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    Learn one simple rule about stretching…

    By Matt Green


    I’m feeling tight, I should stretch more.


    Stretching makes sense only if you are stretching tissue that is tight because it is ‘shortened and tight’.  Unfortunately, the tissue that we instinctively want to stretch is ‘lengthened and tight’.   Your muscles work like rubber bands.  When they are short, there is nothing remarkable to notice.    It is not until you start to lengthen the rubber band that it gets its tightness.    Pause and think about this for a moment.  Tight and long, rather than tight and short.

    The shortened band holds little actual tension.

    The over-lengthened band carries significantly more tension.

    Pretend you have less than perfect posture.  Maybe you’ve seen a photo of you and realized that your head sits in front of your shoulders.  Now think about the muscles you typically feel are ‘tight’.  Is it the muscles at the front of your throat (the ones that are actually short and dragging your head forwards), or do you normally feel the muscles at the back of the neck & shoulders (the ones that are ‘long’ in this posture). Think about another area we are always complaining about.  Hamstring tightness.  If your hip flexors become short and cause your pelvis is tilt anteriorly, then your hamstrings are always over lengthened. It’s your quads and hip flexors that are actually short.

    We feel the muscles that are over-lengthened, because when a muscle lengthens it become tight. This protects our muscles from tears.
    Why do they become tight when they are long? Because otherwise they would rip apart. Muscles are not designed to be stretched much past their normal length. To make things worse, the longer they are stretched the weaker they become. As an example, AFL players tear their hamstrings when they are trying to open their stride, sprint or kick a ball.. In this action, the hamstring has to lengthen significantly. When fatigued, the muscle may not be able to keep its integrity and will tear. Human beings are much, much, much better at feeling the muscles in their body that are tight and overstretched. This is because when we do actually get ‘short and tight’ somewhere, our body tends to just develop a compensatory pattern to work around it. An example is that tight hip flexors will go unnoticed so long as you walk with your feet turned outwards. Turn them straight and you will feel how short or closed the space in your hips is. We spend all of our energy trying to stretch what is already over lengthened. It feels better at the time because we get increased blood flow. Remember too that any movement at all is better than no movement. But the issue continues & we never become supple. We are stretching the wrong things.

    This article was originally published by Matt Green from Step Up Physical Therapies . Step Up Physical Therapies are specialists in sports massage and myotherapy. Step Up Physical Therapies is located at 81 Raglan St, Port Melbourne. Phone
    03 9999 1414