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Beginning a Stretching Program

Easy Does It

One of the reasons why motivated types like Jonathan and Joe postponed stretching for so long is that they viewed it as a cardio- or strength-training session. In other words, they saw it as a contest they waged with themselves (a particularly male condition known as machismo). This ability to try less hard is particularly irksome for these achievement types because they are so conditioned to believe that harder is better.

Here's where the train hard, train soft mindset must come in. The key words when it comes to flexibility training are gradual and easy! And, as we'll discuss in a moment, the operative phrase is "belly breath." Stretching consists of several fluid, graceful movements that you do in concert with focused breathing. Done correctly, you should experience mild discomfort in one or more muscle groups, but not pain. Again, if there is pain, there will not be gain.

Why? There are defense mechanisms inside your muscles called muscle spindles. The muscle spindles are quite sensitive to stretch. If your muscle stretches too far too fast, the muscle spindles pull back to shorten the muscle and prevent muscle or tendon damage. It's precisely because of this self-protective mechanism of the muscle spindles that it's so important to stretch correctly. Try too hard and you may actually end up with less flexibility rather than more.

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Excerpted from he Complete Idiot's Guide to Weight Training © 2003 by Deidre Johnson-Cane and Jonathan Cane. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide website or call 1-800-253-6476.


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