Flexibility – Men’s Health and Touching the Toes

Posted: April 28, 2012 in Aikido, Diary
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

My flexibility is pretty bad. We did some stretches at the Aikido class last week and I was probably the worst one there. The body is made up of a skeleton driven by lots of muscle groups and interconnecting tissue like ligaments tendons and fascia. I found a Men’s Health article with a set of Exercise steps designed to get you touching your toes that recognises this and has stretches for all tissue areas involved to complete this manoeuvre.

Today I have been office bound mainly reviewing academic papers and needed to take a break. So I thought I would give it a go. As a baseline measure, I gripped a plastic ruler between my feet to measure the distance from toes to fingertips. It was about 20cm from a standing stretch with feet together.

Step 1 – Exercise:  The Camel-Cat

After carrying out step 1, I achieved a 1cm improvement. 19cm to go.

Step 2 – Exercise:  Hip Hinge with heels elevated

I didn’t have a 2X4 or a weight disc, so improvising, I used a copy of Seeley, Stephens and Tate’s Anatomy and Physiology 3rd Edition. This measured about 2 inches. I can really feel the stretch on my calf muscles and in the back of thighs this time. 18cm to go.

Step 3 – The Exercise:  Hip Hinge with toes elevated

This was a really good stretch. I could feel it working all they way. Seeley, Stephens and Tate were really biting into my toes though – that put me off a bit. Still the proof of the pudding was another 2cm gained. 16cm to go.

Step 4 – The Exercise: Tennis-ball foot roll

I managed to complete this one, although it was rather ticklish. I had a problem once (a long while ago) with the muscle sheet under my right foot becoming bruised after I took a fall off the mat on to a concrete floor. I thought I had broken something but it turned out to be just bruising. The exercise yielded no improvement and left me with 16cm to go.

The article suggests that if you can’t touch your toes after one run through do it again and not where you had the best gain. This should be where you concentrate. Looks like for me its the calf area, this doesn’t really come as a surprise. I took a few minutes break (and wrote this post) before trying again from the top. Here are the results taken after each of the second set of stretches:

  • Step 1: 16cm
  • Step 2: 14cm
  • Step 3: 12cm
  • Step 4: 12cm

So, this confirms the key steps for me are 2 and 3 – the hips and calf muscles. By the way, the A&P book by Seeley, Stephens and Tate is an excellent functional anatomy reference with clear diagrams and explanations and I would like to point out that no copies of this text were harmed in the writing of this post.

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