Perhaps it’s the lingering cold that still exists in so much of the country, but there are way too many people who have not yet begun spring training for the sports of summer. Yet it takes time to build a functionally athletic body.
If you haven’t started, in the coming months when you shoot a ball towards a basket, for example, you won’t have the oblique strength to accurately aim the ball because you haven’t trained those side muscles. If you haven’t trained your thighs to be firm and strong, your legs may look a bit flabby and have some jiggle as you walk or run.
Whether you’re a golfer or a football player, range of motion — or how far you can extend your reach or stride — is essential to your performance. If you can’t strongly turn your core while your legs are going in another direction, you have a limited range of core motion. If you can’t catch a ball from out of the air, your arms may have a limited range of motion.
Tendons are at each end of every muscle. They connect the muscle to the bones of the skeleton. Ligaments join one bone to another. If either type of these tissues rip apart, surgery must be done to restore them.
Muscles, tendons and ligaments all contract if not used. That means your range of motion has shrunk. It takes time to rebuild it. Without specific training to extend your range of motion, you’ll never reach your athletic potential. It’s already spring. How much more time do you expect to sit around before you begin to regain your gumption to train for the activities of summer?
If you’ve been sitting around for a few months, you can’t just jump back into your spring workout. That would stress your tendons far more than they may be able to handle. White tissues like tendons and ligaments have a very low blood supply, and if you want them to be elastic and pliable, you must train them very slowly and consistently before they will stretch out with the fibers sliding smoothly past each other. Otherwise, you can rip those fibers. That will create something like a thin line of gristle in the muscle or the white tissues.
Instead, you must get rid of the contraction of white tissues gradually. Muscles, with their juicy red supply of blood, stretch out quickly. White tissues take a lot longer to become elastic and pliable. If you try and force the time requirement, you may make the contraction permanent.
While tendons and ligaments are certainly used during resistance work — it’s much more efficient to do actual exercises that gently stretch out the white tissues. For example, hold your arms overhead while pressing your hands against the door jam of your bathroom. Lean forward. This stretches the shoulder joint, considered the most mobile joint in the human body. If you stretch this joint out regularly, you’ll be a lot less likely to have a sprained shoulder or a torn rotator cuff.
Bending over to touch your toes stretches out the hamstrings. If you currently can’t touch your toes with a straight leg, keep working on it. You will be surprised a how quickly the range of motion of your hamstrings improves. If you haven’t been flexible enough to perform this stretch up to now, stretch every night before going to bed, when the muscles and white tissues are still warmed up from being used all day. It may even take a few months before you can touch your toes without bending at the knee, but that extra flexibility will change your life — especially your athletic life.
Wina Sturgeon is the editor of the online magazine Adventure Sports Weekly