Monday, March 10, 2003

Personal Trainer

Painless exercise quite a stretch

By Dave Patania

Question: I have been working out for two months and have lost 17 pounds. Lately, I have had a sore back. I think it's because I don't stretch after exercising. What stretching moves should I do?

Answer: Be sure to incorporate stretching into your exercise routine. Along with cardiovascular exercise, strength training and proper nutrition, stretching provides a powerful combination of activities that will take your conditioning to the next level.

Stretching makes you more flexible. Being flexible means you will be more apt to avoid injury while exercising and you will increase the amount of blood flow and nutrients to your working muscles, which increases performance and recovery.

Don't stretch after you start to feel pain in a particular body part, but rather create a consistent routine of warming up, then stretching before you exercise and a cool-down period followed by stretching after you exercise.

There is a technique created by body-building expert John Parrillo known as Fascial Stretching. The fascia is a sheath of connective tissue that surrounds the muscles. When this sheath of tissue becomes more flexible, it allows the muscle more room to contract, expand and grow.

The concept is to stretch the muscle groups between strength-training exercises, when the muscle is fully "pumped." This is the best time to stretch the fascia. You also can stretch between hard aerobic sessions, when your muscles are pumped.

This technique can help improve strength by 15-20 percent and increase the shape and tone of your muscles for a defined physique.

As far as stretches for your back, start by lying on your back. Grab the tops of your knees, pull them to your chest and hold without bouncing or jerking. Take a deep breath, relax and feel the muscle loosen. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds and repeat two times.

You then can leave one leg on the floor and pull the other knee to your chest. Hold each stretch 20-30 seconds and repeat two times with each leg. Breathing is important, so take deep breaths, exhale and relax with each stretch.

Don't hesitate to put ice on your sore back (for 10-15 minutes at a time). If pain persists, check with your doctor.

E-mail certified personal trainer Dave Patania at

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