The Value of Strength as Compared to Flexibility

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The Value of Strength as Compared to Flexibility

Post  Fitness Scientist on Sun May 16, 2010 9:47 pm

The Value of Strength as Compared to Flexibility

There can be no progress without a break in tradition. Otherwise, we would still be living in caves, and so it is in the exercise quest. Without challenging tradition, there can be no breakthroughs in any aspect of life.

Many professionals, primarily those in the therapy business, strongly argue that flexibility is more important than strength. Coaches and athletes alike have advanced that same point of view.

We believe strength is of more value than flexibility. We offer the following intellectual ammunition as fact.

Imagine the physical stature of a Woody Allen type body. Put him alongside an Arnold Schwarzenegger type body. Then, picture Woody attempting to twist Arnold's arm at the shoulder to see how flexible Arnold is.

Ask Arnold to do the same to Woody's arm. Whose arm do you think would break and why?

After you accompany Woody down to get his arm in a cast, will you advise him to take more yoga classes or perhaps to tag along with Arnold to the weight room.

The issue of the importance of strength versus flexibility, for preventing injury, has ramifications far beyond hypothetical arm-twisting. Rather, it goes to the heart of fitness training, athletic training, work rehabilitation, physical therapy, and injury prevention.

The American economy loses approximately $40 billion every year because of musculo-skeletal back problems alone that damage 80% of the work force.

We use the Woody - Arnold image to illustrate the body's ability to handle complex biomechanical demand, without injury, is usually better served by building adequate and well-balanced strength rather than depending on simply becoming more limber.

Properly conditioned muscles can withstand the long-term stress placed upon them by everyday tasks, and the tremendous amount of sudden impact force. Impact force is simply understood simply as: The weight of an object (your arm, leg, head, or torso), multiplied by the speed of its movement, when pushed, pulled, twisted, or slammed into an object.

When muscles do not absorb the force of your golf swing, overhead tennis smash, or the running gait, the impact transfers to bones with predictable, negative results.
The flexibility of a yogi will not be able to prevent impact forces from applying torque to a body segment.

Back problems are a particular problem for every class of American worker. To understand its sources, we need only visualize the stress we place on the back, almost every minute we are not lying down in a relative stress free position.

Setting all day in your office chair or standing at your counter can be likened to walking around, carrying a five pound object (a dumbbell as an example), which you keep in a perpetual position biceps curl, hands help halfway to shoulder.

Despite the objects, relatively lightness after a while the strain will begin to show. At the end of such a day, you will be reaching for the aspirin (or scotch) bottle, seeking relief.

The back then takes on the muscular stress. It must constantly fight against gravity to hold your torso erect. The effect of a WEAK back commonly appears in the elderly, whose back muscles can no longer support the torso weight erect. Gravity pulls the torso forward into a stooped position.

A back strengthening program offsets this common problem. With backs and other body segments not meant to handle the upright strain humans put on them daily, any therapy, or rehabilitation protocol without strength as its central focus is doomed to utter failure.

While passive therapies such as, stretching, massage and the like do nothing to improve strengths each has a limited role to play. They do nothing to alter the structural capacity of the muscles to absorb impact stress. Proper strength training will provide adequate structural integrity.

Equally important as muscle strength is muscular balance. This is the relative function and balance of one side of the body compared to the other. This applies in a side to side as well as a back to front plane.

Do not think being an active sports participant will improve the situation. In fact, the opposite is true. Witness the over developed and dominant body segments of golfers, tennis players and bowlers (as examples), it is no accident the display poor posture and have neck, back, shoulder, elbow and wrist problems.

Unfortunately, most of them believe joint pain and poor postures are the cost of sports participation. Lack of strength is the cause not lack of flexibility.

The problems compound by well meaning therapists and trainers, who put these athletes on an exercise program without thinking about the problems.

If we agree, for discussion sake, that it is self-evident truth the muscular imbalance exists, and it is caused by one side of the body being dominant than the other, it would make be common sense to design a workout program to focus on NON-DOMINANT areas and ignore the already dominant side.

At least until the weaker areas improve and are in closer relationship to the superior areas. But, nnoooo, instead, programs are designed which exercise both sides, usually with both arms of legs exercising at the same time; Thereby, improving each side, while maintaining the imbalance.

This approach does nothing to improve functional muscular balance between each individual area. Each area improves. The imbalanced ratio stays unchanged.

Rather than eliminating the problem, most fitness and therapy programs continue on the right track but heading in the wrong direction.
High-Tech exercise machines and new concepts of exercise allow one to achieve maximum fitness in minimum time; however, proper use of this equipment and application of new techniques to improve fitness and functional abilities remain ignored by many.

Instead, they continue the dogma of the past. Never thinking about or accepting a new, improved approach. Myths, misconceptions, old wife's tales, and outright lies prevail and everyone loses.

Dedicating more thought and time to proper strength training reduces or eliminates work injuries, daily activity injuries, and sports related injuries. It is time to introduce sane thinking into the present approach to health and fitness exercise and physical therapy.

Joe Mullen
Fitness Scientist
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