we continue to work at flexibility, it will gradually diminish, along with our nimbleness, our strength, and our ap- pearance. Stretching is of primary importance to every workout because the stretching movements we suggest and explain on the following pages will prepare you — warm you up — for your workouts. The stretches we recommend allow you to direct blood flow into the specific areas to be stretched and subsequently exercised; they not only warm up the tendons and joints but the muscles as well. If at the end of the stretching period you still feel stiff and cold, however, ride a stationary bicy- cle or run gently in place until you begin to perspire ligh tly. Always remem- ber that you want to be warm when you begin your workouts. If it’s cool in the area where you train, make sure to leave your sweat pants and jacket on at least until you’ve done all your stretches and your body feels loose and supple. If you have trouble staying warm, rub some analgesic balm on your back and shoulders to make sure you remain warm while you train. There’s an awful — truly awful — lot of misinformation floating around about how to stretch properly. Anyone who graduated from high school anytime between the thirties and the sixties, and even into the seven- ties, was probably taught in gym class that to loosen up you should “bounce” into positions of increased tension (as in toe-touching) and then bounce right back out. The truth is that we now know that bobbing up and down is the wrong way to loosen the muscles. Physiologists refer to this bob- bing as “ballistic” stretching, and, according to them, when a person bounces — stretching the muscles further than is comfortable —— a “stretch reflex” is triggered, causing the muscles to contract. This is an unconscious protective reaction to keep the muscle tissues from tearing. As Bob Ander- son-says in his excellent book, Stretching, “Any time you stretch the muscle fibers too far (either by bouncing or overstretching) , a nerve reflex responds by sending a signal -to the muscles to contract; this keeps the muscles from being injured. Therefore, when you stretch too far, you tighten the very muscles you are trying to stretch: . . . These harmful methods cause pain, as well as physical damage due to the microscopic tearing of muscle fibers. This tearing leads to the formation of scar tissue in muscles, with a gradual loss of elasticity.” ~ " What Anderson and most physiologists now recommend is the tech- nique called “static stretching.” Static stretching involves the progressive and slow application of pressure to other muscles and tendons to make them lengthen beyond their normal resting length. In other words, you reach for greater and greater positions of flexibility until you feel a tight, slightly burning sensation in the muscle group being stretched. This position is then held in stasis for 8 to 10 seconds and then released. There should be no “pain,” just a feeling of tightness in the area as you hold the position. Then, the position is resumed and, if possible, extended a bit. This method of stretching is far safer than the ballistic variety because the muscles are kept under control at all times. We’ve included eleven stretches for you to do as a warm-up prior to your weight work. These eleven exercises work most of the major joints in the body, though if you feel the need for extra flexibility work, Anderson’s Stretching contains dozens of other stretches. We recommend that each stretching mOVement be repeated at least twice and that you attempt to reach a slightly lower or deeper position on the second try. Don’t push yourself to the point of pain, however. You should feel a tightness and the beginnings of warmth as a result of blood coming into the area, but the muscles, even when in full stretch, should feel soft to touch; they should not be contracted. If they feel overly tight, back off a bit and begin your count again. In the beginning, you will probably only want to hold these for 10 to 15 seconds at a time. As you become more familiar with these positions, try to hold the second position longer — ideally at least 30 seconds. You’ll notice, as the positions become more natural for you, that the feeling of tightness will diminish the longer you hold the position. This is ex- actly what you want to happen. This means that the muscle is relaxing and allowing itself to be stretched. It further means that blood has come into the area, blood carrying extra oxygen to the muscle cells so they will be able to work for longer periods of time once you begin to exercise. The additional warmth also helps to make the muscles less “brittle” and more supple so that they will be more resistant to muscle tears. Try to breathe rhythmically STRETCHINC AND WARMING UP I35 while you’re in the stretches: do not hold your breath. Move slowly from po— sition to position so that the feeling of relaxation can be maintained during the entire 10 minutes or so as you stretch. Finally, stretching following a heavy workout can be a wonderful way to cool down and let your body return to normal. Most of us rarely have the time; we’re always running somewhere else after we’ve been to the gym, but if you can make yourself take the time, it’s very.beneficial. The slow movements bring both your heart and your mind back to normal, and we’ve even found that we seem to be less sore on the days following a heavy workout when we’ve taken a few extra minutes to restretch those muscles we’ve worked most heavily. Position 1 136 APPROACHING THE WEIGHTS Stretches the groin, low back, and inner~thigh muscles Sit on the floor and put the soles of your feet together. Grasp your toes with your hands and pull your heels toward your body until you feel a stretching sensa- tion in the groin area. Hold this for 10 seconds while you keep your elbows on the outside of your legs. Keep your knees wide and as close to the floor as is comfortable. Relax. Again resume the position and increase the intensity by pulling your feet closer to your body and by bending forward from the hips. Try not to round your back. Pick a point on the floor several feet ahead of where you’re sitting and look at it as you move your upper body forward. Do not look down at your feet. Hold this posi- tion for 15 to 30 seconds and then move to the next position. Remember, breathe steadily throughout the stretches, and back off from your attempted position if you feel true pain — not simple tightness. And don’t be surprised during the second part of this and all of the other 10 remaining stretches if the feeling of tightness subsides during the second stretch —— this is desirable and indicates that you are performing these properly. Once it does subside, however, don’t change the position until you’ve finished the full count. Then, if you feel you can do more, assume an even greater position of flexibility and repeat again. Do this and all the other stretches at least twice, more if you still feel tight in an area. Stretches the backs of the thighs and the hips Lie on the floor with your legs extended and relax. Then draw your right leg to- ward your chest and grasp your shin with both hands. Pull the leg as close to the chest as possible and hold for 10 seconds. Replace the leg on the floor and bring the left thigh to the chest and repeat the stretch. Keep your head on the floor at all times. Lower your left leg back to the floor and repeat the stretches again, this time holding each leg at the chest position for 30 seconds. Stretches the tops and insides of the thighs Sit on the oor and bend your left leg back so that the heel of your left foot is as close to your left hip as possible. Place the sole of your right foot against the inside of your left thigh. From this position, lower yourself slowly backward until you feel a tight sensation in the quadriceps of your left leg. Remember to keep your left heel close to your hip as you move backward and place your hands behind you for addi- tional support. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat for the right leg. Then, assume the left leg position once again and try moving a little further back. If you like, allow your head to relax and fall backward as shown in the photo, or continue looking straight ahead. Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat for the right leg. STRETCHING AND WARMING UP Position 2 Position 3 I37 Position 4 Position 5 138 APPROACHING THE WEIGHTS Stretches the hamstring and lower back Sit on the floor with your legs extended in front of you and place the sole of your left foot against the inside of your right thigh. Lean forward from the hips, keeping the back relatively flat, and grasp your right shin or foot. Hold this position for 10 seconds, relax, and stretch out the other leg in the same manner. You should feel a stretching sensation in the back of your thigh as you do these, and in your lower back. Don’t attempt to stretch too far and force the hamstrings to contract, however. Repeat the stretch again for both legs, holding this time for 30 seconds. Stretches the lower back and the inner thighs Sit on the floor and spread your legs as far apart as is comfortable. Then, keep- ing the back straight, lean forward from the hips and hold for 10 seconds. Keep your toes pointed upward and try to keep your back flat. Return to the erect position, try to spread your legs slightly wider, and again bend forward as far as possible, grasping your legs for support. Hold for 30 seconds. Stretches the hamstn'ngs, the shoulders, and the back Position 6 Sit on the floor and spread your legs as far apart as possible, toes pointing up— ward. With your right hand, reach forward and grasp either your left shin or the outside of your left foot and hold for 10 seconds. Relax and repeat for your opposite side. Then, going back to your right arm, hold the stretch again for 30 seconds, re- membering to bend from the hips, before repeating for your left arm. Stretches your ankles and the tops of the thighs Position 7 Kneel on the floor and then sit back on your haunches with your feet pointing directly behind you underneath your hips, your hands on the floor next to your knees. Then, remove your hands from the floor and lean backward until you feel a stretching sensation in your thighs. Hold for 10 seconds, relax, and then repeat, try- ing to stretch slightly further back on the second, 30-second stretch. STRETCHING AND WARMING UP I39 Position 8 Position 9 I40 APPROACHING THE WEIGHTS Stretches the shoulders and the sides of the back Kneel on the floor again, lean forward, and extend one arm as far as possible in front of you. Bend the other arm and place it either on the floor in front of your head or use it to hold on to the elbow of the extended arm. You’ll look a bit like a Muslim at prayer. Lower your upper body until you feel the stretching sensation throughout the shoulders and sides of the back and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat for the opposite arm. Do a second stretch for each side, holding these for 30 seconds each. Stretches the forearms and wrists Kneel on the floor and place your hands so that your fingers point directly back toward your knees. Keep the arms straight as you slowly lean slightly backward until you feel the stretching sensation in the arms. Hold for 10 seconds, relax, and hold again for a 30-second stretch. Stretches the shoulders and the upper arms Stand erect and fold your arms over the top of your head, holding your elbows with your opposite hands. Keep looking straight ahead as you lean slightly to the left and pull downward on your right elbow with your left hand. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat for the other side. Relax for just a second and then repeat, holding the second series of stretches for 30 seconds each. Stretches the calves and ankles Place both hands against a wall or other stationary object, with your feet about 24 inches from the wall. Move your right leg in close to the wall and place your head against your hands or the wall while keeping the back straight. Your back foot should remain flat on the floor with the toes pointed forward. Shift your weight so that you feel a stretching sensation in the calf of the back leg and hold for 10 sec— onds. Repeat for the opposite leg. For your 30-second stretches, move further back from the wall, lean slightly farther forward, and repeat on both legs. Be careful that you don’t overstretch your calves ——if the stretching sensation does not subside after several seconds, move the back leg closer to the wall. But above all, keep your feet flat on the floor, with the toes pointed directly ahead. Position 10 Position 11 I41 142 A new method of stretching now being used by a few athletes is called Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation, 0r PNF. PNF involves going through similar stretching motions with the help of a partner who, when you reach your maximum stretch positions, resists you as you use near-maximal pressure to come out of the low positions. We caution you to be careful with this method, but if you have a willing training partner and you’d like to try PNF, proceed with care and work up to a near-maximal push or pull in the maximum stretch position only after several sessions of experimentation. A simplified version of the training theory behind PNF is that it not only allows you to gradually increase your flexibility but that it also helps you strengthen your muscles and tendons, in these extreme positions of stretch, more effec- tively than static stretching. Whichever method of stretching you decide to try, proceed with cau- tion and patience. And remember — we recommend stretching not only for its antiaging qualities but also because it facilitates injury-free training. Whether the 10 to 15 minutes you’ll spend going through these stretches will enable you to put your toes back in your mouth remains to be seen, but if you stretch regularly you’ll definitely find your posture improving, your aches and pains diminishing, and grace and ease returning to your daily life. APPROACHING THE WEIGHTS , ...
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