Friday, April 08, 2011

You Don't Need to Stretch, You Just Need to Relax

There is a key concept which most people who "teach" and talk about exercise, need to be familiar with, which is poorly understood, if any attempt at understanding is made at all.

And that is the lesson made by the muscle that always has to function unfailingly and automatically correctly, which of course, is the action of the heart, that alternates a full contraction with a full relaxation (and nothing else is possible), and thus produces the life-sustaining pumping effect. Skeletal (voluntary) muscles that mimic that action, also produce a pumping effect -- that then aids the heart in optimizing the circulation to those areas open and closed in such a manner.

But if one maintains a constant and prolonged state of contraction OR relaxation. that will minimize the flow, resulting in an "anaerobic" condition, because blood is the carrier of the oxygen -- but if one prevents the flow, or doesn't maximize it during exercise (exertion), those areas become anaerobic (without oxygen), which means the muscle must fail, because the nerves effecting it, require oxygen to function -- just as the brain does, and the activity must cease because critical levels of maintenance are breached.

That was the whole rationale for advocating that exercise be "aerobic" (with oxygen) -- so that it could be maintained, because the optimization of the circulatory efficiency, increases one's performance and momentary abilities to continue and improve -- rather than cause them to deteriorate and fail prematurely, just when one might need them the most -- which of course, would not have much survival value, or fitness.

So the critical understanding is, how does one produce this alternation of fullest contraction with fullest relaxation -- of any, and especially all the muscles acting in a coordinated and integrated effort to produce maximum power (focus) in a single action (movement) -- whether that be throwing a shot put, rowing a boat, or simply, "making a muscle" (getting into a desirable shape).

The objective in all those activities, is to achieve the greatest economy and efficiency of movement possible, which is in observation of the great principle of the conservation of energy, while maximizing it when recognizing the right moment to do so -- and not just leaking energy indiscriminately at every opportunity to do so -- at arbitrary and random moments, which are more likely to be a degenerative, rather than desired condition and abilities.

This kind of mastery of one's movements, gives one a greater control and sense of control in one's life -- so that there is not an increasing sense of despair in their abilities to do anything, or make a difference, that eventually becomes a dominant theme in one's life -- that one excuses as "getting old" -- even just getting out of high school. Then of course, everything is downhill from there.

But it's even simpler than that, because all one has to do is understand what produces a maximum, and full contraction in a muscle, or/and every muscle, and what is not that, is the relaxation. So one is either moving towards a fuller contraction, or by default, one isn't.

This is a critical understanding -- as when I first introduced the idea that in cardiopulmonary resuscitation -- pumping air out of the chest cavity is all one needed to do to effect breathing, because then, the atmospheric pressure will automatically (re)fill the lungs -- as I would demonstrate on my self-inflating Thermarest air mattress. That's why the previous version of resuscitation efforts were effective also -- until replaced by the CPR and mouth-to-mouth breathing as two distinct efforts rather than the one of pressing down and lifting up the arms to expand the chest volume -- alternately.

Because once the initial rush of air has already refilled the emptied (compressed) lungs, there is little advantage to blowing more air in -- which is what one is doing, as soon as the pressure is released from the chest. The important part of breathing is not breathing in, as it is usually taught, but breathing out as fully and completely as possible (through the nose designed for it), and in the relaxation from that effort, air automatically enters the lungs -- that have been evacuated of the "old" air. But no amount of inhalations, will cause the old air, to leave the body -- first, as the precondition for filling the lungs with new, "fresh" air.

That is economy and efficiency of movement -- through a better understanding of the process. Lacking that understanding, the effort is misplaced -- to doing what doesn't need to be done, while ignoring what would make a significant difference.

Stretching a muscle, makes the lengthening of the muscle the effort -- rather than its contraction, and the cessation of that effort (movement), is the relaxation, but not vice-versa. Most exercise instructors and kinesiologists are unfamiliar with what produces a full muscle contraction -- thinking that it is the resistance (load) that makes it so, rather than that
it is the movement itself into its greatest contraction, that produces the most resistance against further contraction.

Bodybuilders usually get half of it right. Their unique problem is that they do not allow their muscles to relax alternately but maintain a constant tension (contraction) that impedes the flow (back to the heart), and thus engorges a muscle until it ultimately must fail because of this anaerobic condition.

But usually before they achieve that condition, the constant neck constriction accompanying their efforts, will reduce the (blood)flow to the brain, causing the cessation of all effort -- until at least normal operating conditions are restored (rest and recovery).

This is the reason that a new fad of "accentuating the negative" (relaxation) phase doubly hard as the contraction -- makes no sense at all, as a productive and healthful training strategy -- designed as it is, to ensure and speed muscle and system failure -- by eliminating any opportunity for relaxation.


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