I have a client who has extremely limited flexibility in the lower half of her body, particularly her adductors and glutes. I've suggested remedial massage and Bikram yoga to assist her as PNF stretching and the stretching she does on her own has not been very successful. I wanted to know if running, leg presses and lunging exercises are likely to exacerbate her flexibility issues. We don't do these exercises excessively; however, she's keen to maintain total body strength and most certainly refuses to give up running as recently advised to her. Your thoughts would be much appreciated, and if you can suggest any other stretches/exercises I can help her with, I would appreciate it. I should add she has been training for around 20 years. She's 39 years old and has good strength and cardio fitness. She also is a Type 1 diabetic, which is well controlled, although her balance is quite poor.
One of the issues we must question as trainers is why clients like this demonstrate such tightness in their musculature. Muscle tightness can be a representation of the body protecting itself from instability. As you stated, this client has diabetes and demonstrates very poor balance. This confirms there is insufficient control coming from the muscular system. This results in the body tightening up as a protective mechanism in weight bearing activities. It also explains why stretching has not helped. Since the problem is instability dictated by lack of muscle control, until the muscle control issue is addressed, the body will continue to tighten up. In cases such as this, the muscle tightness is secondary to muscle weakness. Muscle activation techniques (MAT) addresses issues such as this. MAT looks at correcting the muscular weakness in order to increase its contractile capabilities throughout the full ROM. The philosophy behind MAT is that muscle tightness is secondary to muscle weakness. When a muscle has been overstressed, it will lose its connection with the central nervous system. This, in turn, results in an inability for the muscle to contract efficiently. Since the associated muscle cannot perform its function efficiently, it forces other muscles to overwork. The end result is that the overworking muscles become tense. The associated tightness is just a symptom for some other underlying cause (weakness). Thus, without fixing the problem (muscle weakness), the tight muscles can not relax. When muscles have lost their neurological connection due to stress trauma or overuse, they must be "jumpstarted" in order to perform their jobs efficiently. Through a specific form of isometrics, you can "jumpstart" the inhibited muscles. This in turn provides the body with a sense of stability, allowing for long term mobility gains. When muscles can contract efficiently, the tight muscles will relax. For more information on the concepts of MAT and the jumpstart isometrics, refer to the MAT web site at www.muscleactivation.com.