By Dr. Barone
TIME to Stretch
Tension Isolation for Muscle Elasticity
I have described over 40 revolutionary stretches in this manual. Each pose isolates specific muscles so you can continually track your progress. This technique uses abdominal breathing and most noteworthy, minimal tension to allow muscles to relax and fully lengthen.
Typical stretches that most people are teaching are failing in two key ways:
- Not properly isolating muscles.
- Can cause injury to other areas.
In order to stretch a muscle effectively we have to place ourselves into very specific positions to stretch specific muscles. The problem is that these positions place tension on other areas as well. The body distrubutes that tension into adjacent structures. Uncontrolled tension placed into the body can create injury. Even when performed properly the vast majority of stretches were causing injury. By stretching one area you are also creating collateral damage, along fascial trains, in other areas we know are prone to injury.
So what’s the best way to remedy the problem? It begins with finding the exact muscle area that requires your attention. This is why having a method to evaluate tension in specific areas is so important!
For stretches to be used in the TIME technique poses need to meet the following criteria
- Isolate the muscle
- No pressure on the muscle while stretching
- Allow you to measure movement and progress
How much tension?
Decades ago it was discovered that the way we usually stretch (ie: as far as you can tolerate) as we do in yoga can actually create a contractile response in the muscle. In other words, your body fights against your own efforts. Yoga works around this with relaxation techniques like breathing and meditation. Yoga is wonderful and exilerating, but it is not without shortcomings. Eventually, even in master yogis who have visited my office, we have found specific areas that are an issue.
This also explains why typical stretches are usually performed repetitively by patients. In other words they “always” stretch their hamstrings because they “always” get tight. The stretch may stimulate the muscle and feel good, it may even temporarily relieve pain. If the true goal of lengthening the muscle and creating elasticity is not met however, then they will repeatedly need to do the stretch every time the chronic pain returns.
A solution to this was proposed around the turn of the century. Scientists in the 1990s proposed stretching the muscle in the range of first tension. First tension is the moment during lengthening when resistance is first felt, no more. At this point of length, the muscle cells are elongated, but within a perfectly comfortable range. The muscle cells are lengthened but the contractile response is avoided.
This is a drastically different type of stretch and when I teach it to patients, it is completely foreign to them. In fact, almost every patient I have taught these stretches to has had the same response: “I don’t feel anything!” With time, however, their perception of the muscles improves, as does the flexibility. Even I was skeptical about the first-tension model at first. I was skeptical until I began experimenting with it in my office. To my surprise, I found the technique not only worked, it worked remarkably better than my previous methods.
If you are my guest in my office, I will have likely sent you copies of stretches from this book, as well as the intro which contains instructions for breathing. Each time I examine you I will strategically change and prescribe your stretches in the way that helps you best. I will also coach you how to do it with the right tension and breathing.
If you want to explore ALL the muscles in your body, please download this manual.