Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Strong or flexible?

When it comes to being strong or flexible, which is best for keeping your muscles and tendons healthy?

Okay, it's a trick question as it is best to be both. Muscle-bound weight lifters can lose range of motion and become so stiff they walk funny. Ultra-flexible yoginis can injure themselves because of too much muscle and tendon laxity and little strength.

Weak and/or tight muscles – often associated with poor posture and body mechanics - can lead to muscle spasms and painful trigger points that can only temporarily be relieved by massage. The underlying problem needs to be addressed.

Another problem weak and tight muscles - as well as muscle strength and flexibility imbalances - can lead to or worsen is osteoarthritis. Healthy (strong and flexible) muscles and tendons help keep joints working properly. A balanced exercise routine to avoid repetitive use and injury of the joints is also important.

Any time you participate in strength training, please stretch afterwards. Resistance training tightens the muscles and over time can lead to loss of range of motion. Also, when you can, stretch after walking or other cardio.

Yoga and/or pilates can improve your flexibility overall. After doing my fitness turnaround several years ago, the increase in my range of motion, just through a bit of yoga and additional stretching, has me feeling 20 years or younger than my actual age.
For do-it-yourselfers: As I have mentioned before, an excellent book on stretching is "Stretching" by Bob Anderson. It's thoroughly illustrated and includes stretches targeting various sports and activities. There are numerous books on strength training. The American Council of Exercise website offers a wealth of information on balancing strength and stretch.

No matter how you approach it, just remember the archer’s bow. Seek to be both strong and flexible.