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    Active Stretching for the athlete and non-athlete

 

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We want you to consider that the traditional stretching exercises you have been doing may not be effective. Indeed, they may be counterproductive and contributors to injury.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Sir Charles Sherrington, demonstrated reciprocal innervation in the laboratory. He also proved that muscle spindles are sensory nerve endings which incite the stretch reflex. In Active Stretching procedures we utilize reciprocal innervation, but we don’t want to cause a stretch reflex. That is why we don’t use force. The slightest force stimulates muscle spindles which reflexly contract the very muscle or muscles you want to lengthen.

 

The Tennis Serve photo series

However, we now will explain, in addition to reciprocal innervation, the usefulness of these same muscle spindles in sports motions. When throwing a baseball (or a similar motion such as the tennis serve, and volleyball spike), the windup is an important part of the acceleration phase. If mobility is restricted as the result of muscle tightness, soreness, or injury, performance is affected. That’s because there will be less range of motion in the shoulder and less time to accumulate power. Therefore, a full windup is preferable.

 

The Baseball Windup series

A windup provides the opportunity to create pre-contraction tension in muscles. A muscle under tension will contract with more force than when it is contracted from a resting position. Visualize the baseball pitcher. Slow motion replays on TV are excellent. When he brings the arm back, he stimulates the muscle spindles in muscles in the front of his chest and builds up tension in them. To propel the ball, he brings the arm forward and enters the follow through phase, which must be unrestricted to dissipate the forces thoroughly. That is, these muscles in the back of the shoulder must be flexible and still have the benefit of muscle spindle function to provide restraining action. If he had no means to decelerate these forces, you can envision his arm following the ball toward home plate. Don’t forget that other muscles of his entire body are functioning similarly.

One more example: Soccer, because the demands of this sport have made Active Stretching readily accepted and with excellent success. (See TESTIMONIALS) It is easier to analyze the rest of the body’s role when kicking a ball. When standing still, pre-contraction tension of the muscles in the front of the kicker’s hip, at best, is rather limited, and little power is transmitted by his foot to the ball. If he takes a step as he approaches the ball and kicks it, the power will be greater because of the pre-contraction tension built up in hip flexion and knee extension. Of course, if he is running toward the ball and kicks it, the additional momentum of his entire body will impart even greater force. Why mention all of this? The player obviously is using more muscles than he has time to think about, but they all need proper attention. That’s why Active Stretching addresses practically every muscle in the body to be in a state of readiness when called on.

Read a selection from our list of "14 Tips for Safe & Effective Stretching".

NOTE: The literature brings up contradictions which we feel Active Stretching avoids. We hold views on running, swimming, and even ballet, which we will share in a future book on BASIC PHYSICAL CONDITIONING . We are tempted to subtitle it as The No Crap Exercise Handbook. It covers the seven components of fitness. In the meantime, feel free to CONTACT US with regard to your questions about Active Stretching.