Don’t you love it when life gives you one of those light bulb moments? Where you hear something and all of a sudden a void in your life has been filled. Dramatic I know, but I recently had such a moment at an instructor’s course for the TRX (a sling training device seen and purchased at www.slingfitness.com).
Over previous blogs you may have realised I have a tendency to rave on about whole body strength movements – which by the way are the antithesis to those weight machine exercises many people do in the gym. But hey, there I go raving again.
But, amongst all this wisdom and smugness about whole body strengthening exercises I was still conducting my flexibility in an ineffective way. You know: calf stretch on a pole; quad stretch by pulling your heel to your bum and of course hamstring by popping your heel up on a ledge.
This type of stretching is a little like using those machines at the gym: I’m not training my body for what it actually has to do.
This last point is an important one: ‘what it has to do’. Our bodies need to stretch and be stretchy (i.e. flexible) for two main reasons. Firstly, so we can move more freely and with greater ease and efficiency, and secondly to prevent the injuries that are caused by tight muscles.
Now if we stretch our muscles in the old-fashioned way, where we isolate muscles, then we’re not going to achieve either of these objectives. We need to stretch our bodies in ways that mimic and therefore assist the ways we use our bodies in life.
This brings me to another important point. I mentioned that the old way of stretching isolates muscles. The new way of stretching (to be honest the yogi’s have known this stuff for years so maybe only new to me!) targets a range of muscles. The muscles involved in any one of these types of stretches are all related to each other.
Our body is in fact not just a group of muscles working independently, but instead an integrated system of muscles working in concert in what in effect is a coordinated chain. Think of it as a system of slings draping themselves around your body.
It’s important to know this because when one muscle in the chain is tight it will directly influence the position and function of another. This is what makes the concept of integrated stretching so important.
Next week I’ll take you through the six slings in the body. These slings are the chains of muscles that work together.
Performing these integrated full body stretches will have you moving more effortlessly through space and the reduction in joint restriction will have you improving movements such as a golf swing, swim stroke and running stride.