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Amplify your Stretching through Strength

Our bodies function in a similar yet unique way, this includes the science of movement, how we respond to adversity and how muscle repairs. However, each person's unique habits and physical/chemical makeup changes their response. A great example of this is the concept of agonist and antagonistic in the muscular system.

“What did you just say, Eleacia?”

Did you know that muscles can only pull, they cannot push? They typically work as pairs, when one muscle of the pair contracts or shortens it's called the agonist, the other muscle in the pair relaxes or lengthens called antagonist. We operate as a very fancy pulley system!

For example, when you perform a bicep curl, the bicep will be the agonist as it contracts to produce the movement, while the tricep will be the antagonist as it relaxes to allow the movement to occur.

Why am I telling you this? Because many people fail to consider the opposite muscle of the pair when in pain or struggling to repair from adversity i.e., we focus on where we feel the pain. But when we focus on the set of muscles rather than one isolated area, we can make long term positive changes.

{Image: Striated Muscle Fibre Jose Calvoscience}

One amazing way to make long term positive changes in our bodies is to not only lengthen our muscles but strengthen them as well. I often hear from my clients that no matter how much they stretch their hamstrings, quads, chest or whatever it is, they always seem to be tight.

Yes, sometimes we require a good stretch but often we also require strengthening of it’s opposite pair.

Why? Because stretching your muscles is only temporary, as soon as you come out of your stretch, your muscles are going to shorten back to their original remembered state. Again, fancy pulley system! We can, however, strengthen its opposite pair to help lengthen your constantly contracted or shortened muscles.

For example, when we sit at a desk all day, our hamstrings are in a constant state of length and our quads in a constant state of shortness. They were not designed to act this way so when we stand up to move around we will feel tight and sore because our bodies need a variety of movement.

How can we counter the effect of overusing one side of a pair? Rather than only stretching the areas you feel tight or in pain you can also strengthen the opposite that is under used!

Life is about balance, we need to stretch but long term we also need to strengthen our body's opposite movers.

Another example is a forwarded rotation of the chest or over engaged pectoral muscles.

This can happen from typing on a computer, looking down at our phones, gardening etc. For example, my chest is constantly engaged and sore from bending over a massage table all day. While it is important to perform regular thoracic and chest opening stretches, it is just as important to strengthen my back muscles. Including the rhomboids, rear deltoid and trapezius muscles to long term counters my forward rotation, creating an opening in my chest when I am unable to stretch.

It can be hard to commit to a regular movement routine but long term we need some form of strengthening in our bodies. If you don’t know where to start, work with a personal trainer at your local gym. If you love yoga, mat pilates is a great addition to your practice. If you are someone that is dealing with chronic pain possibly from an old injury or overused muscle, a Physical Therapist can help correct the misuse and breakdown scar tissue or fascia build up before you start to strengthen the surrounding muscles.

If you need some amazing local resources, ask at your next appointment.

Our bodies are living entities and will endure a lot to keep us alive, it is so important to show some respect and care for them.

xoxo, Eleacia

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