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Boost Your Speed, Flexibility, and Stamina with Russian Dynamic Relaxation Techniques

June 10, 2005 07:54 AM

Walter Mondale's brother told a reporter, "People often ask why Fritz is so stiff. He doesn't want to be seen as pompous, but how loose can you be when you're constantly self-conscious about trying to stay loose?"

This anecdote notwithstanding, you DO have to be conscious about staying loose. Tension and relaxation are the two sides of the performance coin. Tension is strength and power. Relaxation is speed, endurance, and flexibility. The martial arts and many sports demand both. An expert punch stings out like a whip, the fighter's body loose. But the moment the fist connects the puncher's body tenses like a statue. Speed got backed up with power and mass. A blink of an eye later the fist is relaxed again as it snaps back to the guard.

"Tension and relaxation are the two sides of the performance coin. Tension is strength and power. Relaxation is speed, endurance, and flexibility. The martial arts and many sports demand both."

Mastery of relaxation is a hallmark of an elite athlete. Dr. Leonid Matveyev observed that the higher is the athlete's level, the quicker he can relax his muscles. The Soviet scientist observed an 800% difference between novices and Olympic level sportsmen!

Which is why Russians, from grade schoolers in a phys. ed. class to elite forces and Olympic athletes, practice special dynamic relaxation exercises in every athletic practice. These exercises featured on the Fast & Loose DVD involve passive movement in one form or another. Say, you are working on relaxing your legs. Pretend that you are trying to shake water off your leg; keep your weight on the other leg and make the relaxed leg vibrate. You should feel like your muscles have turned to fat. Wobbling your muscles with the help of your hands is another option. Finally, you could stand on one leg and rhythmically swing the other back and forth.

"Which is why Russians, from grade schoolers in a phys. ed. class to elite forces and Olympic athletes, practice special dynamic relaxation exercises in every athletic practice."

Jogging with the emphasis on relaxation is also a form of dynamic relaxation training. Various passive drops are popular for the upper body. For instance, inhale and raise your arms. Let your breath out and let your arms drop as a dead weight. The same thing can be done with the shoulders ? watch how boxers loosen up their traps before a fight. Vibrating your fingertips until your hands feel large and heavy is excellent for the arms.

Ideally, practice relaxation exercises between sets of your strength exercises and throughout your martial arts or athletic practice. You want to learn to go from high tension to complete relaxation and back in an instant.

Russian boxing coaches emphasize the importance of developing the relaxation skill in boxers. They recommend traditional methods that date way back to the warriors of the Southern Russia who would stand in water waist deep and repeatedly slice it with a blade. As fatigue set in, the Cossack would learn to stay maximally relaxed on the downswing and only tense up when the saber connected with the surface. The results were gruesome and awesome: a Cossack could slice a horseman in half, from the shoulder down to the saddle, with a light saber.

A saber and open water are not exactly practical, so Russian boxing coaches recommend chopping firewood instead; cutting a log in half with one strike is ideal. An even more accessible setup is a large tire, half dug into the ground or attached to a wall. Just beat it up with a light metal pipe (not a heavy sledgehammer).

The following unique and simple exercise recommended by the authoritative Russian Boxing Yearbook operates on a different principle and offers many awesome benefits in addition to the relaxation skill. Namely, improved tension skill, a more powerful punch, a stronger grip, and a more muscular forearm. The author promises that this drill will work your muscles not less intensely then a barbell works a weightlifter's.

Get a large eraser that comfortably fits into your fist, e.g. 1x1.5x3". Carry it with you all day and squeeze it explosively. Initiate each gripping action from your core ? compress! Be maximally explosive ? imagine that you are punching. Then relax just as quick as you flex! An expression by a famous Soviet expert on autogenic training, Vladimir Levi, comes to mind: "a mentally relaxed fist". Eventually you will be capable of a rapid-fire tight-loose-tight sequence ? just like good punching. Just don't pick up the pace if you still have residual tension between reps!

Alternate the hands and practice for a few hours a day, which is not as difficult as it sounds because you can carry the eraser with you anywhere you go. The boxing coach reminds you that this and other relaxation exercises are excellent but they do not replace ring experience: fear of getting hit cannot help tighten one up.

One of the first karate masters in the US George Matson stated, "?the desired result of our learning is to completely control the muscles of our body ? so that while performing a Karate technique we can completely tense the complimentary muscles while completely relaxing the antagonistic muscles? Achieving complete control over your muscles is perfection. Those who have achieved a high degree of this control are said to possess "Ki" or "Chi"."

Russian dynamic relaxation techniques will help you get there faster.

"Achieving complete control over your muscles is perfection.
Those who have achieved a high degree of this control are said to possess "Ki" or "Chi"."


See Pavel's Fast and Loose DVD
 

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