The Missing Link (part 2)
All movement is contraction based. Certain muscles have to tighten up every time you exert yourself. The more effort, the more contraction. Over time, if all your muscle/tendon complex does is contract, logic dictates they will get tighter and have a tendency to shorten. If you don’t have a way to dial out this added stress on the body, long term, your odds for difficulties heighten.
By introducing from the beginning the fundamentals for ROM (range of motion), you start the client off with the right mindset. After only one or two workouts, they will begin to embrace the concept ROM is essential to the whole rational of working out. Within a month, stretching will become a way of life, to be applied to commonplace activities as well. I get asked on a regular basis by those I train “Why doesn’t everyone stretch?” (see part 1).
Anything innovative needs to be analyzed thoroughly. Let’s look at the 11 positives originating from ROM:
- Reduces Stress / Feels Good
- Reduces/Eliminates Soreness
- Increases Blood Flow to Muscles
- Increases Neuromuscular Coordination
- May Decrease Joint Degenerative Progression
- Takes the Muscles out of Unnatural Tension
- Decreases Risk of Injury
- Improves Posture Awareness
- Helps Improve both Definition, Growth in Muscles and Overall Strength
- Decreases Lower Back Pain
- Enhances Enjoyment of Work and Play
While all eleven are important, you don’t want to overload the client with too much information. Let me focus on two of these benefits to help you be more comfortable promoting ROM to all your members. Again, a reminder: My primary methodology is lifting weights with ROM blended throughout. You will adapt from my columns what you recognize as being useful to your own distinct training regimen.
[Side bar: I learned early on most of the individuals we encounter don’t truly understand even the fundamentals about physical fitness, basic knowledge we trainers sometimes take for granted. Keep the information simple (KISS) and repeat it during the course of the training. From time to time I will give a pop quiz about various subjects we have talked about. Example: Name 2 of the 4 muscle groups emphasized when doing a pushup.]
Reduces Stress/Feels Good
My process is to first describe the function of the exercise and the muscles being engaged. We then start with lighter weights to let them get use to the movements. You are allowing that person to adapt to the proper techniques (breathing, posture, correct movement pattern) without being distracted by a challenging resistance. I emphasis the first several workouts will be focused on technique, not ‘pushing the envelope’.
Incorporated in each exercise (push up, seated row, squats, etc) are short stretches in between sets and an extended stretch upon completion. What ROM does is give the member a chance to settle in and be aware of the muscles being used. As early as the initial session, they will actually sense the unnatural tension being released from their body.
As pointed out in my ‘A Different Perspective’ column, untrained seniors, ones who have been away from exercising for, in some cases, decades need to slowly be reintroduced to working out. The basic problem is the muscle/tendon complex needs to be reeducated. The neurological pathways need to be reactivated. It can take several workouts to get their body to function as a coordinated unit. This is another educational point to be made to the patron and is particularly helpful when you get a baby boomer whose desire is to ‘go for the gold’ in his or her very first session, mistakenly thinking he or she can do what they did 10 or 20 years ago.
There is an ongoing debate on what causes soreness. No, I don’t have the answer as to its origin/s. What I would first like to bring into the discussion is what my definition of soreness is. ‘Soreness’ is when, the next day, your routine is distracted by how you feel. You specifically are uncomfortable. Did taking the stairs suddenly become a struggle?
What I can assure you is, when ROM is presented in the correct manner, that person, while being aware they worked out, is not distracted physically as they go through their day. Even when they move up the fitness ladder to higher and higher resistance targets, they know, by adding the stretching protocol, any undue discomfort that day or the next will be at the very least minimized, and in most cases, eliminated.
Boots on the Ground
I introduced range of motion (ROM) into my training the very first day I became certified. That’s when my learning curve truly began to mature. The customers’ feedback shaped my approach. One aspect came to the forefront right away, that being all the stretches had to be comfortable from the get go. Those baby boomers are, in virtually every case, stiff to begin with, so the stances you put them in should be relaxing from the very first, not stances taking time to master.
The golden rule for all stretches is to ‘always be comfortable’ (ABC). You are trying to dial out the tightness just introduced to a particular set of muscles. If you are attempting to force a flexibility move, you are not relaxing mentally, so how do you expect to relax physically? Another important key is to visualize the muscles relaxing. ‘Put your mind on the muscle’ is a mantra we hear for lifting, but it also applies to ROM. If you think you are relaxing, you will.
Also, remind your client to be aware of their breathing. Any yoga instructor worth their salt tells their class to relax into their breathing while holding a pose. The combination of mentally ‘seeing’ the muscle fibers letting go blended with centering on the inhale and exhale allows the individual to truly loosen up. They get into ‘the zone’. You will find they are surprised the workouts they signed up for are not all go, go, go! Giving them a time to reset their focus is golden.
This column was lengthier than anticipated, so additional details into the techniques of stretching will be introduced in future columns. For today, my primary goal is to pique your interest to introduce stretching into your training. I truly believe your business will find its way to that next level. To underscore this theme with my clients, at the conclusion of every one of my workouts, I remind them to “get something to eat, hydrate and, when you feel it, stretch it”.
Good Luck and Good Health!