Reciprocal Inhibition

Below is an excerpt taken from: http://www.cmcrossroads.com/bradapp/docs/rec/stretching/stretching_2.html

When an agonist muscle contracts, in order to cause the desired motion, it usually forces the antagonists to relax. This phenomenon is called reciprocal inhibition because the antagonists are inhibited from contracting. This is sometimes called reciprocal innervation but that term is really a misnomer since it is the agonists which inhibit (relax) the antagonists. The antagonists do not actually innervate the agonists.

When stretching, it is easier to stretch a muscle that is relaxed than to stretch a muscle that is contracting. By taking advantage of the situations when reciprocal inhibition does occur, you can get a more effective stretch by inducing the antagonists to relax during the stretch due to the contraction of the agonists. You also want to relax any muscles used as synergists by the muscle you are trying to stretch. For example, when you stretch your calf, you want to contract the shin muscles (the antagonists of the calf) by dorsiflexing your ankle joint. However, the hamstrings use the calf as a synergist so you want to also relax the hamstrings by contracting the quadricep (i.e., keeping your leg straight).

In addition, there are many ways to improving your ranges of motion throughout your body.  Using reciprocal inhibition is one way of improving your performance.  If you have more questions or need help, contact our Fitness Staff at 406 994-6309.

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