What you need to know: Many healthcare providers and trainers poorly understand why someone 'feels tight'. Dealing with muscle tightness is not as simple as just stretching.
The human body is designed to move and movement requires varying amounts of stability and motion. When movement occurs, patterns of stability and motion can occur in efficient or inefficient ways. As structures accommodate movement, the load placed on everything from joints to muscles and tendons to nerves changes and these changes can produce symptoms. In the process of wanting to avoid symptoms, the body will often develop compensation patterns. A common result of this compensation process is the feeling of being 'tight' or 'tension'. This tension serves a protective role, thus it is referred to as protective tension.
The development of protective tension and the reason behind its presentation is one of the least understood mechanisms in musculoskeletal care. The body is smart enough to constantly monitor loads and prevent excessive load of any given structure to ultimately help prevent injury. If you are feeling 'tight', there is a reason and your body is sending you a signal. However, many people will ignore this signal until more pressing issues develop, such as pain. So how does one handle a muscle that 'feels tight'? Unfortunately, the solution is not as simple as just stretching. Stretching often provides temporary relief because of underlying joint dysfunction, stability and/or mobility deficits, or muscular weaknesses that need addressed.
A high level of maximal strength is arguably the most important physical quality in performance and athletics. Regardless of whether you are an elite athlete, average Joe, weekend warrior, or someone who just wants to look and feel great, training to increase your strength levels with make you better. Period.
Here are three simple reasons why strength is important:
#1 - Move Better, Reduce Injury Risk
Adding strength to a balanced body will aid in preventing injury and help you move with greater ease. Greater ease means greater efficiency. Training for strength improves neuromuscular coordination, thus improving efficiency of movement. As strength increases, it simply takes you less effort to perform the same amount of work. Researchers have identified strength training and its association with stronger connective tissue, enhanced function of the muscle-tendon unit, and reduced injury rate due to improved neuromuscular function and greater muscle mass.
#2 - Be Faster, More Powerful
As you gain strength, the faster and more powerful you become. The body gains strength by motor unit recruitment and neural drive. This means that when you lift something heavy, the body will recruit more motor units and more muscle to accomplish the task. By continually challenging yourself with increasingly heavier weight, the body becomes more efficient and coordinated in its ability to recruit more motor units, activate more muscle and move weight more explosively.
Maximal strength training builds fast-twitch muscle fibers. The muscle that matters. Everyone can benefit from building the fast-twitch, powerful muscles from heavy strength training. All athletes perform at higher levels with improved strength, including distance runners, cyclists, rowers, martial artists, track and field athletes, gymnasts, swimmers, soccer, rugby, baseball, and hockey players. But it's not just for athletes either. Everyday tasks such as getting out of a chair, opening a jar, or lifting groceries all are depended on fast-twitch muscle. Strength is an important element of life because it simply makes daily tasks easier to perform.
#3 - Lose Fat, Gain Muscle by Training for Strength
A missing component of many fat-loss or muscle-building programs is lifting heavy weight. Over the long term, building fast-twitch muscle fibers with strength training increases metabolism. Increased metabolism means you burn greater amounts of calories, even at rest.
Boston University researchers explain,
“Type II muscle fibers have a previously unappreciated role in regulating whole-body metabolism through their ability to accelerate the energy burning processes in remote tissues.”
And if your goal is to gain more muscle, maximal strength is an essential component of your training. As mentioned previously, you gain all the benefits of Type II fibers in addition to the fact that Type II fibers can grow up to two times the size of Type I fibers. To achieve maximal hypertrophy, you have to tap into your Type II fibers with heavy weights. Research has demonstrated that near maximal strength training (93% or higher of 1RM or rep max) activates satellite cells. Satellite cells are dormant muscle cells within Type II fibers and they regulate hypertrophy. Maximal-load training causes greater activation of satellite cells and gene signaling involved in the process of building muscle.
Aagaard, P., Andersen, J., Effects of Resistance Training on Endurance Capacity and Muscle Fiber Composition in Young Top Level Cyclists. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. 2011. Published Ahead of Print.
Andersen, J., Aagaard, P., Effects of Strength Training on Muscle Fiber Types and Size: Consequences for Athletes Training for High-Intensity Sport. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. 2010. 20(Suppl 2), 32-38.
Comfort, P., Haigh, A., et al. Are Changes in Maximal Squat Strength During Preseason Training Reflected in Changes in Sprint Performance in Rugby League Players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2012. Published Ahead of Print.
Please watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRZL6Y6gtZI
In this video, we discuss exercises aimed at training proper hip dissociation - an often overlooked and undertrained function of the hips. Poor hip dissociation is commonly a reason for pain and poor performance.
Some key points discussed in this video:
Thanks for watching and as always, let us know your questions or comments.
More related reading:
This training client sought out our services for three primary reasons:
1) Rehabilitate a chronic recurrent low back condition that has prevented him from training with any type of intensity or frequency for over two years AND get back to training while staying healthy in the process
2) Get stronger while packing on some quality size, and
3) Regain the feeling of athleticism from when he played college football.
We recently concluded 12 weeks and during that time he had three BOD POD evaluations. Debate on the accuracy of the BOD POD aside, impressive changes were made in only 8 weeks. These evaluations occurred on 11/21/17, 12/19/17, and 01/16/18.
Some of the BOD POD highlights include:
Images 1-3. BOD POD results from 1/16/18. This was the third, and most recent, analysis during an 8-week period.
Included below are photos of a few of his training weeks to give you a glimpse of how his training was structured. Along with the changes seen in his body composition, his strength continues to progress and he is training with weights and a frequency that he has not seen in over two years while maintaining a healthy feeling body.
“General exercises have little relevance to the sporting action. Specialized preparatory exercises use the same muscles that are involved in a particular sporting action. Specialized developmental exercises include single joint actions that duplicate one portion of the sporting action. They also mirror the velocity and range of motion seen in the competitive movement. Competitive exercises are those that fully mimic the competitive movement in more difficult conditions and easier ones.”Advantages of Special Strength
“In North America, athletes start playing a sport as unprepared youth with no background in general conditioning. This isn’t always true, but we have no system to condition young athletes besides just playing the sport. In an Eastern model, camps are held without a sport focus to condition young athletes, and the specialization comes later. In general, early specialization is a mistake. This has been proven to limit progress, lead to early burnout, and increase injury rate.”Certainly in an ideal situation, young athletes would be introduced to general conditioning prior to sport participation. Likewise, prior to the initiation of a general conditioning program and/or sport participation, young athletes should be screened to provide an understanding of any structural adaptations that will require individualized considerations to ensure continual progress in the pursuit of achieving athletic mastery and minimize the risk of serious injury.