Here is the first chapter from my sports strength research after completion of 3 months of training as a training therapist. Although, I personally feel, I need a few more weeks to get to where I would like to, this chapter gives a good perspective into balance. I will showcase the physical balance postures in my post on flexibility. This post is more about muscular balance and body representation of strength if we work on flexibility & strength together.
Some important points to note:
Aim: Sports body – a combination of strength & flexibility
Age: 44 years
Tools: Gym, field training, stretching and relaxation
Work out time: 2 – 3 hours/day (6 days a week)
Diet: experimenting on my own
Time to finish my training research – maybe, 3 weeks more (thanks to my experiment on diet)
Sports Strength = Strength + Endurance + Flexibility + Balance
This was my understanding of sports strength when I started working on this project 3 months back. I would like to call them the 4 pillars of strength. And, I am made to believe in these 3 months, that it indeed is a combination of all 4 pillars which makes you strong and sports fit, and of course, less injury prone. I am calling it research because I don’t see many/any (in some sports) chasing fitness on all the 4 aspects.
I have read many training articles from different top international professionals coming from different sports and training backgrounds, and all good trainers emphasise the importance of flexibility.
But, how are we attending to it, in sports? If not, then how are we managing this critical aspect of fitness?
Somewhere all of us are made to believe that NOT PLAYING/training is relaxation. And whatever little we do pre or post training is good enough for flexibility and relaxation!
How can we leave one of the key components, required for fitness, on assumptions? In my experience of working with trainees coming from different sports; almost 70 to 80% players have tight muscles. muscles in every team. You can reduce the percentage….it’s not important! It still remains a significant number.
Of course, some of you intimately understand all of this, however, most people, have little knowledge of these concepts, let alone knowing the correct training to work on these aspects. Fact on the ground from my experience…
Of course, Yoga is often thrown into this mix as a cure-all – but it is confused with stretching, the stretching is pushed too far, and the results are bound to go haywire.
As a relaxation specialist, I always talk about two aspects – Relaxation and Stretching.
Let’s differentiate the two to avoid confusion – my definitions:
Relaxation: When you work on the muscles to relax them using their existing strength and range of motion to bring back your normal range of motion. This can be achieved on a mat, ground, gym or anywhere else.
Stretching: When you work on the muscles to stretch them beyond their normal range of motion (different in each case) to earn more flexibility or/and to relax the overworked antagonist muscles. Again, this can be achieved on a mat or anywhere else.
Fundamental difference: In case of stretching, you need fresher muscles, which is contrary to relaxation where you are working on tired muscles.
Do We Have A Choice To Pick What We Like?
May be, some of you might believe (on the basis of your experience), that strength and endurance are the most important out of the four.
I beg to differ, because in my experience, flexibility and balance helps to gain strength and vice versa. The subjects are interlocked and it’s a combination! Therefore, nothing is good or bad; and one should pursue training covering all the 4 aspects to achieve their best fitness and a long fitness/career in sports.
Having said that, Endurance and Balance are by-products of Strength & Flexibility training; so, they are not completely independent provided we are attending to these in strength & flexibility
My Theory of Muscle Balance
In my opinion, we often mistake over-strengthening one body part over other. Look around and you will see several examples. The result is more imbalance – any overworked/over-sized/over-strengthened muscle will inadvertently try to give more effort into an action which results in under-use of other muscles leading to further imbalance, and thereby injury.
I am not saying one should strive to achieve this balance because that will depend on their background; but relaxing the tired muscles by mixing flexibility training with strength is a step in this direction.
Learning 1: It is not impossible to achieve balance of muscles. Also, in my experience, it is the journey of working on balance that helps you to establish the ultimate connection with self. The term ‘connection with self’ here means befriending your muscles and start understanding their condition. When you start finding this connection, you will start to intimately understand and differentiate between your weak and strong muscles. This knowledge can then be progressed with the help of an expert.
If you can ensure your range of motion is not getting compromised at the muscles (joints) that you are training, then BUILDING muscles is no problem in sports. Having said that, it is not necessary to build muscles at this level to gain strength because like I said; sports strength is a combination of all aspects.
Q. How do you ensure improvement in range of motion?
And: By working on flexibility simultaneously…a muscle’s usefulness is not just in its size or power; its factually in carrying out the work that it is tasked upon to do on the field which is not always power!
Therefore, Range of Motion is as important as power since it contributes to power.
Learning 2: One doesn’t get stiffer if you train for strength properly. I didn’t at 44…and I see no reason for anybody else!
When all the involved muscles work in tandem (every involved muscle has a role to play) in an action; the result is your best output. And muscles work best in tandem when you have a balance.
Learning 3: Don’t go hard at selected muscles assuming them to be weak! Understand your body and its pace and work accordingly.
Remember – sports strength is not about few muscles; it is about whole body reaction and recovery time in/from a movement.
The above picture beautifully portrays the engagement of all the muscles involved in this action performed on worked up muscles.
What looks a simple back stretch actually takes a lot than back especially on sports body.
And for Yoga teachers who aspire to work in sports – this is a perfect example, on how you should look at sports body. Because, for any good Yoga teacher or student, the posture doesn’t put so much pressure on muscles to bring this view especially at the shoulder. So, an interesting display of learning on how sports bodies are different to other and why you need anatomical understanding of sports movements and body.
We must understand that any movement is performed jointly by different muscles; therefore, we must keep in mind the engagement of all the muscles when we plan relaxation or stretching. Sometimes, we may end up tiring a few other muscles in the process to relax one specific muscle!
Learning 4: Relaxation is not that simple and easy. It is way too artistic anatomically then it is taken to be!
Let each muscle shape up at its own speed and you will be amazed by how every muscle in your body grows proportionally as per their size and function. When we work harder on a few muscles assuming them to be weak; we are also grinding a few other muscles alongside which are mostly tired. And how would we know how much those ‘other’ muscles can take? Somewhere, we are assuming….right?
Connection with self helps
Learning 5: Work on all the muscles even though your focus could be a selected few. Remember, any movement is a joint work of few muscles together.
Example: I always work a bit on my lower back simultaneously, while working on my leg muscles.
- Gained flexibility
- Gained balance
- Gained strength
- Gained endurance
- Gained speed/agility
In addition – strengthened my connection with self!
As can we see, the subject of strength is not as easy as it seems; therefore , I plan to write a series of articles covering each aspect in detail and support it with proper visuals/video for better understanding. If you like reading the above, then I am sure, you would equally love reading the next chapters from my research. The chapters will be on flexibility, strength, diet and role of mind.
Lastly, this is a research conducted on a sports body and the aim of this article is to present the results on the basis of how they have been achieved. It doesn’t compare strength training with flexibility or vice versa. Both are important is the bottom line of this article and athletes who are doing both, am sure, can feel the difference.
Disclaimer: This post was written by our guest contributor. The content herein is owned by the blogger. Gympik is not responsible for any kind of infringement caused.