This is an overview of a type of fitness, Flexibility.
For a long time I taught yoga and trained flexibility that way and happily used the saying, "a long muscle is a strong muscle!"
Well, that is wrong. It should have been, " a long strong muscle is a strong muscle." Now, a short muscle can be strong and both a long muscle and a short one can be weak. However, (elementary school toilet humor) most want it to be long and strong, then we want it short and strong then you can put weak wherever you want(probably elsewhere.)
The truth is that your flexibility should be in direct relationship to your strength. How many yoga teachers do you know that can hold 1/4 to 1/2 of their bodyweight overhead with one arm and perform a squat?
The answer is not many, but everyone should be able too.
How many yoga teachers do you know that can do a one legged squat, all the way through a full range of motion?
Flexibility is only good if you are strong through your ROM (range of motion).
Types of flexibility training:
- Dynamic 1
- Dynamic 2
- Tissue, joint mobilization
Static is like a basic yoga class even if it is a flow class. Hold a posture and feel the muscle burn.
Dynamic 1 is more bouncing quick stretching.
Dynamic 2 is more like doing a warm up lap and not going through a full ROM but getting everything moving and getting the tissue moving, lubricated and prepared.
Assisted is any of the 7 types listed that someone helps you with. Some good versions are Benny Vaughn's neuro kinetic stretching in texas, Aaron Mattes AIS. Although I am not a huge fan of this for normal and healthy people, but I do like it for compromised populations.
PNF is a form of stretching where you take a muscle to its "end point" and then contract the muscle for about 10 seconds. You continue this for 3 to 6 times and the ROM increases. It will not last unless you are doing it 6x a day but it can help lessen dysfunction long enough to take the compromised person through a healthy ROM. You can also have someone help you with this.
Loaded (is my favorite) is going through a max ROM while being weighted. Think turkish get up, squat variations (symetrical and asymetrical.), good mornings, dead lifts. (all these can be checked out on youtube.)
Joint Mobilization is the act of passively and actively taking an appendage and a joint through its ROM but in a lazier way. It helps everything move better. Tissue Mobilization is like rolling on a ball or a foam roller.
My two favorites are Loaded stretching and Joint/tissue mobilization. I like Loaded stretching because it makes your ROM strong at the same time you are increasing your ROM. I see people get more flexible faster by doing this than when I was teaching yoga. I also see these people get more useable flexibility, and injure themselves less. When I lived in Jackson Hole Wyoming most of the yoga teachers had to have knee surgery when they went skiing because they were too flexible for their level of strength.
Don't stretch before working out. We see a 30% decrease in strength when people stretch before moving. If you want to warm up do some lazy full ROM movements and get your heart rate up. When your heart rate goes up you get more flexible. Try touching your toes and then jump rope or lazy jog with some pushups or some burpees then check your flexibility again and you will see you can get deeper.
If I train flexibility, I do so as a skill on an off day or 20 min to 30 min after a workout and only loaded.
However, most of all my workouts are FROM (full range of motion) and under load.
Example, 3/4 bodweight overhead squats and burpees 20, 15, 10, 5 with 20 double unders between each.
the number one rule of stretching is if you feel it in the joint it is WRONG!
for example, bend over at the waist to do a "hamstring stretch" and if you feel it behind the knees it is wrong. (Now if you are doing joint rehab you may feel it in a joint but that is different. However joint rehab should be facilitated with a trained professional)
Static stretching does not facilitate trunk stability.
Movement requires trunk stability, stretching does not if you stretch without having to have the trunk actively support the spine. The flexibility that is gained will not be useable for a number of reasons.
- Receptor set points
- The one we will talk about today is structural stability.
In short I am a fan of scaled(amount that can be tolerated and performed with no spinal deviation) mobility and stability through movement and or loaded movements.
You are training the body to be able to stabilize through a ROM and this will strengthen and lengthen the body at the same time.
This means that if you are injured, scale loaded movements and do soft tissue/joint mobilization. If you are healthy train your flexibility through FROM (full ROM) weighted exercises. At first that may mean just bodyweight or less than bodyweight but not passive and not static.
Favorite flexibility exercises
turkish get ups
favorite flexibility drills
seated split leg one armed overhead loaded bendovers to one side
This is a quick down and dirty of some basic flexibility ideas. I will go into more depth for each part later.