Tuesday, April 05, 2011 • Chicago, IL 60657
Watch a group of elite runners warming up and you won't see any of them bending over trying to reach their toes. Instead, you'll see athletes moving their bodies to improve their range of motion, increase flexibility, and guard against injury. "Stretching has progressed to a more functional, dynamic method," says physical therapist Christ Frederick, codirector of the sTretch to Win Institute in Tempe, Arizona. "It helps runners of all levels perform better." You may be familiar with dynamic warmup moves like butt kicks and high-knee marches. But physical therapists and trainers have developed other ways to stretch your body in a more functional way. Consider the upsides and downsides of these three new methods to decide which works bets for you. FASCIAL STRETCH THERAPY -- Unlike stretching that attempts to isolate and stretch specific muscles, fascial stretch therapy (FST) targets fascia, the connective tissue found in, around, and between joints. To stretch the fascia, a certified FST therapist gently pulls then moves the legs, arms, spine, and neck in a smooth motion at various angles to remove pressure between joints, release joint-lubricating synovial fluid, and improve flexibility of muscles. "the function of muscles cannot be separated from the movement of fascia," says Frederick, who has worked with Olympic gold medal sprinter Sanya Richards. After an initial session witha therapist, runners can continue this stretch therapy on their own. A dynamic warmup for runners includes walking lunges, leg lifts, and but kicks. KI-HARA RESISTANCE STRETCHING -- Most forms of flexibility training start with relaxing the muscle you're about to stretch. But with Ki-Hara, you use resistance (by yourself, or with the help of a trainer) to keep the muscles that you're stretching contracted throughout each movement. Keeping muscles engaged stabilizes them, which can help prevent injury. This method stretches a muscle the way it's used. The technique also focuses on training opposing muscle groups together, like hamstring and quads, to address imbalances. During assisted sessions, Ki-Hara trainers use a technique called mashing, where they use their feet to help loosen muscles and release fascia to flush toxins and improve circulation. FACILITATED ACTIVE STRETCH TECHNIQUE -- This method of active stretching helps break up scar tissue in injured and chronically tight muscles. By applying pressure with your fingers around a tight or injured area or on a series of points running up and down the muscle while extending and contracting it, you can relieve the pain of current injuries improve range or motion, and prevent future damage. IN a conventional stretch you're stretching an entire muscles. With this method, you focus the movement at a specific are of tightness.