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The Real Importance of Flexibility Training


There is mixed info out there in research land about whether flexibility training affects injury rate, in fact, it seems as though it might not be too important for many sports activities when it comes to reducing injuries on the field. We do not live only on the field however. It is my opinion that flexibility training should be performed as a matter of course in order that you can decrease the wear and tear on your body in general. Let me explain…

If you have very “loose” hips and good flexibility in the posterior muscles of the legs, when you bend over to tie your shoes, you will bend at the hips and not stress out the back. If you have tight muscles you will likely distribute an inordinate amount of the motion through the back. Do that too many times and you have unnecessary wear and tear on your discs….. Do it one time too many and pop! NOT GOOD. Everyone has seen someone bend over to tie their shoe when they are at an advanced age and grunt or moan a little to get there. The difference between them and a much younger person is that they haven’t pushed their body past that small range of motion for a long time so now they have lost it and they are at their limit just tying their shoes. While it is normal to become slightly more inflexible as you age. Your body is a very conservative organism and if you don’t use it, you will loose it. Ranges of motion that are not used will be dispensed with as unnecessary by the body. In a natural environment this would not happen as you would be climbing hills and potentially trees, crouching etc… but if you sit at a desk and don’t do anything else this tightening up will definitely happen.

Be kind to yourself. Stretch slowly and over time. This is not a race… more of a slow plod….sometimes so slow that you won’t even really see results… it can be like a snail moving along…maddening! But even a snail can get there given time ( I am talking to you-everyone who is reading this and saying to themselves “but I’m so inflexible”.. and you know who you are)

So… how do I stretch?

All of my professional training in combination with almost 2 decades of martial arts training (and a bit of teaching) have led me to the following guidelines.

1. Flexibility training should not be painful or unpleasant in any way.

2. you can make the subject a complex as you want but basically, if you stretch a muscle just a little past the comfort level and keep it there in a relaxed state, your body will allow the muscle to have a new end range of stretch. IE.. light stretch for 30-60 seconds hold, relaxed, a few times in a row, does the job over time.

3. While it should not be painful, it should not be completely “un-painful”. if you are totally relaxed you wont get anywhere at all. And DO NOT BOUNCE, just hold the stretch with the muscle relaxed.

4. You won’t stretch if you do it only because I tell you to. Link it to an activity… If you swim, lift weights, pick daises…whatever…just stretch after for about 15-20 minutes. A year later you wont believe how much better you have become with regards to flexibility.

5. You MUST be about 20-30 percent “looser” than you need to be for any given activity. I.E. If you need to bend over… that should not be at you limit…. you should be able to go about 20 percent past that easily at a minimum to avoid the mechanical strain that is waiting to get you on the 10,000th repetition.

I have personally worked with people 70 plus who over a few years came darn close to splits. You can do this. JUST DON’T QUIT!

Anyone out there who is a student of flexibility training is at this moment screaming that “this is far too simplistic” or “there is a much more effective way to stretch properly (insert technique name here). Well, they are right…. I would encourage anyone who is inflexible and wants to take this seriously to consult a physician with a good deal of background in this such as myself or a good personal trainer or physical therapist. A professional should be consulted before beginning any training regimen for that matter.

The real point of this article is that it is important to get you to start somewhere. There are both more complex and more simplistic ways to go about it but, like the snail, you just have to start somewhere. It is likely that you will be healthier and avoid injury issues from wear and tear that you will hopefully never even know were there as you age once you are more flexible.

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A bit about me… I am a Graduate of Palmer Chiropractic College (Iowa 1995) and am now in practice in Lincoln Park, Chicago. I have trained in various topics- neurology, sports injury, gait analysis, rehabilitation, treatment of extremities, standards of practice, whiplash injuries and various other topics since I have been in practice. I have worked closely with university health clinics and hospital rehabilitation departments, have lectured to state regulatory agencies as an expert in standards of practice and have been a teaching participant in the orthopedics rotation of NMC hospital. I specialize in traditional treatment methodologies and I firmly believe that  a combination of rehabilitation and a proper short care plan of chiropractic treatment is the best approach for almost any musculo-skeletal condition.   Visit www.drpetermcmanus.com or facebook.com/PeterWilliamMcManusDc for more information or to subscribe to my free monthly newsletter and to stay plugged in with its healthy tips and current relevant research links.

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