- Balance Tension and Relaxation.
- If you can't fully relax a muscle you can't fully contract it either.
- Relaxing the upper trap will help headaches, shoulder pain, and neck pain.
- Balance Tension and Relaxation.
Hi everybody, Dr. Cobb back with you this week. Today we’re going to talk about tension and relaxation. Now one of the things we discuss a lot in Z-Health is this idea of mapping.
That we have our eyes, our inner ear and our body, and they’re all sending signals to the brain, and the brain has tons of different maps of itself that live within it. One of the things that we try to discuss with regularity is that the clearer your maps, the better your movement.
Now in traditional R-Phase which is the beginning steps of the system, we spend a lot of time on movement. Can you control your shoulder blade, can you control your elbows, can you control your wrists, so we talk about movement mapping.
Movement, if we subdivide it down, is a complex interplay between tension and relaxation. Which means that I need to be able to get tense, I also need to be able to relax. This also plays a big role in strength and sports performance.
Pavel Tsatsouline probably of Russian Kettle Bell fame, and now a company called Strong First, a brilliant teacher, is really popular right now in teaching this idea that tension is strength. We always tell people, “Hey you want to be strong, you need to learn how to contract stuff hard,” but the converse side of that is if you want to be comfortable, you also need to learn to relax it well.
We talk a lot about this idea of having great tension maps and great relaxation maps, because those play a big role in the movement mapping.
What we’re going to do today is an exploration of one muscle in the body, we’re going to tense it hard and we’re going to relax it hard. Now please go carefully. The one that we’re going to choose is one that usually has big complaints associated with it.
It’s the upper trapezius muscles. The upper trapezius is this big muscle that lays on top of your shoulder, it’s involved in a lot of different things, particularly controlling your shoulder blade and your head and neck, and when you grab someone shoulders after they’ve been at work for 8 hours, and you’re rubbing, and it’s like, “Ah it feels like a brick wall,” it’s usually tension in the upper trapezius.
Which means that they probably are unable to relax it. The way that we look at this is, even if I have an area that’s really tight, I probably can’t contract it well, because if I could contract it well, I could also relax it well.
What we do is we take each muscle that we find like that, and we explore all the movements that that muscle contributes to. The upper trap, the upper trapezius, does a number of different things. What we’re going to work on fast is contracting it gently.
Please listen, gently, because otherwise it may cramp and you may send me hate mail, and I don’t like getting that, so we’re going to do it gently. Then we’re going to do the reverse of the contraction, to put it under a light stretch.
Notice again the word in there, a light stretch. I want you to go gently with these. Upper trap does these things, and you’re going to follow along with me. Get in a comfortable position, and you’re going to start by elevating your shoulder blade.
Lift your shoulder blade up. Now pull your shoulder blade backwards. So far, shoulder blade up, shoulder blade back. Now you’re probably feeling some tension in here. Now we’re going to add the head and neck into it. For the head and neck we’re going to tilt the head backwards. We’re going to pull our ear toward that shoulder, and then we’re going to turn our head away.
If we then bring all that together, for 2 seconds that is a full contraction of the upper trapezius. Now like I said, you may have actually started to get some cramping. If you did, you’re going too hard, so you need to just relax. We’re going to do that one more time, we’re going to switch sides.
Usually the way that I train people in this is, you do 2 seconds of contraction, and then you reverse each of the movements. That’s what we’re going to do on this side to get the stretch.
Once again, for the contraction we’re going to raise the shoulder blade, we’re going to pull the shoulder blade back and we’re going to hold that position. We’re then going to tilt our head and neck back. We’re going to tilt our ear toward that shoulder and rotate our head away.
We’re going to bring it all together for 1001, 1002, relax. From here, we’re going to reverse it. I’m going to turn my head toward that shoulder, tilt my head away from that shoulder, pull my shoulder blade down, pull my shoulder blade forward, and bend my head forward. Once I’m in this position, I’m going to give 5 little pulses and relax. All right?
Now if you compare the 2 sides, you did tension on one side, and you did tension and relaxation on the other side. They should be noticeably different.
What we’re going to do is we’re going to go over here and take care of the poor neglected one, but we’re going to do the same process again. Just because I want you to know this one. We’re going to start with the tension, we’re going to lift the shoulder blade up, we’re going to pull it back. We’re going to tilt our head back, tilt our ear toward that side, turn our head away, bring it together for 2 seconds, 1001, 1002, release the tension.
Now we reverse it. We turn our head toward that side. Tilt our head away. Pull the shoulder blade down, bring the shoulder blade forward, and bend our head forward. Pulse. One, two, three, four, five. Come back up, and if you’ve done this correctly, what probably you noticed immediately is that your shoulders went, “Whoosh.”
They dropped down and started to relax. This is again an example of how specific your nervous system is. When we talk about movement mapping; movement again is composed of tension and relaxation, and there is a tremendous amount to be learned by developing this body awareness of what each muscle does.
If you like this and you respond really well to it, please let me know. I will tell you, I have seen many, many shoulder problems corrected simply from this one exercise. I have seen a lot of neck problems correct just from this one exercise.
I have seen lots of office workers go, “This one thing made all the difference in my headaches at the end of the day.” What I encourage you to do, like I said, is start off with 2 seconds of contraction, and then 5 little pulses of relaxation.
Try and do that 3 to 4 times each day. Over time, you’ll be able to contract harder when you’re in the tension position, and you’ll also be able to relax a little bit more deeply into that mobilized position or relaxation position over time.
Go carefully, don’t hurt yourself. If you find this useful, please again send me an email, let me know.
That’s one muscle out of about 700 in the body, so if you like this, we can do it more, but you have to tell me that you enjoy it.
All right guys, thanks. Have a great week.
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