Be At Your Best and Stay Pain Free With Optimal Flexibility

There’s three fundamental reasons to pay attention to your mobility and flexibility:

#1. So You Can Build a Complete Skillset

To strengthen or accelerate your ability in a certain position, you have to be able to get your body into that position before any training can begin. If you have tight leg muscles and your fighting style utilizes high kicks, you can’t even start practicing those kicks until you loosen things up enough to get your feet that high.

#2. So You Can Be At Your Best

If you’re a sprinter, and you have overly tight hamstrings, your stride will be shortened and you’ll be at a disadvantage with every step.
Further, overly tight joints lead to compensations, and compensations lead to overactive muscles trying to do something that’s not really their job, and that leads to stunted performances, weird ways of walking, soreness, cramping, and joint pain.
And guess what all that leads to? More compensations.
In that state, you’re like a car that’s shaking wildly because its way overdue for an alignment. You won’t win any drag races like that.

#3. So You Can Stay Pain And Injury Free

If you’re active, and you have poor joint mobility, you’re far more likely to sprain or strain something in certain positions. Achieving full mobility and optimum flexibility will protect you from those kinds of injuries.
It’s also been known to help reduce and prevent many kinds of back pain, especially the kind that develops from too much sitting, typing, and mousing.
So let’s talk about how you can create and preserve the right amount of mobility and flexibility.

The Important Difference Between Mobility and Flexibility

Quite a few people screw up flexibility training because they don’t understand the difference between joint mobility and flexibility.
Mobility, as we’re using the term here, is your ability to move a limb through its functionally normal range of motion without help.
Flexibility goes beyond mere mobility into more extreme positions, possibly even to the point of hyperextension, to enable you to meet the requirements of your sport. (Proceed with caution.)
Stretching is the primary method you use to create more mobility and flexibility.
So, if you need to increase your mobility, you stretch. If you need to increase your flexibility, you stretch. The difference is what kind, how long, how intensely, and how often you do it.

Do You Just Need Full Mobility, or Do You Need Added Flexibility?

Everyone who’s active and who cares about their fitness should have full mobility as a foundational goal. But not everyone needs significant amounts of flexibility.  It’s not necessary for superior performance in many sports, and it doesn’t do anything to help prevent injuries. [1]
In some cases, if you have extra flexibility, you may experience more injuries, not less. [2],[3] Here’s why:
Too much flexibility can compromise the integrity of your joints, because it ends up turning your connective tissues into saggy rubber bands, and that’s really not their job. Their one and only purpose is to stay tight, all the time. Your body is more concerned about staying in once piece than it is about whether you can do a split jump.
The ability to hyper-extend some joints for a superior performance, at the expense of preserving tight connective tissue, is something you have to choose at your own risk. Gymnasts, dancers, divers, yogis, and martial artists will sometimes need this kind of flexibility.
If you do, make sure you also make the time to strengthen the working muscles in those positions, so that you are never out of control. (Isometric stretching is a good way to do this, but that’s for another article.)

What Stretching Should and Should Not Accomplish

If you’re too tight, it’s not your connective tissues that need to loosen up, it’s your muscles. And if your muscles are tight, it’s for at least one of two reasons:

  • Your have adhesions and poorly remodeled collagen proteins from past stress.
  • Your have an over-protective and under-trained nervous system.

So the right way to increase your flexibility is to communicate with your nervous system that it is safe and useful to give your muscle tone a new set point. Gently and patiently coaxing those muscles to a new length in an environment of safety, stability, and calm is the only way to increase muscle flexibility without turning your tendons and ligaments into saggy rubber bands.
As you do that, you’ll also gently encourage poorly remodeled collagen to loosen up and remodel at the right length, effectively solving both problems with the same exercise.

Which Kind of Stretching Do You Need?

#1: Static Stretching: Correcting Imbalances, Reducing Soreness, and Improving Range of Motion

This is what most people picture in their heads when someone talks about stretching. With a static stretch, you get into a body position where at least one muscle is being stretched, and then you hold it for a while. Many of the yoga poses employ static stretching, such as:

  • Cobra (stretches abdominals, flexes back)
  • Downward Facing Dog (stretches calves and most of the lower posterior chain)
  • Crescent Lunge
  • Standing Forward Bend

What Static Stretches You Should Do

Most static stretches for particular muscle groups don’t have easily memorable names, and they’ve already been collected for you in a number of places online, usually with instructions and photos, so I’ll simply refer you to two:
You can view The American Council on Exercise’s list of static stretches here.
Bodybuilding.com, though a bit of a “wild-wild-west” site in terms of it’s content, has put a large database together as well, that you can search through and customize, here.
Find ones within your current ability level, and be sure not to leave any muscle groups out. Remember, imbalances can start anywhere, even in your feet, which leads to compensations in your leg muscles, which leads to compensations in your back … I’m sure you get it.

How Often To Do Them

If you’re trying to restore full mobility, do them every day and keep the intensity low.
However, if you’re pursuing more extreme flexibility, space them out every 72-96 hours. Longer recovery days between stretching appear to enhance stand and reach measurements: those studied improved by 4.2 centimeter gain after 24 hours, compared to 6.9 centimeters after 96 hours.[4]

Static Stretching with a Partner: PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation)

PNF is considered superior to most other methods of training, because it involves combinations of both contracting and relaxing into a stretch, and these combinations trigger reflexes that deepen your results.
But they also involve a partner pushing on you, which means that anyone who trains alone can’t use them.
If you have a partner, and you’d like to know more about this effective approach, certified trainer Phil Davies has written a great description of how it works at Sport Fitness Advisor.
And if you’re looking for actual exercises and demonstrations, the folks at EXRX have demonstrated over a dozen useful ones here. (You’ll have to scroll down to get the list, and click on each of the stretches under PNF to get the details.)

The Right Way to Perform a Static Stretch

It’s important to gently coax yourself with static stretching. Move right to the point of discomfort, and don’t force yourself further. From there, breath into it, relax into it, and safely encourage your muscles and nerves to relax further. As your range of motion opens up, take the increase to the new point of discomfort, and continue relaxing and breathing there unless it opens up some more.
Complete at least 2 round of each stretch, for 20-45 seconds each. The first one is just to open things up, the second one will give you some real gains.
NOTE: If, instead of a sense of loosening, you feel a sense that tightness is increasing, stop the stretch, shake it out, and relax.

When Static Stretching Will Benefit You the Most

Static stretches benefit you as a cool down, after you’ve trained – or, at the very least, after you’ve warmed up with something else.
In the short term, they help avoid tightness by reducing the neural stimulation that sometimes lingers after intense muscle contractions, and the help reduce soreness by preventing adhesions from forming.
Over the long haul, this practice of cooling down with static stretches will increase your range of motion, improve your force production, your speed, and even your jumping ability. [5],[6]

When Not To Use A Static Stretch

Don’t use these for a warm up. They won’t help you. If anything, they’ll hurt you. Researchers have measured decreases in force production, power, balance, and reaction time if static stretches are done before athletic performances. [7],[8],[9] This downgrade can last for an hour. [10],[11]
If you need to eliminate a sense of tightness before training or before a competition, use dynamic stretching (described next) or self-myofascial release.

Dynamic Stretching: The Perfect Warm Up

Dynamic Stretches

To perform a dynamic stretch, you use speed and momentum to put one or more muscles in a stretched position, but you don’t hold it still. Instead, you bring it back and repeat the movement 10-20 times. [12] Usually, you’ll mimic a sport-specific movement, like a high kick, but in a controlled and exaggerated way.
NOTE: This is not the same as ballistic stretching, which involves a lot of bouncing movements and has been almost universally discarded because of its tendency to rip things.
Some examples of dynamic stretches include:

  • Arm circles
  • Arm swings (flying motion, and bear hug motion)
  • Side bends
  • Trunk rotations
  • Alternating toe touches
  • Kicks: front, side, and crescent
  • Deep lunges

When Dynamic Stretching Will Benefit You Most

Dynamic stretching, as long as it’s not extreme, is a great warm up, because it reduces muscle tightness[13] but doesn’t cause the downgrade in performance that static stretching does. [14],[15],[16]
Reducing muscle tightness before training or competing is important, because tight muscles will more easily lead to tears in muscles and tendons.[17]

Your Secret Weapon for Enhanced Mobility and Flexibility

No matter what kind of stretching you’ll be doing, we think you’ll love this.
One of our most popular products, used in traditional Taoist Yoga and Ayurveda to help with flexibility training in yoga and martial arts, is our flexibility decoction.
Yoga teachers, martial artists, and professional weight lifters have all used it, and many have fallen in love with it. Our users have reported results like:

  • The ability to perform new moves and positions because of increased range of motion
  • Significant pain relief in muscles, tendons, and joints
  • Improved sleep and deep muscle and tendon relaxation

 “What Are Other Users Saying About It?”

Here’s five reports we’ve gotten back from folks who’ve used it:
“My only regret is that I didn’t try this stuff sooner…”
“I started using it as directed and that very night I slept better than I have in years. About a week later (and still sleeping like a baby) my joint pain started getting less and less due to improved flexibility. Now after a hard training class my shoulders and neck no longer hurt.
“It’s been about 3 weeks and my flexibility has improved at least 50%, and several of the techniques that I used to not be able to perform due to tight muscles and ligaments, now I’m doing them without pain!
“My only regret is that I didn’t try this stuff sooner. I love this stuff and I’ll be using it for many years!!!”

–Dr. Branson, Knoxville, Tennessee

“I highly recommend this for any athletes who train hard…”
The formula is great as a tea, with amazing pain relieving and relaxation qualities. I use it to supplement my training and help fight my osteoarthritis pain. My Mother loves it too, and it really seems to help with restless legs and difficulty sleeping for older folks… I highly recommend this for any athletes who train hard.

–Erik O’Brien, Norwell, Massachusetts

“A huge difference! I was really stunned…”
“Wow! This stuff is fantastic!
“I knew your jows worked so I figured what the hey, our Grandmaster is coming and we have to test in front of him, might as well get as flexible as possible.
… We kept drinking the herbs every day but forgot about checking our flexibility or basically expecting anything. We didn’t do any extra stretching, just the normal class stuff, which is four days a week.
Then about a week later, we’re stretching at the beginning of class and I’m like, ‘whoa, what happened!?’
There was a huge difference! I was really stunned. Same thing with my husband. After class we spent another hour stretching at home just because we were so pleased at the difference!
Anybody who wants to get more flexible should try this stuff! I can’t praise it too highly!

–Alicia Brewer, Tempe, Arizona

“A super Decoction that really works fast…”
“A super Decoction that really works fast. I will be trying this for 100 days and then some. Great for anyone in the arts and not in the arts.”

–Jeremy McGarvie, Campbellton, New Brunswick

 “Muscles and tendons began to relax and I also slept better…”
“My shoulders and neck had become quite tense and painful… I purchased 2 bags of the formula and mixed up the first soon after I received them. I noticed a positive difference after several days of drinking this formulas. My muscles and tendons began to relax and I also slept better. If you are looking to work on your flexibility or have muscle / tendon tension problems, then this is a great formula to try…”

–Bert Matlock, Port Clinton, Ohio

“I’m Older. Will It Help Me?”

It helps at any age. Alan Schwinn started training Kenpo Karate at age 65 from a mostly sedentary life, and understandably, was extremely tight all over. He told us that in as little as two weeks of using our flexibility decoction, he felt his entire body loosening up, and he even set himself a goal of reaching Shodan in the next year.

“What’s in It, and What Does it Do?”

The flexibility decoction is composed of three synergistic herb blends:

  1. Spasm relieving herbs that smooth tension and keep muscle, tendon, and ligaments relaxed during exercises that challenge flexibility, and to aid in increasing limberness and flexibility.
  2. Nutritive herbs that help muscles and ligaments recover from stress and overstretching that is often part of an intensive training regimen.
  3. Yang tonic herbs that warm the joints, keeping tightness from impeding your training.

“Yeah, But How Does it Taste?”

Don’t worry, it doesn’t taste like medicine. In fact it has pleasant, cinnamon-like flavor that everyone seems to really enjoy.
Alicia Brewer said, “One really nice thing is that the herbs aren’t horrible to drink like most of the Chinese decoctions I’d had in the past and have a pleasant cinnamon taste.”
And Alan Schwinn told us that he thought it was “an appeasing, tasty and seemingly effective cup of tea.”

Give It a Shot, And Get to The Next Level

Ok, enough of our shameless plugging. We’re just very proud of the results this stuff gets, as you can probably sense. So if you’d like to try some out, you can choose your options here.

References


[1] Gleim, GW & McHugh, MP (1997). Flexibility and its effects on sports injury and performance. Sports Medicine, 24(5), 289-99
[2] Surberg PR (1983) flexibility exercise re-examined. Athl Tr 18:37-40.
[3] Jones BH (1997). The role of medical surveillance and research in army injury prevention. American College of Sports Medicine Conference abstract, Denver.
[4] McCallister TL, et. al. (2004). Days of rest between stretching bouts increased hamstring flexibility. Journal of Athletic Training. Supplement 39(2), 99-100.
[5] Brodowicz, G.R., R. Welsh, and J Wallis. Comparison of stretching with ice, stretching with heat, or stretching alone on hamstring flexibility. J. Athl. Training. 31:324-27. 1996
[6] Shrier I. Does stretching improve performance? A systematic and critical revie of the literature. Clin J Sport Med. 2004 Sep;14(5):267-73.
[7] Behm, D.G., Bambury, A., Cahill, F., Power, K. Effect of acute static stretching on force, balance, reaction time, and movement time. Med Sci Sports Exerc. Aug;36(8):1397-402. 2004
[8] Yamaguchi, T., Ishii, K. Effects of static stretching for 30 seconds and dynamic stretching on leg extension power. J. Strength Cond. Res. Aug;19(3):677-83. 2005
[9] Cramer, J.T., Housh, T.J., Weir, J.P., Johnson, G.O., Coburn, J.W., Beck, T.W. The acute effects of static stretching on peak torque, mean power output, electromyography, and mechanomyography. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. Mar;93(5-4):530-9. 2005.
[10] Evetovich TK, Nauman NJ, Conley DS, Todd JB (2003). Effect of static stretching of the biceps brachii on torque, electromyography, and mechanomyography during concentric isokinetic muscle actions. J Strength Cond Res. 17(3):484-8.
[11] Young WB, Behm DG (2003) Effects of running, static stretching and practice jumps on explosive force production and jumping performance. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 43(1):21-7.
[12] National Strength & Conditioning Association. Essentials of strength training & conditioning. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. 2000
[13] Witvrouw, E., Danneels, L., Asselman, P., D’Have, T., Cambier, D. Muscle flexibility as a risk factor for developing muscle injuries in male professional soccer players. A prospective study. Am. J. Sports Med. Jan-Feb;31(1):41-6. 2003
[14] Yamaguchi, T., Ishii, K. Effects of static stretching for 30 seconds and dynamic stretching on leg extension power. J. Strength Cond. Res. Aug;19(3):677-83. 2005
[15] Cramer, J.T., Housh, T.J., Weir, J.P., Johnson, G.O., Coburn, J.W., Beck, T.W. The acute effects of static stretching on peak torque, mean power output, electromyography, and mechanomyography. Eur. J. Appl. Physiol. Mar;93(5-6):530-9. 2005
[16] Shrier, I. Stretching before exercise does not reduce the risk of local muscle injury: A critical review of the clinical and basic science literature. Clinical J. Sports Med. 9: 221-7. 1999
[17] Krivickas, L.S., Feinberg, J.H. Lower extremity injuries in college athletes: relation between ligamentous laxity and lower extremity muscle tightness. Arch. Phys. Med. Rehabil. Nov;77(11):1139-43. 1996

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By |2018-06-27T18:43:34+00:00May 30th, 2014|Injury, Training and Recovery|0 Comments

About the Author:

John Wenger is an ACE certified personal trainer with extensive experience in athletic performance enhancement and physical transformation. John has been a respected researcher in health, fitness and peak performance for 15 years.

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