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Developing flexibility

In steps one and two we discussed why flexibility training is beneficial to any athlete (especially tricksters) and we laid out a set of ground rules and facts that give us some boundaries to work within. In this step, we are going to discuss in greater detail [how to train] different types of flexibility, reinforcing those rules; And! I've included an ass-load of sample stretches for your own use demonstrated by none other than me, Jujimufu! This is a gigantic page: I recommend skimming the info first, then returning to the navigational outline which is available just below for future reference.


I SEE THE GHOSTS OF NAVIGATORS, BUT THEY ARE LOST:



Developing dynamic flexibility

Dynamic flexibility is flexibility in motion! It is best developed through dynamic stretching. Not only does it perfect intermuscular coordination, it also reduces passive resistance of movement throughout an active range of motion.

Guidelines for the dynamic stretching method

Dynamic stretching involves moving parts of your body while gradually increasing reach, speed of movement, or both. It does not involve stopping and holding the stretched position. There is no bobbing, bouncing, or jerky movements. The movements should be controlled throughout the range of motion despite being quick. Repeat: The stretch is not sudden, it is CONTROLLED AND FLUID! Dynamic stretches are best performed in multiple sets with a number of repetitions (varying depending on the movement). Fatigue causes a decrease in amplitude of dynamic movements, so dynamic stretching is not recommended when you are beat and tired; It is also not recommended that you work dynamic stretching to any point of exhaustion. Do only the possible number of repetitions that you can do without diminishing your range of motion. [CAUTION] Doing more repetitions in the diminished range of motion will set the nervous regulation of the muscles' length at that level, a level of lowered flexibility!

So to maximize dynamic flexibility increase and prevent any reduction of it - Don't do it while fatigued and don't repeat reduced efforts. Even after reaching the desired maximal range of motion in a joint in any direction of movement, do not exhaust yourself with too many more repetitions of this movement; You will set an unnecessarily solid memory of the range of these movements. You'll have to overcome these memories in order to make more progress. We'll talk more about appropriate volume (Sets/reps/frequency) up ahead. You should strive to practice it fresh and finish it fresh. Fresh like Ultra Norsk fresh, which is very fresh! So remember now, that the key word for dynamic stretching is: FRESH!

Dynamic stretching in your training

The greatest aspect of developing dynamic flexibility is it's excellent convenience. In training, it should become part of your warmup; Moreover, it only takes between 10-15 minutes to do a sufficient volume of stretches to warrant an increase. I would do it after the first part of a general warm up.

Maximizing dynamic flexibility gains (Morning routine)

Dynamic stretching increase can be maximized when carried out daily, a couple of times a day. So if you want to reach full dynamic flexibility quicker or maximize this ability it should also be done in the morning upon waking (or late afternoon upon waking if you are a tragic teen or of the vampiric persuasion). Do it before breakfast, a heavy meal can cause a diminished blood flow to the muscles, screw up digestion, or cause discomfort(Especially side lifts, DANNNNNG! Grumble stomach). If you are worried about increased catabolization of the muscles by exercising in a fasted state upon waking, do not worry: Dynamic stretching should not fatigue, and a morning routine in particular should not fatigue! Don't overdo it! The morning routine should typically take about 10-15 minutes to complete for most people, longer for novice trainees. This is about the same duration of time that dynamic stretching takes during a pre-training warmup. The purpose of this stretching is to reset the nervous regulation of the length of your muscles for the rest of the day. No cool down will be needed as long as you didn't overdo it. If so, spend some time walking around or just do some wiggles and jiggles to loose up - DON'T EAT SKITTLES!

Finally, go eat breakfast. Actually, if you drink a shake for breakfast, it should be possible to drink it during the stretching as long as it doesn't cause noticeable discomfort. No shake? You can drink some water. Aren't you thirsty when you wake up? I know I am!

How to apply dynamic stretches:

Start the movements slowly and gently, gradually increasing the range and speed of the movements. [DO NOT] Throw or force them! Lead or lift them. Synchronize your breathing so you breath out when you bend forward, and breath in when bending backward. More importantly though, just breath natural and comfortably. After you have nearly reached your full range of motion, begin increasing the velocity of these movements. At this point, the last few inches of each movement will likely be less controlled, but the stretch should never be sudden. Increasing velocity will provide more benefit for actual skills. In fact, you can incorporate many basic martial arts kicks at this point (such as inside or outside crescent kicks). This allows for an easier transition into your actual martial arts or tricking practice if desired. Stretch at no less than 75% maximal velocity used in your actual skill after the first few sets of dynamic stretching.

A selection of dynamic stretches

Below I have provided a sample selection of dynamic stretches and how to apply them. These stretches will [SURPRISE] Increase your dynamic flexibility! WOW!

Lower body stretches:

Novice will need to start with a greater number of repetitions to achieve decent results because it will take a greater amount of repetitions to reach maximum amplitude of a stretch. For most people, maximal range of motion in a given workout can be achieved after roughly 10-15 leg raises in any given direction. I recommend 3-4 sets of 9-12 repetitions per movement in any given direction for developing dynamic leg flexibility. Increase the height of each lift slowly - [SAFETY KICKS ASS]. Switch legs after each set or in between reps. After nearing your maximum range of motion, increase velocity! After a month or two, doing this several times a week, you'll notice you can comfortably reach your maximum height in these movements with less repetitions. This should also be all the time you need to reach your maximum potential height as well. Less will be needed for maintenance: 15-25 leg raises would suffice.

Trunk stretches:

Reaching the maximal range of motion in a workout for the trunk can take longer than the lower or upper body regions; It could take over 25 repetitious bends or twists in any direction to reach this maximal range. Developing it could take as many as 40-70 movements. For simple, 30 repetitions should suffice just fine. [Novice take note:] There are both sitting and standing stretches presented here. I recommend working with the sitting variations before trying the major standing ones. The standing variations can become ballistic stretches if poorly applied. Ballistic stretching = The bad.

Upper body stretches:

Maximal range of motion per workout should be reached after only 5-10 arm swings in any given direction, this should be the minimum number per set. For anybody developing dynamic flexibility of the upper body, the total number per workout should be 30-40 for flexion-extension of the arm, and between 15-30 for circular swings or hang reaches. Most likely, you will only need a minimum of about 15 repetitions of any movement for maintenance.

Dynamic stretching videos

Would you like to see these slides in action? I've made videos for them! I will list them for you:

A summary for dynamic flexibility training

Dynamic stretching will integrate beautifully into a tricking session. It will not take a long time to develop dynamic flexibility to desirable levels and as you continue applying it the volume needed to maintain these levels will become smaller. You should begin including it in your training as soon as possible, you won't be disappointed.


Developing static passive flexibility

Ah. Here we go. Static passive flexibility, the ability to assume and maintain extended positions using external means (such as your own body weight, holding a position with assisting limbs, or a partner), is best developed through a combination of isometric stretching and relaxed stretching below the pain threshold.

*NOTE: Isometric stretching is also known as PNF [Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation] stretching.

Passive flexibility usually exceeds both active static and active dynamic flexibility in the same joint. The greater this difference, the greater the possibility of increasing the amplitude of active movements.

An overview of different static stretching methods

There are many ways to increase static passive flexibility. The three most commonly discussed stretching methods are isometric, relaxed, and ballistic. Let's compare the pros and cons of each method.

Isometric stretching

PROS:

CONS:

Relaxed stretching

PROS:

CONS:

Ballistic stretching

PROS:

CONS:

*A NOTE ON BALLISTIC STRETCHING: Ballistic stretching involves bobbing, bouncing, rebounding, and rhythmic types of movement. Momentum becomes the driving force that moves the body or limb to forcibly increase the range of motion in this type of stretching. You've seen it before. It's the clown at the dojo or gym that sits in a stretched position bouncing up and down, up and down, up and down, getting seemingly nowhere in the stretch. We will not be discussing it any further.

Test your static passive flexibility potential

Splits are a popular stretching benchmark and a great candidate for isometric stretching. Not everybody will be able to do the splits after correctly implementing these stretching methods. Do the following tests to determine if you have the potential to do the front and side splits.

The isometric stretching method in detail:

I recommend isometric stretching for the healthier, more active and well conditioned athletes out there.

So what is this isometric stretching and how does it work?

Basically, you add strong tensions during common static passive stretches, which evoke postcontractive relaxations and ultimately, increase the range of motion in a stretch. So, you pretty much just flex your muscles during a stretch - then follow that with an instant relax / increase combo. This puts the smack down on the stretch reflex and in turn, allows you to stretch further.

Guidelines for isometric stretching

For increasing flexibility, isometric stretching should be done at least twice a week, at a maximum of about four times a week. For maintenance, it should only take one good application per week. The isometric method is best for those stretches that are stuck at a plateau, so I would only recommend using isometrics for those stretches that you really need greater mobility in. The splits are a good example of stretch that can easily plateau, isometrics work wonders for the splits.

Isometric stretching is not for everyone, to see if you are ready try it out! If you are consistently sore after every isometric application, if your flexibility is getting worse or not improving, or if you actually hurt something in the process of using it, you're not ready for isometric stretching! You are a wimp! Nah, but because isometric stretching involves the utilization of tension in extended positions, some people might not be prepared to employ them in their training; Moreover, it is usually not recommended for younger teens and children for this same reason. Depending on the strength of the muscle and the amount of stress the stretch causes, the damage from poor preparation can announce itself as muscle soreness or complete muscle tear! Finally, if nothing else, poor preparation will likely hinder results, meaning you could be wasting your time.

Gawd! Something is wrong, cause I tried it and I've been sore for days! It's painful; But I want the splits, is it safe to continue?

It's likely the lack of strength. You can try reapplying it and seeing if your body adapts overtime. If an injury has announced itself you're done for!

How should I build strength for isometrics?

Well first, strength is defined as The force that a muscle or muscle group can exert against resistance. So the most direct way is resistance training throughout a full range of motion: Like barbell squats through a full range, sprints through a full range, leg press in full ranges of motion; The keyword is strength throughout a full range of motion. However, there are more all in one alternatives such as martial arts, which can develop a whole slew of biomotor characteristics, such as speed, a little strength, coordination, and flexibility as well; Even endurance! A nice little package if I do say so myself. Gymnastics is another great all in one package. Tricking could build up strength too. But for specifically building strength, the best is direct resistance training. And as stated, resistance training throughout a full range of motion will provide the greatest benefit for isometric stretching.

Isometric stretching in your training

Isometric stretching should be applied at the end of your tricking or training session. It should take between 10-25 minutes for most people, but it ultimately depends on how many isometric stretches you are including and your conditioning level. If you want to apply isometrics separate from a training session, include it after an extended warmup with some preliminary sets of strength movements: Preferably movements spanning a full range of motion.

How to apply isometric stretching

Let's do a quick test, flex any muscle on your body. Go ahead. I'm not talking about a pose or a particular position, just tense a muscle. Tense a muscle group. Tense up! Come on sissy, grit your teeth and surface those muscle fibers! Steel wire! Steel wire! Okay, you understand. Constipation! Now, in isometric stretching, you will stretch to your maximal painless limit, just to the point of mild - moderate discomfort. Back off just slightly from this point. Okay, we're this far: Simply begin to tense up the regions under the stretch. Tense for about 5-7 seconds, gradually increasing the tension until about the third or fourth second when you reach your maximal tension. The last couple of seconds you make that shit CRAZY tight - like Grunt and Grit tight. WE ARE SOLID! Then release the tension and increase the stretch IMMEDIATELY. Don't wait to increase the stretch, the moment you let go of that built tension you drop slightly further. Relax. Repeat this process until you've reached your flexibility limit for this position. When you are at your max, create one last tension - this time holding it for about 30 seconds / You can even keep it tight for a minute or so if you desire. Come out of the stretch, rest for a few minutes, and repeat this process a couple more times for the best developmental results.

NOVICE AND THOSE NEW TO ISOMETRIC STRETCHING - PAY ATTENTION: Start with milder and shorter tensions just to experiment. Take it easy when beginning to get used to the process of it, then begin to increase intensity and duration until you find an optimal application method. You can repeat the entire stretch a couple times per workout.

ON FOCUS: Anytime you use isometric stretching you need to focus on the strength gains in the stretched position, not just the range of motion. Concentrate on tensing harder and/or longer. Put more weight on it, for example - support yourself in the position without the use of your hands. If you are doing splits, hold the position with your hands in some cool pose or something, not planted. In time it will result in some excellent gains.

Breathing: It's like lifting heavy weights: Inhale prior to tension - hold during tension to build pressure - exhale when tension is released and stretch is increased - calm and deep breaths in between tensions during relaxations. SIMPLE!

The classic application: Isometric for splits

Ahh.. Here we go, the benchmark indicator for great lower body flexibility. While not the - end all be all - of great flexibility, it's nonetheless beneficial for increase in the static flexibility reserve for dynamic tricking movements; Not to mention it's impressive to those who cannot do them. Besides, some people just want to do them cause they are, well, THE SPLITS! The splits are a good candidate for isometric stretching too - so let's get on it!

The relaxed stretching method in detail:

What is left for us in this life after isometric stretching? Well, we have relaxed stretching, another way to develop static passive flexibility. Basically, you just don't tense up when you assume the stretched position. You focus on total relaxation, the complete opposite of tension, as a means of increasing the stretch (Hence the name - relaxed stretching). It isn't as effective as isometric stretching because your strength is not being simultaneously developed or applied, but it does have two advantageous characteristics: You can do them whenever you want without a warmup and they do not fatigue. Also, they are great for days in between isometrics (because you cannot do isometric stretching everyday) and great at the end of your workout for returning muscle lengths to their pre-training lengths to enhance recovery.

Wait, I have a question! If isometrics are so much better for flexibility development, why even bother using relaxed stretching at all?

Well, I just answered this above Mr. Eggplant, but still a good question for those who didn't catch it. Isometric stretching is taxing, should be treated as a form of strength development, and should only be done a couple days a week. To augment your rate of progression, you can include a variety of relaxed stretches in between bouts of isometrics. Doing both is the best idea! Besides, not every static-passive stretch can be applied with the isometric method.

Guidelines for relaxed stretching

Relaxive stretching should be done as the opposite of isometric stretching. Assume positions that let you relax all your muscles, put as little weight on them as possible. Utilize deep, calm breaths and think about pleasant things... Like me running through a wildflower field naked. Relaxive stretches are slow, so when you reach your painless limit of discomfort, patiently wait and continue thinking about me running through a wildflower field naked. After a while you will slide into a new level of the stretch. It can take several minutes, but when you reach your maximal stretch - hold this position for thirty seconds. You can maintain this position for a few minutes, but this may not provide additional benefit compared to the simple 30 seconds. Now get out of the stretch slowly.

Cool, how often should I do this per day?

Well, as often as you would like. However, following this procedure more than once a day will not likely provide additional benefit.

How about per week?

This is the major drawback of the relaxed stretching method. It takes frequent applications, usually 5-7 days a week to see gains. For the splits, I would work each split ten minutes per day after a warmup, or as long as it takes to reach your maximal painless limit of motion without tension. Once reached, you'll benefit most from a 30 second hold. It takes more time, but it still works.

Relaxed stretching in your training

Relaxive stretches should be done at the end of a training session if you wish to include them into your workout, but as mentioned - you can do them anytime you want. If isometrics are applied, you should do relaxive stretches AFTER the isometric stretching. If your goal is to increase flexibility, doing them before the final cooldown is recommended. If your goal is simply to relax your muscles and enhance recovery, I would do them following your final cooldown. Always, after finishing relaxive stretches, walk around for a minute or two.


The expansive index of static stretches!

I DO NOT RECOMMEND: Doing all of these stretches! It's too much, and the excess will not benefit you. The variety is for it's own sake - existing to give you more freedom in finding those preferred exercises for your own benefit. Just pick what you need and do those stretches only. Do not bother to go out and do every one of these stretches.

[ABOUT THE FORMAT] Just going down the list, pick some stretches from each section. The naming schema is based upon what's popular or what muscular regions the stretches are targeting.

Here is a small list of things you might need:

Ummm... Here are some things you DO NOT need.

Lower body

Feet and ankles

Lower legs

Hamstrings

Adductors

Quadriceps

Hips and Glutes

Upper body

Lower torso

Upper back

Neck

Pectorals

Shoulders

Arms and wrists

A summary for static passive flexibility training

Wow, I feel like this is the end of something big. Actually, we've covered a lot of ground here. If you've never distinguished different methods of static-passive stretching before you can do so now by beginning to integrate both isometrics and relaxed stretching into your training. Static passive flexibility can be brought up to high levels quickly, achieving the splits should only take one or two months from any level of experience if the methods are properly applied. You should see flexibility increase on a day to day basis if the stretches are properly included into your training. I feel I've provided an adequate number of stretches for your own use. However, this isn't every stretch under the sun. There are a lot of variations and neat stretches still out there waiting for you to try. Enjoy!

Developing static active flexibility

Static-active flexibility is described as the ability to assume and maintain extended positions using only the combined tension of the agonists and synergists while the antagonists are being stretched. You must learn to relax the stretched muscles and build up enough tension in the opposing muscles, so that body parts can be held in the desired extended positions. Ultimately, your static-active flexibility depends on your static passive flexibility and static strength; but you should also use dynamic strength exercises for its development.

Guidelines for static active stretching

Static active flexibility is difficult to develop to the level of your dynamic or static passive flexibility. One should employ a combination of both isometric tensions and dynamic strength exercises for the best results. For example, you could keep raising and lowering your leg to the side in one slow and continuous motion for a dynamic strength exercise, possibly followed by some static active holds: Such as holding the leg at the maximum height for six seconds or more (with maximum height emphasized over duration). Overall, static active flexibility depends on your static passive flexibility and static strength.

[WARNING] Regarding holding leg extensions, you need a strong lower back or you risk injury. As a weight test of lower back strength, you should be capable of comfortably deadlifting at least twice your body weight, no grit or problems; Otherwise, you risk possible injury or dismal progression. Moreover, static active stretches that involve muscles of the back squeeze inter vertebral discs and may increase lordosis of the spine. This compression becomes more harmful when the spine is bent, or bent and twisted (such as on leg extensions to the side). In between static active stretching exercises for the lower body, do stretches such as forward bends and pelvic tilts to minimize harm, relieve spasms, and increase the amount of space between the vertebrae.

Static active in your training

Static active flexibility will not improve your dynamic kicks or tricks. Holding a leg up is not developing dynamic flexibility nor dynamic strength, it is developing a static active flexibility and static strength that is specific to that particular hold. Strength, like flexibility, is specific to the speed of movement, its angle, and range of motion. To increase specific strength for kicking or tricking, you will find more value in exercises that are dynamic in nature. This doesn't make highly developed static active flexibility any less impressive, it is still something that will make you gawk in awe when witnessing a master of it; But, it will not augment the proficiency of your dynamic kicks or tricks.

A selection of static active stretches


The conclusion for step 3

WOW! That's it! In step one we've learned the importance flexibility training plays in tricking and why developing it to optimal levels is important. In step two we learned some basic principles of flexibility training, such as the difference between the flexibility types, what happens when you stretch, and what factors could affect your flexibility development. In this step (step 3) we've discussed in detail [How to develop] the different types of flexibility. You learned different stretches and how to implement them in your workout and long term training program. You should now be ready to include flexibility exercises in your training and see some great improvements. Thanks for reading everything I've written on flexibility, I hope you've enjoyed it. Would you like to go back to the flexibility tutorial starter page?