The complete workout: Stretching, aerobics and resistance training

Designing a workout regimen involves three basic components: stretching, aerobic activity and resistance training. Balancing these elements properly results in a workout that yields the greatest results in the least amount of time.

Over the course of the next three weeks, each element will be discussed and suggestions for putting together an efficient workout outlined.

The goal of stretching is to warm up the muscles that are about to be stressed. The term “warm-up” actually refers to increasing blood flow to the muscle.

Muscles are the engines of the human motor system. They are attached to bones by tendons at each end. Tendons become frail with age and disuse. Stretching refreshes elasticity before exercise. Immediate stress on a tendon often results in tearing.

Contracting a muscle moves a joint and places the body in motion. The muscle itself consists of a series of fibers that rely on blood and nerve supply for energy and direction. Increasing the supply of necessary nutrients before activity allows for a smoother transition from idle to active.

Static stretching is the type that includes going into a stretched position and holding it for 20-30 seconds. Dynamic stretching involves stretching muscles while moving.

Muscle physiologists have demonstrated that static stretching alone will result in muscle fatigue and loss of power. It also facilitates an inhibitory impulse from the nervous system. Dynamic stretches increase power, flexibility and range of motion while eliciting an excitatory neurologic stimulus.

“I recommend older athletes begin a workout with a walk or light jog,” said Marc Nee, a local personal trainer and owner of Training with Heart. “Younger, more aggressive athletes should combine dynamic and static stretching through lunging movements performed slowly and held for several seconds.”

Repetition of an activity such as a tennis serve or baseball swing before competing is a very effective way of stretching.

Careful stretching before each workout is an important and often overlooked component of an effective workout regimen.

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