Posted by: thehungryrunner | September 26, 2010

Relieving Calf and Other Muscle Tightness: It’s actually a 4-step process

With all of the abundance of stretch information and knowledge out there, it may seem perplexing that muscle tightness remains such an issue, and a persistent threat to long-term mobility.  It’s my experience as a flexibility coach that the reason for this lies greatly in a widespread misunderstanding of what stretching is, and how to do it.

It turns out, stretching, particularly in the context of sports and fitness, involves far more than you think.  If you’re serious about actually benefitting from stretching, as opposed to just going through the motions and marking it down on your log, your stretching should actually entail four key steps:

The Four Key Steps in Stretching

  1. Identifying the muscles and joints most in critical need:  The truth is, most of us need to stretch pretty much everywhere; our everyday movements, particularly the long time spent sitting, ensure this need.  However, if you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance you can easily name 2-3 muscles or joints that cause you particular grief for their tightness.  So this is your starting point.
  2. Choose appropriate stretches based on your answers to Step 1:  This is probably the extent of what you think about, when you think about stretching.  But that only addresses one of three problems that are revealed by muscle tightness.  Steps three and four illuminate those other two issues and their solutions.
  3. Choose appropriate strengthening exercises for surrounding muscles, particularly those on the OPPOSITE side of the joint in question:  This overlooked step is a must, because where there’s muscle tightness at a joint, there’s a high likelihood of muscle weakness in both opposing and adjacent muscles.  Makes sense, doesn’t it?  Take your calf muscles.  If you suffer from tight calf muscles, indeed, you want to add proper, well-chosen stretches to help relieve this tightness and improve your range of motion in your lower leg.  At the same time, however, you also want to include exercises to strengthen the muscles throughout your ankle and shin, and quite possibly further up your legs into your quadriceps, to correct the problem more comprehensively.
  4. Finally, it’s vital that you revisit your core training:  Not doing any?  You may want change that.  While there are instances in which muscle tightness is caused by isolated imbalances or flawed technique in certain sport or fitness movements, most of the time, the reason for muscle tightness stems in part from an overdependence on a localized part of the body, as a result of weak core muscles.  By shoring up strength (and flexibility) in your trunk, you generate more power from the center of your body, reducing the demand on muscles further away from your center.

Stretching may seem like an optional afterthought, or something you do only when you find yourself with a few extra minutes after a workout, but treating your stretching with as much seriousness as the rest of your training can not only pay dividends — now and down the road — it can actually turn out to be the most vital piece of your fitness puzzle!

With all that said….

If you’re struggling with muscle tightness but aren’t quite sure how to fulfill these four steps for yourself, consider a membership to TheFlexibilityCoach.com, where you’ll find over 60 pre-designed stretching workouts, that take all of the above into account.  These workouts, such as Stretches for Tight Calf Muscles or Stretches for Runners, include both a printable PDF and accompanying audio workout, led by me, that you can download to your MP3 player.  Check out www.TheFlexibilityCoach.com for a free tour and free stretching starter kit.

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Responses

  1. I relish, result in I found just what I used to be looking for. You have ended my 4 day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye


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