Wednesday musings, 9/9/15

I was on my mountain bike recently, riding short, steep hills. While I was shifting gears, I noticed my gears didn’t shift as smoothly when I was at the extreme range. When I was in my small ring in front, for instance, my bike didn’t ride as smoothly if I was in either the big or small ring in back; if I stayed in the middle gears, everything worked really well. This is similar to muscular contraction. Muscles are able to generate large amounts of force during the middle range of motion. The force tends to be less at either a completely shortened position or fully lengthened position. This is fine if you aren’t ever asking your muscles to be strong in any position other than when they are flexed halfway. If you participate in any kind of extra-curricular movement activity, however, you regularly ask your muscles to support you in a variety of positions. An easy way to begin challenging your muscles in different positions is to slow down the speed at which you perform exercises, particularly when you are lowering the weight back to a starting position. This causes the muscle to generate force to slow the movement down. Another way to work on this is if you regularly practice yoga, rather than finding the maximum flexibility in every posture, see if you can find strength in the asana. Even something simple, like a forward fold, can turn into a strengthening movement if you think about what is holding you up and use those muscles, rather than flop into the position and stay there. Look for strength in the “easy” parts of movement and watch yourself build usable strength in a different way. And maybe your muscles will work a little better than my mountain bike.