It’s no secret – I HATE stretching.
For 99% of the population, I think it’s worthless.
Now before you go nuts and toss rotten tomatoes at me through your computer screen or put up a FB post about how insane I am – here’s who the other 1% are:
People who need extreme ranges of flexibility – like gymnasts and some martial artists.
Ok, now, let’s dig into this thing. And please, hold on to your rotten vegetables for a few more minutes until we really unpack this.
First, I have never really liked stretching. It always felt awkward – like I was tearing my body apart.
(Hmmmm….. That should’ve been a sign right there…)
But, like a dutiful fitness professional I towed the proverbial party line and did the whole thing – from dynamic stretching as a warm up (including functional 3-D stretching on one of those fancy $2500 True-Stretch Cages) to static stretching to cool down.
And then there was the stretching as part of multiple corrective exercise programs…
Ugh – don’t even get me started on that. Ok, nevermind, do. Let’s just say I spent every freakin’ time I trained from 2002-2006 foam rolling and stretching and doing “movement prep” before I worked out.
(Brett Jones is right – if you’re foam roller has a name, you have a problem. And yes, that goes for you too Mister Rumble Roller.)
After that, I quit stretching altogether as I drank the kool-aid and joined the Z-Cult.
But even that reached its limits.
Because mobility and flexibility – or lack thereof – are both symptoms of something bigger – a lack of something else.
What is that “bigger something else?”
Well before we get to it, I want to ask you a question:
Why do you think your muscles are tight?
No, it’s not a trick question.
Think along the lines of having a fever.
Why do you get a fever?
Because your body is being attacked by a foreign organism that seems to feel right at home around 98.6 degrees. So the body responds by unleashing its immune system defenses, one of which, is to kill the intruders by elevating its core temperature.
Man, in his infinite wisdom, then takes ibuprofen or tylenol or whatever to try to get the temperature down. And in doing so, basically castrates the body’s immune response and lengthening the healing process.
Why don’t we think of stretching the same way?
Why do you think your muscles are tight?
Is the body telling you something?
Here’s an example:
About 10 years ago, I had a client with chronically tight hamstrings. I mean always, always, always tight. No matter how much she stretched them, she couldn’t relieve the tension. (She came to see me for body comp changes, but her “issues” got in the way many, many times.)
Well that’s because her abs were weak borderline shut off and she had chronically tight hip flexors.
So back then, we stretched the hip flexors and did some ab work – you know, the whole tonic/phasic stretch what’s tight, strengthen what’s weak routine. It provided some relief. But it never really fixed the problem.
We stopped working together on a routine basis in 2008, after about 6 years of “trying” to lose weight. (Complex issues: She’d lose, gain, lose, gain, etc…)
Now I’d do something much different with her.
Which is funny, because about 3 months ago we started meeting again, just once a month, instead of twice a week.
And she’s made more progress in the last 3 months with her back and her other structural issues then I recall her making in the 6 years we worked together. (Yeah, we were training for fat loss/strength, but she had some recurring stuff come up that we could never quite rectify. And yes, she even went to see a PT…)
So why were her muscles tight?
And why might yours be tight?
Well, I think there’s a very simple answer.
Here it is:
Your body is using your muscles as splints.
Yeah, I know, you don’t believe me.
So check out these pictures of one of the attendees at our last Becoming Bulletproof workshop.
The first is her traditional stance, developed from prying with goblet squats, and other forms of corrective exercise, including traditional forms of mobility and flexibility work.
The second is a picture of her after she said, “How come I’ve increased my ankle mobility?” (Without having done specific ankle mobility drills.)
It’s very simple: She’s recaptured her body’s natural and inherent ability to move.
“What-choo talkin’ ’bout Willis?”
Look, the reason your muscles are tight is because your body is using them as splints, or as parking brakes, as the hip flexors are often referred to.
And why’s it doing that?
It doesn’t feel like it should move into particular ranges of motion because if it does, bad things – like injuries – may happen.
And why does this happen?
Because most of us sit on our butts all day long.
And, a recent study done published in the October 2012 issue of The British Journal of Sports Medicine found that the average adult who watches 6 hours of TV per day over the course of a lifetime can expect to live 4.8 year fewer than someone who doesn’t. Do you think the computer screen can be subbed out for the TV? I do.
In another study published in the journal Diabetologia, its authors reviewed 18 different studies involving 794,577 people (source: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/17/get-up-get-out-dont-sit/) and found the “average adult spends 50-70 percent of their time sitting.”
It found that there are increased risks in diabetes among other things.
But that’s not my main point.
I just wanted to prove that sitting is bad for you. Like scientifically-proven-bad-for-you.
But there are other things going on here – other forces at work. Deep, Mysterious forces…
Look, how come when you’re a little kid, you can easily and effortlessly squat but as an adult you can’t?
Well, obviously, your body got tight.
Because it got weak, that’s why.
But not just any kind of weak – you lost what I call your “Original Strength” – or what is not-so-commonly-known as “reflexive stability.”
That’s your body’s ability to subconsciously anticipate and prepare for movement and activate/recruit the right muscles at the right times at the right rates to get whatever job done that needs to get done.
As I said – this is “reflexive” – just like when you go to the doc’s and he hits your knee with a hammer. The response is just “automatic.”
How Do You Get Reflexive Stability In The First Place?
Well it all starts in your mom’s womb. And then continues until your about 3 years old or so. It’s all that stuff you do when you’re a baby to a toddler and learn to walk upright.
That’s the physical purpose for going through those 3+ years.
The problem is that when you sit on your butt 8 hours a day since you’ve been 5 or 6 and went to school and were told to be a good boy or girl and sit still and pay attention – those reflexes you “earned” or developed, start to degrade – like a knife blade that gets dull and rusty.
And that’s why stretching is a complete waste of time for 99% of the population. Because you’re doing nothing but addressing symptoms of a much larger and more important issue – lack of reflexive stability (or reflexive strength if you will – it’s the same thing).
Same thing goes with all the incessant mobility work. And even some of the specialized behavioral optometry drills that many of these so called “movement experts” are blathering on about these days.
Most, if not all of that can be and will be fixed when you address your reflexive stability. (Yes, I know “all” is a bold statement. Let me just go on record here and say, some
I know, I know, to durn simple to be true or actually work.
Well this is what I’ve LIVED for the last 3 years and have never felt better. And the best part is at this stage in the game, I just perform a few simple but powerful “resets” a day and I move better than I did when I was a 17 year old wrestler.
But don’t take my word for it – check out this feedback we just got from Widdi Turner, who attended last weekend’s “Becoming Bulletproof” workshop in Atlanta:
“Thanks for the workshop you did in Atlanta Sat. It was a game changer for me! I can’t believe how different I feel. Sunday I got of a bed AND WALKED A STRAIGHT LINE to the kitchen! That’s a big deal because usually the first 5 minutes I’m staggering with no sense of center of balance. I was so grounded. And normally “sore” and “stiff” go hand in hand – I was definitely sore the next day, but not stiff at all! I was shocked at how long the “mobility effects” stayed with me. I’ve been doing a few basic moves every day/night since. Hip pain’s gone, and although I whined in the workshop about my ankles hurting when we sat on them, they are much looser now.
I mentioned this in my feedback sheet, but I feel what you’re teaching could help soooo many people. All you have to do is rename it for whatever group you’re approaching 😉 As someone joked in class, you had to name it “Becoming Bulletproof” so guys who come – they wouldn’t buy into something called “Tummy Time and Crawling.” LOL But seriously, if all those people who sit at desks 8 hours a day and then on their couch at night just did this for 15-20 min a day, it would change their lives! No more “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”
Good luck with everything – I haven’t stopped singing your praises to my fitness camp trainers all week (I go to FitWit – www.fitwit.org ), and forwarded them the emails Delaine originally sent from Geoff re: the book and workshop. And on a side note, I usually do a few movement before I go to bed each night, and since Sat, I’ve slept thru the night without waking up – a first in YEARS. Don’t know if it’s related, but JUST SAYIN’!”
So here’s the deal:
Stop wasting your time and energy stretching and doing those blasted mobility drills.
Instead, intentionally recapture your reflexes. Start by getting the book, “Becoming Bulletproof.”
But as I said, that’s a “start.”
If you really want to see – and feel – how to kiss stretching and traditional mobility work goodbye, and save yourself, time, energy, and sanity, “fast track” this process by joining us (Tim Anderson and myself) at the next “Becoming Bulletproof” workshop here.
It’ll be a day you will never forget. 🙂