Tuesday, August 16, 2011

What is Muscle Extensibility?

Muscle extensibility refers to the ability of a muscle group to lengthen. This involves both contractile muscle and ligaments. Contractile muscle refers to the actual muscle mass, while ligaments attach the contractile muscle to bone. Exercises target the area itself and neurological responses in the brain, increasing extensibility. These exercises involve both sides of the area known as the agonist and antagonist. The upper leg works with the quadriceps/agonist, and the hamstrings/antagonist as an example.
Static Stretching
Static stretching involves a passive, low-resistance hold of a position to lengthen the contractile muscle and ligaments. Hold a stretching position an average of 15 to 30 seconds, repeated eight to 10 times. This is the safest and easiest exercise to increase extensibility. There is little risk of injury with static stretching since active muscle flexing and strenuous activity are not involved. Both sides of the area targeted should be stretched for balance in the area.
Active Inhibition
Active inhibition refers to contracting an agonist, or primary muscle group to the point of fatigue. Once the contraction is released, a neurological response causes the antagonist, or opposite muscle, to constrict, relaxing the agonist. Active inhibition achieves a greater extensibility point than stretching statically. Active inhibition can be done alone or with a partner assisting in resistance during the contraction and stretching during the release. This is popular in rehabilitation to achieve maximum muscle extensibility due to the neurological response.
Golgi Tendon Organ Response
This phenomenon is similar to active inhibition, except the response occurs in the tendons that trigger the muscle to lengthen. Stretching a muscle for an extended period of time stimulates a sensory response in the tendon, known as the golgi tendon organ. The response automatically triggers muscles to relax, lengthening the muscle. This exercise is challenging to incorporate into an exercise routine, and is most successful when you hold it a minimum of 10 minutes, making it less desirable.
Muscle extensibility varies in individuals, so begin with a flexibility test, measuring a base level. This gives an individual measurement for growth. Incorporate a variety of exercises, ensuring you reach the highest potential. Include aerobic and anaerobic exercise in your program to increase blood flow and oxygen to muscles, benefiting your stretching routine. Exercise professionals tailor programs to individual needs and current flexibility level to ensure a safe, productive and successful workout routine for achieving increased muscle extensibility.