Athletes spend hours training to hone their skills, but few consider stretching a vital component to their athletic performance. According to popular author Frédéric Delavier, stretching has the ability to increase performance levels and should be included in every athlete's training regimen. In his upcoming book, Delavier's Stretching Anatomy (Human Kinetics, October 2011), Delavier discusses the top five reasons every athlete should stretch.
Maintain or increase range of motion. Repetitive athletic movements can reduce range of motion by tightening the muscles and tendons. "A certain tension is required, especially in strength sports, but too much tension and a decreased range of motion can ultimately lead to injury and reduced performance," Delavier explains. "Stretching regularly can prevent this problem." In certain fields, like swimming or gymnastics, stretching must be done regularly to increase the range of motion in a joint when that range is synonymous with increased performance.
Increase muscle tone. Stretching is a powerful signal to strengthen muscles. "Using the muscle's passive resistance strength, stretching accelerates the speed at which the proteins that compose the muscle fibers are synthesized," says Delavier. "Your body gains muscle tone, strength, and resilience this way."
Although flexibility is important for an athlete, Delavier advises finding a balance between muscle tension and flexibility. The muscle must be flexible enough to have a slightly greater range of motion to prevent injuries and aid movement, but not so flexible as to diminish performance by becoming like a rag doll whose joints move around easily. "Stretching has the ability to increase or diminish performance levels," Delavier adds. "So we must be careful to use stretching properly." Delavier's Stretching Anatomy offers stretches for releasing tension, increasing flexibility, and creating an overall sense of well-being.
"See how to achieve stronger starts, more explosive turns, and faster times! Swimming Anatomy will show you how to improve your performance by increasing muscle strength and optimizing the efficiency of every stroke.
Swimming Anatomy includes 74 of the most effective swimming exercises, each with step-by-step descriptions and full-color anatomical illustrations highlighting the primary muscles in action.
Swimming Anatomy goes beyond exercises by placing you on the starting block, in the water, and into the throes of competition. Illustrations of the active muscles for starts, turns, and the four competitive strokes (freestyle, breaststroke, butterfly, and backstroke) show you how each exercise is fundamentally linked to swimming performance.
You’ll also learn how exercises can be modified to target specific areas, improve your form in the water, and minimize common swimming injuries. Best of all, you’ll learn how to put it all together to develop a training program based on your individual needs and goals.
Whether you are training for a 50-meter freestyle race or the open-water stage of a triathlon, Swimming Anatomy will ensure you enter the water prepared to achieve every performance goal."
Based on my experience as an athlete and a coach, I believe that the most valuable tool for any self-coached runner is an outline to guide decisions regarding which workouts are appropriate. The various types of training, ...
It's not often I can do this but the following is an excerpt from an upcoming book (currently only available as a pre-order), Triathlon 101 (Human Kinetics, due out March, 2009). In this updated edition reprinted with permission from Human Kinetics, Triathlon 101, you'll learn the five training phases for triathlon success.
For some reason, triathlon attracts many who want to dig into the science of how to train, researching questions like, "Why do I need long runs AND short fast runs?" "Why should I train my core so much if I am not in a sit-up competition?" "Swimming is really the only technique-oriented sport, right?"
It all starts with base training. Marc Evans writes about base training in Triathlete's Edge. The following is an excerpt from his book reprinted here with permission from Human Kinetics.
Dave Scott, who is a six time IronMan World Champion, and active.com show some of his favorite stretches in this video. They include stretches for your glutes, hip flexor, piriformis, hamstring, quad and shoulder girdle.
Enjoy and remember to check out the resources page with other great videos. Our online store offer terrific videos as well.
Having spent many years training for fitness, it wasn't until the last few years I became aware of how delicate a balancing act it can be of knowing how and when to push yourself toward greater fitness and avoiding injury.
I have had many injuries and hope I've learned how to approach training with the long tern goal of staying healthy and injury free. I would often push myself too hard when I did not need to or it was not the right time to push. Maybe I did not give myself enough of a rest, either between intervals, sets, or laps. It absolutely is a science and the more I read and study, the more I am able to understand when and WHY I do the things I do.
With the idea of sharing that, I posed several questions to my physical therapy group that helps heal me, Elite Physical Therapy in Charlotte, NC. Kelly Floyd started this the group and Joe and Lesley have joined in the last year. They are immensely qualified and have vast sports experience themselves as well as treating patients of all ages and ailments.
I treasure their input and advice. Here's some advice I hope you can learn from as well.
What are the training rules of thumb and why are they important to follow?
Always break a sweat before stretching. Think of your cold muscle as a piece of bacon out of the freezer. You bend it and it breaks! Heat it up and it bends much easier!
It all starts with the core, the area of your body from your diaphragm to your groin. When running, jumping, cycling, swimming, or weight training, sitting, standing, bending, you name it, keep your spinal alignment perfect. Your spine is made to be stabilized, not twisted and bent. That’s what our other joints are for.
As any athlete knows, stretching is a very important component of a training regimen. There are a few well-regarded thoughts on stretching.
First - always warm up before stretching. My PT gave this example - imagine putting a rubber band in the freezer for a while and another one under warm running water. Which do you think will stretch more and stretch easier without breaking? The one that has been in warm water, of course. You do not have to run several miles to warm up enough to stretch but even walking a little bit until you feel your body more active. Your body will thank you with fewer injuries. Stretching cold is putting more stress on muscles that are not ready for it and are likely to create a circumstance where injury can occur.
Second - Understand that a long lean muscle that has been trained and stretched through its range of motion and can used through its range of motion is more useful and efficient than a shortened tight one.