Stretching without relief? Part 4: Muscle Dynamics.
If you have been following along with our mobility series the past few weeks, you are now familiar with how joint mechanics and the sliding relationships between our tissues impact our mobility. In our final installment of this series, today, we are discussing muscle dynamics.
Muscle dynamics are typically the last area of focus when we work with clients. If we restore joint positioning/mobility, improve slide and glide between tissues, we often see significant mobility improvements. After completing joint and soft tissue work, we follow up with muscle dynamics techniques to actively utilize the new and improved range of motion we have created. By activating the muscle in these new ranges, we help maintain the mobility we have gained for the long term.
This mobilization technique aims to approach end range, similar to a stretch, rather than be a static hold; we are activating and applying tension on the muscle to help facilitate the muscle's ability to activate in the end range position. In these positions, we aim to simulate real-life mobility restrictions related to each individual's goals. For example, limited in a front rack barbell position: facilitate muscle activation that simulates that position. Limited with hip flexion on your aggressive position road bike: facilitate muscle activation in deep hip flexion.
Muscle dynamics techniques aim to increase the range of motion in our muscles by strengthening AND lengthening. Do you have tight hamstrings? Have you stretched them without significant lasting relief? Rather than performing repeated end-range static hamstring stretches, try a muscle dynamics activation approach by performing a slow and controlled deadlift. Here we are lengthening under load, simulating a stretch but encouraging the muscle to contract under control simultaneously. These techniques help us get stronger in the new end range and lengthened position, making it more likely to maintain this length.
Why do we feel so tight all the time? When we fail to utilize our full range of motion, be it joint or muscle, our body adapts, and our tissues become functionally short. To combat this functionally short position, we need to utilize our full range of motion potential. Try a contract-relax-repeat technique to help you get out of your functionally short position: For example on the hamstrings: Lay on your back, grab a stretch strap or towel, and loop it around your foot; holding the ends of the strap, lift your foot towards the ceiling until you feel a hamstring stretch. Hold this position for 10 seconds. Then activate your hamstrings by trying to pull your foot back down to the ground, hold on tight to the trap to resist this motion, hold the hamstring contraction for 10 seconds. Relax your hamstrings and gently try to pull yourself deeper into the stretch. Repeat for 3-5 cycles. (See Instagram of Facebook for video) Congrats! You have just completed a contract-relax-repeat muscle dynamics technique. The same principle can be applied to most of the muscle groups in our body!
We hope you have enjoyed learning more about our movement systems and how they impact our mobility. We hope you have taken away some info to apply it to your current program to improve your mobility. If you have specific questions, send us an email or reach out on social media. We are here to help!
Nicole Todisco MacDonald
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