Muscle Relaxation = Muscle Strength (Part I)
Muscle is something we all could use more knowledge about. It is something that moves us and pains us. Most of our body’s aches and pains can be somehow related to muscle tightness or injury (chronic or otherwise). Without going into the scientific references proving these points, let’s all accept that our muscles–all 650-840 of them–are doing a lot for us. Muscles are connected to tendons; tendons are connected to bone. They are essentially the levers we learned about in grade school.
Just like any lever in the mechanical world, our muscle network needs attention. If a machine handles a load over time, it will need attention both in preventative repair and after-the-fact repair. We cannot see our own muscle network at work, and even if we could, we couldn’t identify very easily where it needs attention. We base our feedback on pain, tightness, inflammation and other sources of discomfort.
What we will target in this series of blog posts is how the muscle pain associated with Ninja Warrior training is preventable by understanding some basic concepts. We will be quite detailed on how some specific muscle groups are more susceptible to overuse. We have found that shoulders, elbows and their conjoined muscle friends are more likely affected by obstacle training. Injury is somewhat a predictable outcome when someone is going through the new muscle patterns of obstacle training! You want to hold on. You want to finish the course! You want give it all you got! Then…twang!
The brain–usually upon your consent–tells a certain muscle group to fire. When muscle contracts/shortens, the thousands of little fibers are all working in concert (for the most part). They will contract regardless if it’s 100% safe to do. Muscle is a miracle, but muscle is also a bit dumb. Muscle often hurts itself like a toddler running into a wall because he’s looking down while walking. If undue or sudden load is put on a muscle, it may lead to a tear. The key to prevent injury is to be impressed by your muscle strength, but not its ability to know its limits. We have all seen a wannabe athlete jump into an activity without warming up and then stopping abruptly due to a muscle pain/strain. This happens even more frequently due to living in an increasingly static/low activity world.
The key and true secret weapon against muscle injury is properly warming up. We have all heard that warming up is important, but what is really going on (simply put)?
- Increases the blood flow in the activated muscles
- Makes muscles more pliable
- Primes nerve pathways to help the muscles fire more efficiently
- Mental and physical stimulation (more awareness)
To contrast what is going on in your muscle when you don’t warm up, let’s look at the opposites. It should make us cringe reading the state of the muscle when not properly warm and activated.
- Low blood flow in the muscles
- Muscles are more rigid
- The nerve pathways are firing inefficiently
- Little mental and physical stimulation (less brain-to-muscle communication)
Now that we have addressed the more obvious reason for tearing/injuring a muscle, let’s look at the more chronic and less talked about forms of muscle injury and limitation.
End of part 1. To be continued…