Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Achieving Good Health Through PNF

Flexibility exercises are essential in any fitness program. Stretching exercises are one of the easiest ways to improve flexibility of the body but they are one of the most underestimated parts of health and fitness. Flexibility made easy is the main aim of these exercises. There are different types of stretches and stretching exercises that can improve the flexibility almost immediately. Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation, or PNF, is an advanced exercise for stretching the muscles that has been encouraged by many physical therapists. In addition to its health benefits, this kind stretching is necessary to achieve passive and dynamic flexibility for activities like martial arts, ballet, gymnastics, and many more.

PNF uses stretches that are designed to stretch reflex and lengthen reaction to gain a greater range of motion. It allows the muscles to be stretched to a greater degree by increasing the brain’s sensory receptor signals through a five to 10-second voluntary muscle contraction that can be followed by a five to 10-second voluntary muscle relaxation. With the hold-relax PNF method, the muscle is placed into a static stretch. Individuals who want to engage in this kind of training are encouraged to train with a partner. Holding and contracting the muscle against resistance from a partner for 10 seconds. Afterwards, relaxing while the partner moves the muscle to a new static position may be done. This technique can repeated for two to three times.

PNF stretches can put extra stress on specific muscle groups and therefore increase the risk of injury to the body's soft tissue areas. Individuals who want to engage in this kind of method are advised to include a conditioning phase in their training method. Warming up before stretching and cooling down afterwards may also help.

Advantages of Warming Up before PNF Stretching may include the following:

  • It gets your mind ready for exercise. Most sports require a great deal of mental focus. Stretching helps your mind shift from daily work mode into training mode.
  • It gets your body ready for exercise. Warming up means exactly what it says; you're warming the muscles gradually rather than plunging them into the shock of a workout.
  • Warming up increases your body's core temperature and in a way giving you a head start on your routine.
  • Warming up increases your body's muscle temperature. Warm muscles are limber, flexible muscles, less prone to ripping and tearing as they are when starting any physical activity cold.
Individuals who want to engage in PNF stretches are encouraged to train with skilled and experienced trainers to avoid injuries and other health complications. These trainers may design a program that may aid in one’s goal in improving one’s health. In addition to this, seeking the approval of doctors are also necessary, some conditions may hinder individuals from engaging in some stretches. Effective communication between health and fitness professionals are necessary to make flexibility training worthwhile, achieve its health benefits, and reduce the development of injuries. For this reason, exercisers should not only really on books, magazines, internet files, and many more.

Resource Box : Emmanuel Chavez is a sports writer and holds a graduate degree in

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Understanding and Preventing Muscle Cramps

We have been through this kind of condition, but athletes are more prone to it. As an athlete myself, I've accepted the fact that I can get this kind of pain one way or the other.

Muscle cramps is the dilemma of sports-minded and physically active individuals like me, because it may hamper their performance and cause a lot of pain and discomfort. Muscle cramp is a sudden and painful contraction of one or more muscles which may result to intense pain and inability to use the affected muscles. In some cases, there can be simultaneous cramps that move body parts in opposite directions. Muscle Cramps come from the vigorous use of muscles. Cramp can result when a muscle or group of muscles that acts together in the movement of a certain part of the body forcefully become involuntary. For example, athletes often complain of muscle cramps in calf muscles. But when it affects the feet, the group of muscles in the fingers too gets cramps.

Among the common causes of muscle cramps include dehydration or excessive loss of body fluid due to vigorous exercise or activities of the muscle; or a muscle fatigue caused mostly from a long rest period for muscles in one position or exertion of muscles leading to injury. In addition, it may also be the product of muscle diseases. It is not always necessary for the cramps to attack “over activated” muscles. In some cases, muscle cramps can attack even when the muscles are at rest or dormant for a very long time. For instance, sitting in the same position for a very long time can cause muscle fatigue and may later become a cramp. Most of the cramps come especially at night, like the cramps in the calf muscle. This last for some time till the bend muscles flex and relax.

Immediate rehydration is the primary treatment for muscle cramps. Health professionals often encourage the consumption of fluids which contain additional electrolytes to speed up recovery. This is because during intense physical activities, the body losses essential amounts of electrolytes that heightens the development of muscle cramps. After rehydration, further treatment may consist of grasping and applying pressure to the affected muscle and immediately putting the muscle at rest until the condition subsides.

Pre-workout activities like warming-up and stretching may also help. These activities may increase flexibility and improve blood flow which may prevent the occurrence of muscle cramps. Engaging in cool downs may greatly reduce the occurrence of muscle cramps. Spending about five minutes of brisk walking after a jog is an example of a cool down exercise. Don't include these five minutes in your exercise time. Using cold packs to reduce muscle tension or warm pads may also treat pain and tenderness that may accompany muscle cramps. Individuals who frequently experience cramps while sleeping should stretch before bedtime to prevent its nighttime cramps.

Those who frequently engage in sports activities and other strenuous activities are encouraged to train with health professionals or seek their approval to gain the benefit of this kind of training. Doctors and health professionals may device a program that may suit one’s physical needs. This is also essential in minimizing or reducing the occurrence of muscle cramps and other conditions that may hamper one’s health and athletic performance.

Resource box : Emmanuel Chavez is a sports writer and holds a graduate degree in
Sports Nutrition. He is active in promoting weight loss programs and healthy lifestyle among inner city youth.