WHY A STRETCHING PROGRAM WILL MAKE YOU A BETTER CYCLIST
Muscles are meant to move. The advancements of modern society have made your life more efficient and more stressful. While modern man can communicate and travel great distances, the methods require very little movement on the part of each traveler. Repetitive immobility, replicated on a daily basis, leads to chronic, postural overload and adaptive shortening of the muscles and fascia (connective tissue). This shortening of the myofascia exhibits itself as stiff joints, decreased flexibility, loss of fluidity, and poor posture.
When you continually stress and tighten a muscle group, the fascia and muscles will adhere together, restricting their range of motion and creating postural imbalances. You might think of yourself as balanced, but often times it is because you are so contracted, all you have created is chronic rigidity and nothing in your body moves without tightness or stiffness. The goal of any athlete, then, is to look for ways to correct musculoskeletal restrictions and to embrace those strategies which will help the body regain balance and reduce this chronic rigidity.
Anyone who is intent upon the restoration of their own health should observe their standing and walking posture. You must look for instability and restricted movement. In the book, Posture and Pain, by Kendall, the author notes that “normal joint range for adults should provide an effective balance between motion and stability. A joint which is either too limited in range or not sufficiently limited is vulnerable to strain.”
One major strategy that is often overlooked is a daily stretching program. Research has found that people who stretch daily have a lower risk of injury when engaged in athletic activity than those who only stretch prior to the activity. Stretching should become a habit, done regularly, just like brushing your teeth. Without stretching, you continue to promote a pattern of restricted movement and muscle fatigue. One physiology textbook points out that muscle fatigue comes from a prolonged and strong contraction of a muscle. It is the interruption of blood flow, due to contracting muscle tissue, which leads to muscle fatigue, resulting in the loss of the nutrient supply and the lack of oxygen.
A stretching program does not require a lot of time, nor should it be done only at the outset of pain or stiffness. Any program can be successful if it is done consistently and with purpose. Most muscles need 20 to 30 seconds to begin releasing tension, but up to 1 minute is recommended. You should have a set of basic stretches for your spine which include all directions of movement; flexion and extension, rotation, and lateral flexion. These back stretches should be done daily. Some people use the stretches to help wake up in the morning while others prefer to stretch at night. Anytime is acceptable as long you do the stretches slowly and gently, although warmed up muscles are going to stretch more easily.
- Do these 3 Basic Back Stretches every day (4 minutes):
a) Sidebends – standing or sitting, bend to the side with your arm over your head. Hold for 30 seconds each side.
b) Rotations – lying on the floor, bend your knees and drop your legs to the left, resting them on the floor. You should feel a stretch along the right side of your back. Hold 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
c) Cat/Cow – on your hands and knees, arch your back up (like an angry cat) while tucking your chin to your chest, then drop your back (sag like an old cow) and bring your head up. This is done in an easy, fluid motion, breathing the whole time. Do this 6 to 8 times.
2. Do the Lunge Stretch often throughout the day, whenever you have been sitting a lot. This will help prevent tight hip flexors, which can contribute to poor posture. Stand up, place the right leg behind you as far as you can, placing your weight on the toes (not the heel). Bend the left knee, keeping your body erect. You should feel a stretch in the groin area at the top of your thigh. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat with the left leg.
3. Try and avoid any forward bending when you first wake up in the morning and after long periods of sitting. Warm up your back first before bending forward.
4. Additionally, cyclists should stretch these muscle groups on a regular basis
Stand on your left leg, bend your right knee and grasp your ankle, gently pulling your leg back
until you feel a stretch along the front of your thigh. Hold for 20 – 30 seconds, then repeat with your left leg.
Standing next to a chair, desk, or table, place the heel of your right foot on the surface and stand up straight.
Slowly lean forward, reaching for your toes. You should feel the stretch along the back of your thigh.
Breathe. Hold the stretch for 20 – 30 seconds, then repeat with the left leg.
Sit up straight in your chair, crossing the right ankle on to the left knee. Slowly lean forward, keeping your back as straight as possible. You should feel a stretch in the right hip/buttock/thigh. Hold for 20 – 30 seconds, then repeat with the left leg.
Desk shoulder stretch
Standing with your feet wider than your hips, bend forward at the waist and place your hands on a desk or table. Straighten your arms and let your back gently relax. You will feel a stretch in your upper arms, shoulders, and along your back – wherever there is tightness. Breathe. Hold for 20 – 30 seconds.
Traffic Cop stretch This is a very effective stretch from the neck down to the wrist. First raise your arm out in front of you with your wrist bent upward (like telling someone to “stop”). Keeping your arm raised, move it out to the side, then turn your head in the opposite direction. You will feel stretching anywhere from your neck to your shoulder, arm, and wrist. Hold for 20 – 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR GOLF GAME
There are those who have characterized posture as “the constant struggle to remain erect against the force of gravity.” Aristotle saw Homo Sapiens as a “mass of matter”. Ida Rolf saw us as an “energy field”. In both viewpoints, the greater and more overpowering force is that of gravity. It is our constant goal, however momentary, to push away from this incessant force and fly, unencumbered from the earth’s force field. To run. To glide. To fly.
As a golfer, you want to utilize your power and flexibility to unleash a force that will propel your golf ball to great distances and with consistent accuracy. You must have a physical “vehicle” that is both resilient – able to withstand repetitive motion, and reliable – able to harness your strength and coordination with every swing.
Your posture has a lot to do with how easily you move and play your game. There are three factors for maintaining balanced posture which you should be aware of: 1) skeletal structure, 2) soft tissue integrity, and 3) neurological control. Studies show that when these three factors are in harmony with each other, there occurs what is known as “intrinsic equilibrium” or “tensional integrity”. Your skeletal system contributes to your size and shape. Problems can develop when there is asymmetry of shape or changes in joint function, reducing mobility and creating motion fixations (stiffness and decreased range of motion).
Soft tissue integrity is what holds you together and allows you to move. If there is a shortening or weakening of the connective tissues (muscles, fascia, tendons and ligaments), then your posture is altered and function is impaired. With neurological control, you have a complex alliance of several neurological factors, including reflexes, pain, learned behaviors and acquired habits. Add to this a history of injuries, occupational stresses and psychological makeup, and it is any wonder you can swing a club and hit the ball consistently.
Another postural factor you must be aware of is the influence of your spinal curves. Your spine is the engine that powers your swing. The four normal curves of your spine create a biomechanical advantage for shock absorption. Studies have shown that “optimal balance of these physiologic curves creates effortless, non-fatiguing posture that is painless to the individual.” Walking, standing, jumping, twisting; anything we do in an upright position will be more efficient and allow for greater endurance in all endeavors.
Finally, as a golfer, you must consider the forces you create in your spine and joints with each swing. The wear and tear on your joints is only magnified when there is imbalance or restriction. Strategies abound on how to prevent injuries and improve performance, but certain principles remain constant: maintain a properly aligned spine, stay flexible with daily stretching of all muscle groups, make sure you are adequately hydrated and eat appropriately. Watch your posture, particularly during the mundane actions like sitting, lifting, and bending. The influences that affect your golf game do not end at the 18th hole. They are with you 24 hours a day. Your performance will benefit, however, if you consider your posture and your habits away from the golf course as an integral part of your training program.
Sign up for your 14 Point Golf Assessment today and learn where your weak points are and how you can fix them.
Benjamin W. Griffes, M.A., D.C.
Tarzana: 818.708.0740 Thousand Oaks: 805.371.6144
HOW STRETCHING WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE
Repetitive immobility, replicated on a daily basis, leads to chronic, postural overload and adaptive shortening of the muscles and fascia. This shortening of the myofascia exhibits itself as stiff joints, decreased flexibility, loss of fluidity, muscle pain and poor posture. Fascia, according to Cailliet, “envelops individual muscle groups that separate each group from adjacent muscle groups. There is a fluid between the fibers of this fascia that acts as a lubricant to permit freedom of movement of each adjacent muscle group.” (2)
Muscles are meant to move. The advancements of modern society have made your life more efficient and more stressful. While modern man can communicate and travel great distances, the methods require very little movement on the part of each traveler. D. Zacharow wrote, “compared to primitive man living an outdoor life, civilized man has become a standing-around and a sitting-around animal rather than a running-around one.”(1)
Today, when someone says they’ve been running around, it usually entails driving in a car, standing in an elevator, standing in lines and sitting in waiting rooms – basically being busy without being active. None of these activities actually challenge the muscles to move through their full range of motion.
When you continually stress and tighten a muscle group, the fascia and muscles will adhere together, restricting their range of motion and creating postural imbalances. “What most of us think of as balance is this sort of a state of contraction, of holding things together so they will not fall apart. Over time, this sort of posture becomes habitual, and it results in chronic rigidity,” explains Joseph Heller in his book, Bodywise (3). The goal of any athlete, when looking to correct musculoskeletal restrictions, is to embrace those strategies which will help the body regain balance and reduce this chronic rigidity.
When a body is out of alignment, there exists an unequal pull of gravity upon all the body parts. Ida Rolf recognized this years ago and addressed the relationship between gravity and posture. She noted that “man is an upright animal, and if that upright body is out of line, then the rules of the game say that the gravity is pulling unequally.” (4) If you, as a student of your body, wish to realign the spine and balance the muscles, for the better, then you must recognize the relationship between the body and gravity. As Ida states, “you must find that pattern in which your body can be aligned so that gravity can pull symmetrically.” (5)
Anyone who is intent upon the restoration of their own health should observe their standing and walking posture. You must look for instability and restricted movement. In Posture and Pain, Kendall notes that “normal joint range for adults should provide an effective balance between motion and stability. A joint which is either too limited in range or not sufficiently limited is vulnerable to strain.” (6) Testing and observing your full range of motion, from your head to your feet, will reveal the results of habits and patterns which may have begun in infancy. How will you attempt to correct those postural imbalances? And once there is improvement, what do you plan to do to maintain that balance?
One major strategy that is often overlooked is a stretching program. Most people have sedentary lifestyles, and lack of movement is their primary activity of the day. Their favorite excuse is that they don’t have time to stretch or exercise. Stretching should become a habit, done regularly, just like brushing your teeth. Without stretching, you continue to promote a pattern of restricted movement and muscle fatigue. Guyton points out that muscle fatigue comes from a prolonged and strong contraction of a muscle. It is the interruption of blood flow, due to contracting muscle tissue, which leads to muscle fatigue, due to the loss of the nutrient supply and the lack of oxygen. (7)
You must recognize that inactivity is going to create postural imbalances, with muscles that are both tight from contraction and weak from being over stressed. One local irritating factor or metabolic abnormality of muscle is that pain and other sensory impulses can be transmitted to the spinal cord which leads to a reflex muscle contraction. (8) This means that influences such as overworked muscles, lack of blood flow or severe cold will promote continued muscle contraction. Interspersed within the muscle fibers are stretch reflexes which serve as sensory feedback for muscle fiber length. (9) One set of reflexes, when sensing muscle stretching, will work in opposition to keep the muscle from overstretching. A different set of reflexes, sensing muscle contraction, will work to oppose the continual contraction.
Stretching regularly helps to overcome the body’s natural tendency to move towards imbalance. “Balance is not a static condition,” states Heller, “but is a process of constant flux, a fluid expression of wholeness and ease.” (10) You must know that frequent movement is necessary for good spinal and muscular health. Vertebrae, when properly aligned, have a natural fluidity. This fluidity is lost, however, when the soft tissues are in constant holding patterns, influenced by tension, stress and pain.
A stretching program does not require a lot of time, nor should it be done only at the outset of pain or stiffness. Any program can be successful if it is done consistently and with purpose. Most muscles need 20 to 30 seconds to begin releasing tension, but up to 1 minute is recommended. You should have a set of basic stretches for your back which include the four directions of movement; flexion and extension, rotation, and lateral flexion. These back stretches should be done daily. Some people use the stretches to help wake up in the morning while others prefer to stretch at night. Anytime is acceptable as long you do the stretches slowly and gently, although warmed up muscles are going to stretch more easily.
Some stretching may be accompanied with mild discomfort. This is normal. If sharp or moderate pain occurs while attempting to stretch a muscle, you should stop and see if you are stretching correctly. If you resume the stretch and the pain persists, stop and consult your health care provider.
Please remember, this is not a chore that you have to do, but rather a mini-vacation for your muscles to relax and release any built-up tension or restriction. People of all ages and in all occupations have benefited from having a regular stretching program.
- Zarcharkow, D. Posture: Sitting, Standing, Chair Design & Exercise. Springfield, IL; Charles Thomas, 1988
- Cailliet, Rene M.D. Soft tissue Pain and Disability. F.A. Davis Company, Philadelphia, 1984. p. 9
- Heller, Joseph & Henkin, William Bodywise. Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc., Los Angeles, 1986. p. 42
- Ida Rolf Talks: About Rolfing and Physical Reality, Harper & Row, New York, 1976. p.87
- Ibid. p.87
- Kendall, Kendall & Boynton Posture and Pain. Krieger Publishing Company, Malabar, FL, 1985. p.167
- Guyton, Arthur M.D. Medical Physiology. W.B. Saunders Company, New York, 1986. p.133
- Ibid. p. 617
- Schafer, R.C., D.C., FICC Clinical Biomechanics, 2nd Edition. Williams & Wilkins, Baltimore, 1987. p.155
- Heller and Henkin, Bodywise. Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc., Los Angeles, 1986. p.43
Tarzana – 818.708.0740 Thousand Oaks – 805.358.8572
YOUR BIOMECHANIC ON THE ROAD TO GOOD HEALTH
Repetitive Stress Disorders:
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, backache, neck ache, elbow pain.
Repetitive stress disorders (RSDs) are conditions caused by the continuous and repetitive use of muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints and nerves. They can occur in nearly every area of the body, but the most common areas are the wrist (Carpal Tunnel Syndrome), neck and low back. The symptoms of tightness, stiffness, numbness, pain or discomfort, tingling or loss of strength and stability are due to an inflammatory breakdown of that particular body part. RSDs will develop over long periods of time and are chronic in nature. This is why it is necessary to get up and move often throughout the day and to incorporate a regular stretching program which will relax and release accumulated stress and tension.
Common causes can occur from over-activity involving constant repetitiveness, lifting heavy loads or improper body mechanics. How you sit, stand, grip, lift, carry, type, sew, repair, pull, push, assemble, or play a sport has an inherent risk of injury, particularly if there are faulty body mechanics and or the absence of adequate rest. This can result in postural overload or chronic muscular fatigue.
Because stretching affects the muscles, joints, and tendons, the first line of defense against RSDs is to stretch daily to prevent, or at least reduce the risk of creating a RSD somewhere in your body. This stretching should be coupled with adequate rest in order for the body to repair itself and recover from the repetitive activity.
Another line of defense against RSDs is good posture. This comes from an awareness of your body position, how long you stay immobile, and how much excess stress influences your activity. Simple adjustments to your chair or desk height, or repositioning your equipment to a more accessible position, can help in eliminating muscular problems.
While some occupations and certain body types have a greater risk of creating a RSD, all RSDs are preventable at some point in time. If you begin performing a new activity incorrectly, the chance of preventing a problem in the future is diminished. If you work or play so hard and for so long that you never allow yourself time to rest and recover, then the odds of you creating a RSD increase dramatically. Working and playing to the best of your ability requires obeying basic biomechanical principles in order not to injure yourself unnecessarily. Remember, you were not born with back pain or Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, and many people never get a RSD in their life, so why should you?
Tarzana – 818.708.0740 Thousand Oaks – 805.358.8572
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Want to Get Rid of Your Headaches?. Headaches are a symptom of referred pain reaching the surface of the head from deeper structures in the body. Learn more about it here.
Why You Should Stretch. Muscles are meant to move. The advancements of modern society have made your life more efficient, yet more stressful.
How to Work and Play Without Aches or Pains. Cumulative trauma disorders (CRDs) are conditions caused by the continuous and repetitive use of muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints and nerves.
How to Have a More Powerful Golf Swing. As a golfer, you want to utilize your power and flexibility to unleash a force that will propel your golf ball to great distances and with consistent accuracy.
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