20 Nuggets of Info on the Subject of Flexibility Training

Flexibility workshop follow up: (This was originally posted in my closed Facebook group, but is being shred here on request)

– Developmental vs Maintenance: Developmental stretching is working to acheive a greater range of motion, maintenance is both securing that new range and removing “residual tension”

– Active range of motion vs Passive range of motion Passive ROM is the range you can acheive with outside assistance (gravity, tool, partner etc) Active is the range you can control yourself with muscular strength/coordination The bigger the difference between the two, the greater the potential for injury.

– Developing passive can act as a precursor for developing active. Think of drawing a picture, we draw our outline (passive) then gradually colour it in (active)

– Of course we can start with a block of colour and gradually expand it out to create a picture, this is analogous to using active mobility drills to develop range of motion and not going passive.

– Passive Stretching Also known as “wait out the Tension” is the best known stretching. Simply assume the position you want to acheive and wait. Breathe as you wait, every exhale brings relaxation to the stretched muscles. Where people go wrong is by forcing this stretch and going into pain. Pain is a threat and the muscles can potentially fight back against that threat, creating more tightness. Passive stretching therefore is about relaxing into an uncomfortable space long enough for it to become comfortable, then going further.

– Better than passive Assume to position you wish to improve at the “easy stretch” level. Now gently pulse further in and slightly back out. Each pulse should take you deeper than before. After approx 10 pulses, hold the end position achieved for approx 60seconds to “secure” it. 3 sets of this, 3-5 times per week should see fairly noticeable gains. The pulses ought to remove the residual tension with the final hold establishing our “new” end range

– Contract – Relax This is a more active method, in that we are trying to contract the muscle we are stretching. Assume the position you want to improve feel the stretch. Attempt to contract the muscle that is being stretched (tighten the tight line) for a few seconds, then relax. You will probably be able to sink into a deeper position immediately following the contraction. Continue in this manner until no further gains are forthcoming.

– Contrast Like above only instead of contracting the lengthening side, we contract the closing side. So in a hip flexor stretch, we contract the glutes as one example. This should push you further into the stretch. Pulse the shortening muscle until no further gains are forthcoming.

– Contrast lifts / Lift Offs Like contrast work we are focusing on the closing side. This is the “colouring in” mentioned earlier. Assume a position, not all positions work here, you may need to be creative. Now attempt to lift the limb by contracting the shortening side of the joint. For example, standing with the foot on a step for a hamstring stretch, now using the quads and hip flexors, lift the leg off the step without moving any other part of the body.

– Wait out tension and lift offs work well together. In the above hamstring stretch example you can wait out residual tension in the hamstring, or even pulse in and out of the hamstring, then instead of a passive hold for the last 60 seconds, perform a set of lift offs. Be ready for those short muscles to cramp!!

– Forcing a stretch is never a good idea. Over doing it, especially in a passive stretch, can lead to the stretch moving to the tendons and ligaments. These connective tissues don’t have the “spring” of the muscles and may not return to length post stretch. You are potentially destabilising your joint integrity of this happens.

-Knowing your anatomy helps you dial in and optimise specific stretches to emphasise specific muscle fibre orientations. Or you can go purely by feel and look for tight lines to work into. Both methods have validity.

– If you stretch in a warm up, active methods are best, passive is better used away from training, for example in front of the TV or reading a book.

– Dynamic range of motion exercises are best to warm up, but if flexibility is required to achieve a particular position, stretch into this.

– Never hold the breath while stretching, that creates tension and is counter to our goals.

– Post passive stretching there is a reduction in the amount of force a muscle can produce, use this fact your advantage. Stretching of an antagonist muscle can help the agonist fire better. But be careful with this. This reduction of force is temporary, so while not recommended immediately prior to high efforts, if the high effort is coming later, there should be no loss in power. If I remember right, the time is +/- 4 mins. But assume longer to allow for individual variances.

– As a guideline, Hips like closed chain, Shoulder like Open Chain. This is NOT a rule.

– Finally, increases in range of motion happen through a well balanced training plan anyway, not all tightness needs stretched out, how much flexibility do you actually need?

– Program stretching like any other attribute.

– No more than 2-3 developmental stretches should be performed at a time, they’ll sap too much energy and leave you sore which is contrary to other attribute development training.

– Rotate your main stretches frequently. If one area plateaus, move to another. If one area refuses to open, that is a warning flag, take note.

If you’ve questions, queries, additional points, comment away

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