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Enjoying The Spring Sports Season

© Wayne L. Westcott PhD

Because one set of each exercise stimulates a positive and productive muscle response, single-set strength training is an efficient and effective means for improving musculoskeletal fitness.

You should use a weightload that can be lifted between 8 and 12 repetitions in proper form. This corresponds to approximately 75 percent of the maximum weightload you could use, and represents a safe and sensible training resistance. To ensure progressive strength improvement, you should increase the weightload by about 5 percent whenever 12 good repetitions can be completed.

Although your swinging actions are fast, your strength exercises should be performed at a slow and controlled movement speed. Moving relatively heavy weights quickly involves a lot of inertia and momentum that can easily overstress your muscles and joint structures. For most practical purposes, each repetition should be performed in about 6 seconds, taking 2 seconds for the lifting phase and 4 seconds for the lowering phase. It is also advisable to exhale during the lifting phase and to inhale during the lowering phase of each repetition.

Because full range strength is essential for safe and successful sports performance, try to perform each exercise through the full range of joint movement. That is, do your best to move carefully through the positions of joint flexion and joint extension. However, do not move into positions that cause discomfort in or around your joints.

Training 2 or 3 days per week should produce excellent results, so long as you follow the recommended training principles and procedures. Generally speaking, about 8 weeks of regular strength training is desirable prior to initiating your spring sports participation.

Recommended Stretching Exercise Program
Stretching is probably more art than science, and basically involves a gentle movement that extends the target muscle until it is taut, but not traumatized. That is, stretches should be kept within the comfort zone and never pushed to the point of pain. The recommended procedure for enhancing joint flexibility is to move slowly into the stretched position and then pause for about 10-30 seconds. As the target muscles relax and lengthen, you may stretch a little farther and again hold the final position for about 10-30 seconds.

Stretches for golf, softball, and tennis should target the hip and shoulder muscles. Of course, to be most practical, the recommended stretches should permit performance while playing the activity. For example, the Leg-Up Hamstring Stretch can be done almost anywhere. Simply place the heel of your left leg on a bench, bleacher or golf cart and reach your left hand forward toward your left ankle. Hold a comfortably stretched position for 10-30 seconds, and repeat this procedure with your right leg.

Shoulder stretches may be varied according to your creativity. However, a good starting point is the Overhead Shoulder Stretch. Begin by placing both arms directly above your head and clasping your hands loosely. Use your left arm to pull your right arm overhead to your left and hold the stretched position for 10-30 seconds.

Trunk circles are always appropriate as long as they are performed in a very slow and controlled manner. Place your hands on your hips and bend gently to your left, rear, right and front, pausing for several seconds in each position. After completing the circle, repeat this procedure in the reverse direction.

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About The Author
Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., is fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA. He is strength training consultant for numerous national organizations, such as the American Council on Exercise, the American Senior Fitness Association, and the National Youth......more
 
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