When you work out or engage in sports you stretch your muscles and ligaments beyond normal daily limits. Extreme muscle stretching may damage the muscle or ligament. There are several good stretches to limber your muscles prior to working out. Controlled warm up and muscle stretching adds flexibility needed for the extended movements during sports. The flexibility you get from stretching will improve your climbing performance.
Advantages of Muscle Stretching:
- Before Sports: Muscle stretching improves circulation and blood flow--gives muscles the added flexibility to move freely
- During Sports: Muscle stretching improves coordination, balance, accuracy and makes your muscles less prone to injury
- After Sports: Muscle stretching improves recovery time
- Training. Stretching helps improve muscle imbalances. A muscle imbalance is caused when some muscles are more warmed up and ready for exertion than others. Daily activities do not require the same extension and range of movements your muscles get during sports. If your muscles are not stretched equally, they are said to be imbalanced. Muscle imbalance makes you less coordinated and can contribute to injury such as pulled or strained muscles.
Types of Muscle Stretching.
Two types of muscle stretching help prepare an athlete for best performance. The stretching that provides best results is "Static" and "Dynamic" muscle stretching.
Static Muscle Stretching. This type of stretching is the way to increase flexibility. Hold the stretch with low force for a long time…this is static muscle stretching. It's important not to use too much pressure. Remain alert to your body's automatic stretch reflex. Keep the degree of stretch and force under the level of the stretch reflex point. Hold the low force against the pull of your muscle for a number of seconds. Count the seconds silently to your self. Repeat the stretch in sets for the same length of time and force. You can create passive muscle stretching by holding it with yoru other arm or leg, or have a partner apply pressure.
Dynamic Muscle Stretching. This type of stretching is done by gradually increasing the stretch distance and speed of movement with each successive repetition in a particular direction. Control the movement so the limit of the muscle gradually increases. Do not use quick movements for dynamic muscle stretching. Slow controlled side to side movement of legs or arms or torso is dynamic stretching. Perform dynamic stretching in sets of 5 to 10 repetitions. Continue to increase the range of motion until you reach the maximum without over stretching. Listen to your body.
Prepare for Muscle Stretching Routines.
Warm up. Before you start muscle stretching routines you need to warm up. Go to the warm up wall for some low intensity bouldering patterns. Do low intensity bouldering for about five minutes using big holds and big foot holds. Alternately you could jog, do jumping jacks, a few sit-ups and pushups. Prepare muscles for stretching by increasing blood flow. Your warm up should be just to the point when you just break a sweat. The goal of the warm up is to increase your heart rate for about five minutes. At this point you are ready for stretching your muscles.
Stretch Reflex. If you skip the warm up or try to stretch too aggressively, a nerve reflex called the "stretch reflex" takes place. Stretch reflex is an automatic response caused when nerve fibers are stretched. Stretch reflex causes your muscle to contract against the direction of muscle stretch. This could lead to mild pulled muscle or pain which reduces athletic performance. By being aware of the stretch reflex you can prevent it. Breathe deliberately during muscle stretching...it helps you relax and control the stretch. Stay relaxed while you stretch, work up to flexibility gradually and stay in control of your muscles to help prevent the automatic stretch reflex.
Muscle Stretching Routines.
Slow Torso Twists. Place hands on hips and twist left then right in sets. Use the dynamic stretching technique to stretch the torso muscles. Be careful not to twist suddenly and do not use swinging momentum to increase the range of twist on the muscle or you risk overstretching. Flexibility in the torso muscles will improve important movements used in climbing.
Backbend. Put your palms of your hands flat on the floor and arch your back both directions. This stretches and ads flexibility for muscles in the lower back.
Modified Hurdler's Stretch. Extend one leg behind you and the other in front. Lean forward and backward to gently stretch the quadriceps. This stretch limbers muscles needed to perform leg climbing moves such as extending to reach a foot hold or heel hook, or lifting your leg high for a foot hold.
Thigh Stretch. Stretch your adductor inner thigh and abductor outer thigh muscles. Stretch the front and back of the thigh quadriceps muscles and back of the hamstring muscles. This will give you full range of motion for climbing moves such as drop-knee and getting close to the wall with legs spread.
Toe Touches. Keep your knees straight and your back bent. Place your feet about a meter apart. Touch your right toes with both fingertips, then the left toes. Continue to extend using dynamic stretching. Gives you flexibility for climbing moves needed to extend the leg while the body position is bent.
- Do not ignore your body. Do not stretch to the point of pain.
- Do not stretch a muscle beyond its natural range.
- Do not bounce when performing muscle stretching.
- Do not hold your breath. Continue to breathe deliberately while stretching
- Do not extend to the point of muscle stretch reflex.
- Do warm up your muscles for least five minutes prior to stretching.
- Do pay attention to your body, feel your muscle's natural limit.
- Do start stretching slowly and work into your full extension.
- Do be patient. Take your time and do it right.
- Do breathe deeply to your full lung capacity.
- Do concentrate on staying relaxed.
- Do stretch even when you are sore.
Summary of Muscle Stretching.
Muscles and ligaments are not immediately ready for the extreme range of motion required in sports. Prepare for muscle stretching routines with a 5 minute warm up, enough to break a sweat. After warm up, perform muscle stretching routines until muscles are limber. Avoid muscle stretch reflex, which can cause damage to the muscle and hinder performance. The flexibility you get from muscle stretching will improve your performance in sports.