Sunday, October 13, 2013

Power Without Flexibility Promises Injury


      Just finished another Sunday of watching my beloved American Football. Now I watch to see how many of the players injured today will be coming back to play another day this season. One particular game I was particularly interested in claimed several starting players from my team with leg injuries...AGAIN. Hamstrings, calves and knees; oh my! I have worked on football players many times. The muscles they have built up are of super-human proportions. The trouble with the vast majority, however, is they have virtually NO flexibility. When asked about what kind of stretching regime they are on, I get everything from: "We stretch before and after drills," to a sheepish smile, followed by: "I've never been very flexible." (As in: I don't.)
      The muscles in our bodies are held together in bundles of muscle fibers, blood vessels, nerves, fat and a connective tissue called fascia. To understand what I mean, cut a well-marbled piece of meat down the center into halves. Look at the swirled patterns and layers. The clear to white substance separating the layers is fascia. Not only is fascia the "glue" that holds our muscles together, it is also the stuff that connects our muscles to the bones. Muscles contract and extend to move our skeletal frame in a variety of ways, but it is the fascia that serves as the pulley system to get the work done. Unlike muscle fibers, however, fascia contracts and extends at a much slower rate. It makes sense because if there was not a certain amount of tension holding the whole system together we would wobble around like over-cooked chickens.
      Now, what happens when you work-out and strength-train? You build up muscle mass of the existing muscle fibers, but that's not how fascia works. The way fascia is conditioned to handle the extra load is to work it within its own parameters. If you don't train the fascia to accommodate the new load the increased muscle mass is capable of, you are asking for trouble, i.e.injury. Getting the connective tissue conditioned involves slow, really slow, SUPER slow stretching and massage. Remember, fascia contracts and extends at a much slower rate than muscle fibers. When you train your fascia properly, it will be better able to take on loads asked of it. Fascia is largely elastin and collagen. It behaves much like taffy, needing to be worked to be pliable. This is how to avoid injury. Power AND Flexibility = Durability.

    I welcome all comments and thoughts regarding this matter.

    Have a happy and healthy Monday! :)

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