Wright – Quality Versus Quantity of Exercise
April 8, 2010
(Final in a three-part series)
In the past two weeks we highlighted a number of guidelines emphasizing quality muscular strength/endurance and cardiovascular endurance exercise versus quantity. This week the focus will be on pursuing quality flexibility exercise versus quantity. As always, consult your physician prior to beginning any exercise program.
Quality of Exercise Guidelines – Flexibility Exercise
• More isn’t necessarily better. Flexibility is defined as the range of motion about a joint and is joint specific. Flexibility is genetically pre-determined; however, we may certainly improve our flexibility with time and by performing quality stretches. To emphasize quality stretches, prior to stretching, make certain that you have performed a dynamic warm-up to prepare the muscles for stretching and lengthening. While there are a variety of excellent stretching techniques, probably the safest and most effective stretches, without the direct guidance of a fitness professional, would be static stretches. A static stretch is simply a held stretch, just to the point of tension, never pain, for approximately 15-30 seconds. Performance of consistent quality stretches may lead to improved range of motion about each joint. Therefore, you might consider stretching at the end of your workouts as well as on rest days from workouts as long as the quality of the stretches is not compromised.
• Perform the stretches correctly. Always strive for safe-effective stretching form and technique considering your limitations. The line of pull, body/joint position and the origin and insertion of the muscle across the joint(s), are all critical factors when emphasizing quality stretches promoting flexibility. For example, to safely/effective stretch the hamstrings you need to flex at the hip joint and extend the knee joint. This can be accomplished in various positions (i.e. seated, supine, standing, etc.). However, a supine hamstrings stretch enables the individual to stretch the hamstrings without potentially compromising the lower back or posterior knee joint. When lying supine (i.e. face up) on the floor with the non-stretching leg flexed at the knee joint and the sole of the foot on the floor; most of my clientele are able to extend the stretching leg to approximately 80-90 degrees of hip flexion (i.e. the leg is close to perpendicular to the floor) holding that leg lightly behind the thigh while driving the heel into the ceiling, to a point of tension. If they have to lift their hips to keep the stretching leg straight, with the knee extended but relaxed, there are great modifications to ensure quality such as placing more of a bend in that knee joint, using yoga straps passively stretching, pads under the head to ensure a neutral cervical spine or a mini ball under the low back, to maintain a neutral lower spine.
• Vary your stretches. Performing a variety of stretches also helps to ensure quality. The body may adapt to reasonable forms of exercise when performed consistently. Therefore, just as you would with your muscular strength/endurance and cardiovascular endurance exercise, you should vary your flexibility training program stretching all major muscle groups of the body.
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Next week, we will explore the art and science of exercise modifications.
Jackie Wright is the owner/manager of Never Summer Fitness, LLC located in Grand Lake, Colorado. She can be reached on her website at http://www.neversummerfitness.com, her email at NSFGL@comcast.net and her blog at http://www.skyhidailynews.com