Discover the process relax into stretch and foam falling into your exercise routine. Does this help you more flexible and mobile?
Something you might notice when trying these movements though is that… you can’t. Or at least you can’t very confidently.
This will be a result of all those years of sitting at your desk and not doing anything.
How do you get back some basic mobility and learn to move properly again?
One thing that can help a great deal is to practice stretching, in which case you’ll be able to regain your full range of motion.
How do you go about doing that?
How to ‘Relax Into Stretch’?
According to Pavel Tsatsouline, the vast majority of us go about this the wrong way entirely.
If you’re used to stretching by forcing yourself into a position until it hurts, then you may actually be doing more harm than good. So stop it right away!
Pavel Tsatsouline is a guy who teaches people to use kettlebells to devastating effect and he’s also the one who came up with the idea of relaxing into the stretch.
In fact, you should also read his book: Relax Into Stretch.
How do we know this is a bad move? Well, it can be demonstrated with a simple bit of self-experimentation.
Simply lie on the ground on one side of your body so one arm and one leg are touching the floor beneath you.
Now, raise your leg up 90 degrees to point right at the ceiling. It should be fairly easy.
Now roll onto the other side and raise the opposite leg up again.
If you can move both legs to 90 degrees, why can’t you do the box splits?
It’s got nothing to do with any ‘tissue’ connecting your legs either. In fact, there is no tissue other than bone between your legs – no ligaments and no muscle to prevent you from doing the splits.
According to Pavel, what’s actually happening is that your brain is forcing you to stop before you reach box splits in order to try and prevent an injury.
Again, it comes down to the fact that you don’t normally utilize this amount of flexibility, which teaches your brain and body that it’s bad news.
More specifically, it comes down to your central nervous system, which is responsible for all the ‘knee jerk reactions’ of your musculature that lie outside the domain of your conscious control.
It’s also your CNS or Central Nervous System that is responsible for your eye blinking when someone is trying to get an eyelash out of it.
Years of training yourself to believe that you can’t do box splits and years of moving within a far more limited range of movement have taught your body to ‘lock’ in place when you try and move outward.
Guess what happens if you try and force yourself into a split? Your body fights back by tensing up your muscles and making it even more difficult. And you further teach your body that it can’t go into that position.
Instead, the better technique is too much more gently ease yourself into these positions and then to actively relax your body as much as possible.
Move to the point where it just starts to hurt and then relax your body as much as possible. The more you do this, the more you’ll remove that knee-jerk reaction and you’ll regain your natural flexibility.
Note that you shouldn’t use this kind of training for your back.
Don’t use it when touching your toes. You are actually meant to be limited in some of your movements and if you override this it can lead to injury.
But for movements involving the legs and the arms, this technique can be highly useful and many people find that it helps them to regain their movement in no time at all.
10 Things You Should Know About Stretching
Before fitness training, one must give importance to doing some warm-up or stretching exercises to prevent accidents or to enhance the output during the training.
There are also a number of precautionary measures and tips to serve as guidelines when doing fitness exercises.
Here are some of them.
1. To increase your flexibility and to avoid injuries, stretch before and after the workout.
Almost everyone knows that stretching before the workout prevents injuries during the exercises.
But only few people know that stretching after the workout when muscles are still warm can increase flexibility.
2. Hold your stretching position for more than 60 seconds to increase flexibility.
While holding your position for 20 seconds is enough for warm ups, holding each position for at least 60 seconds will develop the body’s flexibility.
3. Do not go into a stretching position then immediately return to the relaxed position, and do it repeatedly.
This is more appropriately termed as bouncing while in a position. When stretching, hold that position for several seconds, and then slowly relax.
You may do this exercise repeatedly this way. Bouncing or forcing yourself into a position during stretching can strain or damage some joints or muscles.
4. Work slowly in increments instead of immediately preceding to doing the hardest exercise or position.
5. Make sure that you have stretched or warmed up all muscle groups.
For some people, even if they have strong bodies, they tend to neglect the neck when working out of stretching.
Stretching the neck muscles can be as simple as placing the palm of one’s hand against the front of the head and pushing it. Then, do the same to the sides and the back of the head.
6. Stretch regularly to continually increase your range of movements and your level of flexibility and strength.
7. Workout considering only your capabilities and not of others.
Do not force yourself to do exercises that you are not yet capable of just because there are people who can do it.
Increase your limits slowly. Listen to your body. There are days when your body may be too tired that you may have to consider reducing your range of motion.
8. Learn to rest.
Rest in between sets and stations to make sure that the body has enough time to recover its energy.
Also, it is advisable that you don’t workout the same muscle groups consecutively for two days. The muscles grow during the period when you rest and not when you are working out.
9. Do aerobic exercises to strengthen your heart.
Aerobic exercises are those physical activities that much oxygen for fuel. This includes cardiovascular exercises such as skipping rope, running or swimming.
10. Music may help you when you want to train for longer periods or to increase your intensity.
You can use mp3 players, CD players or smartphones for this. Just make sure that you brought your headset with you so you wouldn’t disturb people who don’t prefer music while exercising.
Apart from preventing injuries and increasing one’s limit, it is also said that stretching is good for a tired body and also for a stressed mind and spirit.
More Fixes for Mobility and Flexibility
For the back meanwhile, yoga can be an incredible tool for improving your ability to move.
In fact, yoga is something that pretty much everyone should do and if you combine it with the techniques recommended by Pavel and a training program full of compound lifts.
You’ll be on your way to increased mobility in no time.
And don’t get this twisted. If you’re thinking now that stretching isn’t going to make much difference to you, or that it’s somehow ‘for girls’ then you’ve got another thing coming.
If you feel tired and lethargic, or if you feel stiff, then you need stretching. Stretching will not only help you to remove pain and discomfort.
It will help you to feel far fuller of child-like energy than you have done for years. You’ll find you’re faster and more mobile and more ninja-like in general.
Stretching all makes us stronger. Studies show that people who stretch regularly are able to lift heavier weights.
It is likely because the muscles and ligaments themselves present less resistance when they try to lift. They’re not fighting their own body as well as the weights.
But note that you actually shouldn’t stretch just prior to a workout.
Contrary to popular belief, this actually makes you weaker and more prone to injury by removing some of the tension that keeps your muscles in place and where they should be.
Stretch after workouts or as part of a separate program performed on its own.
Meanwhile, you should also look into self-myofascial release. This is another health ‘fad’ that’s found its way into the gym that’s nevertheless something you should pay attention to.
Self-myofascial release is what you might also know as foam rolling, though it can also use a tennis ball.
This basically involves rolling around on something solid that will protrude into the fascia and helps to remove knots and ‘fascial adhesions’.
How to Use Foam Rolling?
Without getting into too much science here, the fascia is essentially a large piece of tissue that looks like a thin ‘film’ and that surrounds all of your muscles and joints.
It’s a bit like your muscles have all been vacuum packed and this is what keeps everything in place while at the same time supporting you through movements to avoid movement.
The fascia is something that modern science is only just getting around to looking at but it’s thought by many to be as important, if not more important that the musculature itself.
When you contract your muscle, your brain sends impulses through your nervous system. Once these impulses reach your motor end plates, they release calcium among other things to tell the fibers to begin contracting.
The body needs to remove this calcium over time but sometimes this doesn’t go as smoothly as it should and the resultant build up leaves the muscles contracting in single points.
This creates a tiny localized bulge of tension that can inhibit movement and create pain.
Fascial adhesions meanwhile are caused when the fascia is torn or damaged and end up forming a more rigid, less flexible scar tissue.
The fascia doesn’t show up on MRI scans. Often, this damage goes completely unrecognized but it causes painful movement and other problems and needs to be dealt with.
Foam rolling is essentially like giving yourself a sports massage that really gets right into those fascial adhesions and knots in order to work them out and give you back your movement.
To do it, you need to get yourself a foam roller or a tennis ball and then roll your back and other muscles across it.
Move it around directly on the muscle until you feel a sudden twinge of pain.
It should hurt but it should feel like ‘good pain’ that’s somewhat satisfying at the same time.
Self-myofascial release can be used right before a workout and should also have the same benefits for increasing strength during lifts.
Check this video here about relax into stretch and foam rolling.