Stretch compounds to ease muscle and joint stiffness
For everybody who participates in a sport or regular activity they will experience muscle stiffness and joint pains. For those who address this and don’t like the feeling of walking like a donkey they will stretch out the area of concern. However, stretching that muscle itself might not be sufficient enough or efficient to ease off long term stiffness. Yes it sounds bizarre but let me explain to you what I mean….
Our body is 1 big kinetic chain meaning that all muscles are connected together. You might think ‘hang on mate, my ass muscles aren’t connected to my shoulders at all’. Yes you are correct, they aren’t directly connected but if you look at the musculature you will find that your glutes are connected to the pelvis and thigh, your pelvis is part of your core, your lat muscles connect to your pelvis and upper arm and your shoulders are connected to your arm. So this means that any tension within these muscles will not be localised but radiate along this path. It’s like pulling on a rope, the force is generated along the length of the rope, so you may only pull 1 end but force will be transferred along the whole length of the rope. So by remembering this, let’s relate this to easing joint pains and stiffness…
Lots of people experience lower back pain or stiffness, whether you sit down all day at your desk pretending to work or whether you are grunting whilst doing deadlifts you will work the lower back. When you carry out any movement, your muscles contract and shorten to execute that movement and over long periods of this your muscles will remain in a state of constant shortening…noo this will not make you shorter but will cause other issues ! When certain muscles are always contracting, their antagonists (opposite groups) will remain in a relaxed manner and eventually become weak. Now this contraction will lead to inflammation and eventually knots, and this is when we feel that stiffness and lack of mobility. So naturally you want to stretch your back out by pulling lots of shapes or even foam rolling that localised part where that knot is chilling. Fine agreed you need to do that but remember my little lecture to you earlier about the kinetic chain being connected? Well this is a prime example where you need to practise that!
So your lower back is composed of a number of different compound muscle groups all working in synergy to allow optimal movement and stability. Therefore, if they are all connected to the back, then surely alleviating muscle tension in 1 muscle will help in alleviating it in another. Remember the rope example! This just means that if you do experience a lower back stiffness, don’t just roll over that part, but make sure you roll over your hamstrings, glutens, adductors (inner thigh muscles), external rotators and even your hip flexors and abdominal muscles. I know it’s a lot to think about and a hell of a lot to stretch too but take that extra 10 – 15 minutes easing tension in these compound groups. If you still don’t believe me then read on and whilst you’re reading make sure you’re not hunching over !
Our muscle groups can be split in to different sub systems. These subsystems are categorised in the way they move our body. So depending on which way we move, certain subsystems will be activated and each subsystem is compromised of specific compound muscle groups. So let’s take the simple movement of walking and bisect it. Just before you put your foot down, your hamstrings decelerate extending the knee and bending the hip; both which are quadriceps motions, and when you take your foot off the floor for the next step, the power generated originates from the foot, up the calf, hamstring and in to the lower back and eventually up the back to the shoulders. Now throughout all of this, your glutes and lats are working together to prevent any pelvic instability. They do this by simultaneously contracting to keep an extensive force on the spine and this force is generated throughout the back and pelvis via a fascia which is a band of connective tissue covering majority of muscles in the back and pelvis. Due to this interlinked connection, any release in tension in any of these compound muscles explained above will ease tension in the other muscles, joints they cross and even the connective tissues involved. Clever eh!
Right science bit over so you can actually pay attention to the next bit! So again if you do experience shoulder pains whether the front or back you must remember that there are lots of muscles around that joint to be stretched ranging from your pectorals at the front, rotators in the front and back, lats and even your neck muscles. All of these play a vital part for shoulder stability. You even need to stretch out your biceps and triceps as they play a major part too. This is a serious matter people and to help ease stiffness and tight muscles you need to address the surrounding ones and give them a good bashing too.
There are many types of stretching and many tools you can use depending on the location and area of muscles being stretched. But whichever way you stretch make sure you go all out and stretch that knotted muscle and his friends too because they are all playing a part in that knot! Think of a creased top and an iron analogy. When you iron a top with only 1 or 2 creases you want to iron that and the surrounding areas too or even the rest of the top and this is the same with stretches. I’m on a roll with these analogies!
Anyway…next time you are wanting to stretch a stiff area think twice before just hitting that spot. Broaden your horizons and travel to other areas of the body to ease muscle tension. Granted a knot might take more than 1 stretching session to ease but every session counts and make good use of that. Same as you would when working out you take your exercising seriously so make sure you take your stretches seriously to remain strong, flexible and agile.