Stretch to the Top
By Andy Cunningham
As a basic overview, just about everybody hates to stretch. Let's face it, there’s nothing cool about it, it's boring, tedious, repetitive, and sometimes even painful so a lot of people just give it a miss and don’t worry about it. So to you people who hate to stretch, thanks for taking the time to read this article and I hope it helps. Stretching done correctly at the right time can greatly benefit a riders program both at the track and at the gym and increase your chance of victory for such little effort: so why not give it a try?
Obviously, if you are recovering from an injury wait until you are 100% so you don’t do any further damage to the joints, ligaments or tendons. Also be aware of certain supplements. Products with chondroitin, glucosamine and msm (Methyl Sulfonyl Methane) are good but others including, anti-inflammatories and cortisone can actually give a false sense of security as they tend to weaken tendons and ligaments in the long haul. So be aware and consult a physician if unsure. Warm-up before you stretch! I like to use the analogy of muscles being just like a piece of meat. If you have meat in the freezer and you take it out and try to bend or flex it, what happens? It just tears and rips! But if you warm that meat up like in the microwave first, it is soft and supple and will bend with ease and this is how muscles work too; so always warm up prior to stretching. That being said it is essential to warm up for 10-15 minutes of moderate exercise to promote blood flow and circulation to your connective tissue and help prevent muscle and tendon tears or pulls whilst stretching. Stretching post exercise is also good since your body temperature is elevated and this aids recovery as well, but we will get to the benefits shortly.
Types of Stretches
There are various stretching techniques presented here in layman’s terms.
Static and dynamic stretching are the two preferred techniques. PNF is good if done by an experienced professional for the fastest gains in flexibility. Static stretching produces far fewer instances of muscle soreness, injury and damage to connective tissue than other methods and is easy to do virtually anywhere. Always move carefully into the stretched position and have someone with experience show you the correct positioning initially.
Genetics of Stretching
Certain influences limit flexibility such as age, gender (females are more flexible due to genetic makeup) restrictions of clothing, the temperature, time of day (most people are more flexible in the afternoon) and the ability of a muscle to relax and contract to achieve the greatest range of movement are all factors that influence our ability to be flexible. Research has shown that athletes should not perform prolonged static stretching before a big event as it slows muscle activation for about an hour afterwards. Static stretching builds flexibility and should be performed regularly just not prior to races. Gains in flexibility are dependant on the duration of the stretch-hold position however 30 seconds seems to be the best as it produces the same results as 2 minute holds in trials undertaken.
Benefits of Stretching
Greater agility on the bike
Less chance of injury (rubber man)
Better Posture on and off the bike
Enhanced coordination. Maintaining the full range of motion through your joints keeps you in better balance. Coordination and balance will help keep you mobile and less prone to falls.
Improved circulation. Stretching increases blood flow to your muscles which brings with it nourishment to help get rid of by-product in the muscle tissue and thereby reducing recovery time from training.
When and How Often?
Try to stretch 3 times per week or whenever you exercise. You can also do them everyday from home after a hot shower if you are keen or really inflexible. If you have limited time, do them post workout as the muscles are already warm and is a good way to finish a workout. If you have a particular tight area such as hamstrings which can lead to lower back problems, try doing them twice per day for a period of time. The importance of warming up and stretching before your motos cannot be overstated. Just like at the gym, warm-up before stretching at the track and be sure to use dynamic stretches, not static. Save the static stretches for after your moto. Adding a stretch routine to your workout is simple, yet very effective. Good luck and please be sure and direct any questions to the forum.
That's it for now. Until next time, good luck with your training and remember, VT can always be found on the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum . In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section . Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness.