Muscles Present A Curious Dichotomy That Can Inform Your Exercise Routine
If you view the human body as a remarkable machine (as we do), you appreciate the fact that our bodies are “programmed” to maintain balance, which is a concept core to the body’s ability to heal. This is why we are big believers in giving the body the support it needs throughout its never-ending quest for equilibrium any way we can.
But that equilibrium is like a scale where aiming for center is conceptually complex and can be evasive in practice when you consider that it requires all of the biological, biochemical and mechanical systems to work together in harmony.
That’s why everything we do at Lastics is about coming up with ways to help our bodies find the homeostasis they automatically seek 24/7. It’s important to us because bodies feel their happiest in this Zen state, and if our bodies feel happy, it’s easier for us to feel happy too.
With that in mind, we think a lot about the beauty of being able to be move freely and comfortably. But, there is a curious dichotomy in our muscles. And, that is, they need to be loose to be fast, but they also need to be tight to be strong.
The fitness industry, by-and-large, focuses on strength without due consideration to the fact that the more power you pack into a muscle, the tighter you make it. And so then, speed goes with it. Certainly, we don’t want to be tight and slow any more than we want to be loose and weak, especially since tight and weak are major causes for pain as well. No, instead, we want to be strong and fast, and as efficient and agile as possible.
The answer is a balancing act between strength and flexibility, for sure. But it also has additional layers when you consider that agility and mobility come from flexibility, power and stability come from strength and endurance and stamina come from the two working together. That’s like all our movement every day!
As flexibility experts, we use the axial and appendicular skeletons as organizing principles because they provide a structural framework that nicely informs the relationship between stretch and strength, both conceptually and practically. Taken together they can help build a sound strategy for better balance, overall. And, taken together, they also create a visual structure that helps explain why and how Lastics is so different and effective. (See illustration below.)
First, let’s take the axial skeleton. Its stability (strength) and mobility (flexibility) are key to moving freely and without pain because the spine, from end-to-end, can either facilitate movement or prohibit it. So, to keep the muscles groups along the axial skeleton in tip-top shape, they benefit from strengthening the core and stretching the back and neck. For some, pelvic floor fitness is also a vital component to axial spine health.
Second is the appendicular skeleton which underlies the extremities and are fairly straightforward when it comes to strengthening. These larger muscle groups are easily accessible and respond well to any form of weight or resistance training. But, what’s cool is that you can coordinate the axial skeleton with your appendicular skeleton to create the most amazing stretch!
While we could go on and on breaking this down, we would only be exercising our minds and not our bodies. And since it’s something you need to feel to understand and appreciate, here are two examples you can try:
Neck: Sitting on the floor with your ankles crossed, lengthen your spine as tall and straight as possible. Drop one ear to your shoulder (axial skeleton). Then, pull your opposite shoulder away from your opposite ear (appendicular skeleton). You will immediately feel the stretch in your neck from the top of your shoulder all the way up to your ear/jaw.
Hips: Lie down on your back and make a figure 4 with your legs. Pull your legs a little closer to your body (appendicular skeleton). Then, pull your tailbone down to the floor, slightly arching your lower back (axial skeleton.)
Working from the inside, out including small intrinsic muscles with larger extrinsic muscles is a sure-fire way to condition your body to reveal a world of physical freedom that affects every aspect of your life.
You may also enjoy reading, 5 Reasons You Need To Stretch.
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