How to Increase Joint Flexibility Part II
In our previous article about flexibility and joints, we talked about different methods we can use to increase joint flexibility. It can be safely be said that you need enough flexibility for any situation that you will normally encounter in your day to day life, plus a little bit more. That little bit more is called the flexibility reserve. Conversely, if adequate flexibility is lacking the difference between what you have and what you need is called your flexibility deficit. Of all of our bio-motor abilities, joint flexibility is perhaps the easiest to develop. The methods listed here as the ones we talked about before are simple and require little time, effort or specialized equipment. However, they should be consulted with a physical therapist to do them properly. Try the one(s) you feel more comfortable about in order to acquire the flexibility you want.
Contract Antagonist-Relax (CA) Method
Very similar to the contract-relax method, CA stretching facilitates an increase in muscle length through a maximum isometric contraction of the antagonist, immediately prior to a static stretch of the agonist. If the latissimus dorsi muscle contracts as the agonist during a set, for example, then the pectoralis major will lengthen as the antagonist. Antagonist muscle groups relax and lengthen when the agonist muscle group contracts. This is known as reciprocal innovation and occurs through reciprocal inhibition of the antagonist. When motor units are activated in the agonist, a reciprocal neural inhibition of the antagonist motor units occurs. This reduction in neural activity of the antagonist allows them to subsequently lengthen under less tension. So when you work using your back muscles, your pectoralis major acts as the antagonist and is lengthened while the latissimus dorsi muscle contracts. Because the antagonist is momentarily fatigued from the isometric exertion, it becomes less able to oppose the lengthening of the agonist. Due to the inherent similarities to contact-relax stretching, this method may also involve risk to you if you have hypertension.
Propio-neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) is defined as methods of promoting or hastening the response of the neuromuscular mechanism through stimulation of the proprioceptors. True PNF requires specialized training, and is normally used only in a clinical setting. Although there are many different PNF methods, most forms involve dynamic, rotational, and angular movements done in accordance with verbal cues from a registered physical therapist.
Fascia, the elastic membranous sheath which encases muscles and muscle groups, can bind and constrict the muscles that surround a joint. Fascial stretching involves deep-tisuue manipulation, and should only be performed by a competent physical therapist. Although fascial stretching is still a new and evolving practice, it holds great promise for those who wish to achieve a permanent increase in their range of motion.
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