Jump to content

Recommended Posts

This is a very interesting post, because having just attended Emmet's HK workshop, it seems as if you are both moving in similar directions with this work. I should note that the HK workshop consisted of two half-days, and was thus a condensed version of the M3 method. Things may be presented in a slightly different manner in the longer workshops. I'm sure Emmet will chime in if that is the case.

For example:

10 hours ago, Kit_L said:

Using the pancake as an example, he works towards each leg in turn, using a concentric or contracting force with the agonists to achieve the 1" pulses he recommends; in other words, the hip flexors and the abs are pulling you into the end position, not the hands as the typical ST approach recommends. After each leg, he recommends a second line, somewhere between the leg and the mid-line, and last movement towards the mid-line (the typical pancake direction).

In the workshop, we actually did an isometric (though not exactly since the goal is to move further into the stretch rather than stay in place) contraction (crushing a yoga block) over each leg and then in the middle, so quite similar to what you have found works for you. What you describe above was not presented, although it pretty accurately reflects his ballistic pancake program that he posted to YouTube recently.

Regarding:

10 hours ago, Kit_L said:

if you try to lift the leg you are moving towards up off the floor before trying to pull your chest towards the knee the effects (both activation and inhibition of the muscles being stretched) are stronger

This is actually something that occurred to me during the workshop, as it felt like a more intuitive cue to myself to think about also lifting the legs rather than simply crushing downward. I considered mentioning it at the time, but did not since we were trying to make it through so much material in such a short time. I figured I would play with it on my own and then let Emmet know what I thought later. It sounds like it has worked well for you, though!

In the workshop, we ended with reaching toward a target, as opposed to your proposed C-R. Perhaps the C-R followed by this reaching ISO would allow for a further reach. Seems like there are a variety of possible combination to play with, and I'm sure the most effective combination will depend on the person. I'll definitely play with this as I continue to train pancake!

  • Like 1
  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
On 4/17/2018 at 8:34 PM, Nathan said:

In the workshop, we actually did an isometric (though not exactly since the goal is to move further into the stretch rather than stay in place) contraction (crushing a yoga block) over each leg and then in the middle

Yes, we did too, but I forgot the "crushing the yoga block" detail in what I wrote. Because of my activation pattern, crushing the yoga block did not activate the hip flexors; only the abs. But once I added the leg lifting pattern, all necessary muscles fired. We (collectively, I mean) are on to something here, for sure.

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

That's the reason, why, e.g. acrobatic gymnasts, have such a superior flexibility. Their stretching, which in most cases isn't really "modern" or effective at all, is just a tiny piece in their whole - rather unconscious - flexibility programme. If you work extensively on straddle supports and unsupported standing splits like these, you strengthen your end range.

I guess you won't think that they have good pikes because they stretch their pike passively for nothing more than a few seconds in training. They have good pikes because they train their 'active compression' as we call it, through l-sits, then v-sits etc. in great volume. With pancake its the same. The pancake is an absolute essential for doing good straddles/stalders. If you can't actively compress and hold the compression during the movement, you won't get a decent stalder press or endo. So the gymnasts are doing pancake and pike pulses (with one leg at a time and both legs), which, if done correctly, require just the same muscular effort as Emmets rhytmic pulses technique for getting deeper into a pancake.

To visualize this with a few pictures. At the beginning, when you're rather weak at the end range, your straddle support will look like this, legs parallel to the floor. But you keep working on your end range strength and you will achieve this. And its totally possible to do it even higher, I just found no image. Likewise, your l-sit will be something like demonstrated here, if you just begin to train it. Over time, if your end range strength catches up, you get this. I know 9 eight year olds doing those with ease. Some sort of over-coming isometrics too. 

My idea and actual approach is (and if I understood him correctly at his M3 seminar, this is the ultimate aim of Emmet too), that, if you move and strengthen correctly, you don't need to stretch at all. Not in the sense of the term of forcing (or tricking or relaxing over long time) yourself into a deeper range of motion. But you just sink into it by getting stronger. To get into actual positions showcasing flexibility like pikes, pancakes and splits on the floor are rather a "test" of your flexibility than the actual work on it. You just test what your body allows you to do, until you feel a restriction, which is a weakness in this range. Then you strengthen your range just a bit above that weakness. Your body is showing you his weaknesses. Its like if the body is saying: "Do you feel that? In this position, I am not strong enough; do something here!" But instead of doing something there, we try to convince our body, that its already save and to relax. But if you look at this sensation (of a muscle being "stretched") as an indicator of your weakness, you will make sure to get some strength in this range. And if you got some, you test again and you will find, that you will feel the stretch sensation now a bit later (which means in the first place, that you were able to go deeper without any pain); and instead of remaining there and getting your body to relax to go deeper, you strengthen again.

The strengthening then is done on two planes.

(1) You strengthen your muscles which are stretched (or rather: are suppose to relax) and which are responsible to support you in the position. So for example, if doing a front split, simply spoken, the backside of your front leg and the frontside of your back leg need to be strong enough to support you in your actual end range. So you do isometrics or contract-relax-cycles - which are the same, if you increase your contract-time progressively -, until you are able to support your entire body between two blocks etc. This type of strength training, which is, essentially, a straight leg training, or "locked-knee" as Emmet calls it, should be approached like straight arm training, to save the ligaments etc. This plane is nothing new. Emmet is doing it like this and martial artists etc. did it this way for a long time. Rhythmic gymnasts do strengthening of those muscles too, for example if they sit in a side split, hands overhead and just raise their bum a bit of the floor in repititions by sequeezing the legs together.

(2) The second plane and just the whole "secret" of (to give an example) the exquisite active flexibility shown in rhythmic gymnastics, is just strengthening of the antagonist/opposite muscles. So for example, you want to increase your hip flexor flexibility for standing splits as shown above. Then you strengthen your active hip extension end range by overcoming isometrics and reps with weight etc. So instead of strengthen the hip flexors, which are responsible to allow you to go deeper into hip extension under load (e.g. of your body), you strengthen the opposite side, which is responsible to go into hip extension without or against load (against the load of your leg you need to raise). If you sit on the floor in a straddle trying to go deeper into a pancake and activating the muscles on the front of your leg to let the muscles on the back of your leg letting you go deeper, you are doing the same. Pancake good mornings are supposed to work this way too. The problem is that many people are looking at an exercise and just try to imitate what they saw. But just because their movement looks the same it doesn't mean that they doing the same, because it feels different, because they don't use the muscles they are supposed to use. So, in a pancake good morning you are supposed to use the muscles on the front of your leg (and core etc.) to pull you deeper.

When you are doing traditional contract-relax stretching or contract agonist relax, contract antagonist relax etc. you basically do the same, but on a less specific level and most of the time less progressive. So you just progress from a few seconds into longer isometrics and reps with weight and you need to find the right exercises with good positions or angles to work on the antagonists you want to strengthen while prevent too much compensation (for example lower back extension to compensate for a lack of active end range hip extension).

You may take a look at this:

Apart from their (often very disputable and extreme) partner stretches etc. you just will see, that they are doing end range closing and strengthening all the time. So in my opinion, there is no secret method out there or anything new to be found (if we just speak of gaining active range of motion). The methods are already there, one just needs to learn from those who are showing the greatest active flexibility in the world, which are acrobatic and rhythmic gymnasts. The old-fashioned stretching has still value. But for my understanding, not primarily or at all to increase range of motion. The greatest value of the stretch therapy system, to my understanding, is the release of tension and the solution of all problems which are caused by unnessecary tension (but I need to emphasize, that I am not a ST teacher and cannot claim to have a real understanding of what ST is all about and I cannot afford to got one either). The most effective methods to increase active flexibility, which I think of as true flexibility, are increasing tension rather than decreasing it, at least while doing the work, although they do it in a balanced way, if you strengthen yourself really in every range of motion. ST can help you to relax from all that tensioning you do.

But to be honest, I have the feeling, that the overall tension is less too, if your strength is balanced by a high volume/degree of end range strength. I think, that unnecessary tension is always a sort of protective mechanism, which is needed because of weakness in different ranges/angles (asymmetry or muscle imbalances are one part of that too). If you overcome your weakness, you overcome the cause of tension your body creates to protect itself. Simple as that.

I do it like this for myself (I had no former gymnastics background, just skateboarding, started acrobatics with 23 and was very inflexible), I do it with the girls I train in acrobatics and just started to implement those ideas into work with other adults too. Maybe I will report back what they achieve by this.

// edit: Of course I know that one cannot simply compare children's with adults bodies and flexibility. But there are more than enough adults out there who have achieved great flexibility by this. This guy for example. I think that we have overrated the importance or the value of stretching in children too. Yes, it is easier for a child to get a splits, because their muscles/fascia/everything isn't so fucked up, but the active work they do is really and far more important for their flexibility than any stretching they do.

I want to give an example, two older girls (15 and 19), a little girl (6) and myself have trained for the straddle planche recently. A normal straddle planche is looking like this. Ideally for good form it is supposed to keep an posterior pelvic tilt, which he is doing more or less. Of course there is a lot of shoulder strength needed, but at this training day we focused on the legs. As you see, one needs the strength to keep the legs level with the rest of the body; so there is hip extension going on. But at the same time, one needs to keep the straddle. And as you can guess, the wider the straddle or the more you are in an actual side split, the easier it is to hold the position, because your center of gravity is shifted more towards your base plate (the hands). Girls often are making it easier by having a perfect or nearly perfect split and going into a anterior pelvic tilt. This is not a perfect example, but it gives the idea. To pull the legs actively in a side split in this position is very difficult. So in our training we worked on actively extending and straddling the legs as wide as we could with our lap lying prone on the horse.

What was the result? The 15 year old girl has a perfect side split and exquisite passive flexibility by doing splits since her early childhood. But the described exercise was extremely hard for her. She couldn't raise the legs very high and she couldn't straddle them very wide. The little girl of 6 is overall rather weak. She has not much core strength, not much arm strength, not much anything. But it was easy for her to get her legs actively as high and as wide as her actual passive side split is. Because of this and other observations I conclude, that the strength of younger children is naturally still more balanced, which means more strength at their end ranges in relation to their overall strength (their proportions are relevant too of course). And because the most adults do not work at their end ranges at all or just try to go rather passively into them, their strength gets more and more imbalanced and focused on the range inbetween, making them weaker and weaker in all shortened and elongated positions and therefore it seems harder for them to gain more range. This is speculation of course. But observe and try yourself. It was revealing for me.

  • Like 2
  • Thanks 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

Florian: brilliant. I will re-read and explore these contents later today, but what you are talking about is Agonist–Antagonist stretching and strengthening, together. Now I am wondering again (as I have for years) whether "stretch" and "strength" are discriminations that have passed their use-by date.

What I want to see now is a list and descriptions of the best end-range closing exercises for all the end positions we want (the end positions of the Mastery Series).

I will start. I noted above that my strength in end-range is poor—so having to reflect on this, and learn to counter this, is partly what led to my thoughts above. When we (Monkey Gym) were training front lever preps, mine were probably the best in the group (most open hips), but my L-hangs were the worst, by far, and I never could understand this. Now I do. So:

a. L-hang (hang from bar, lift straight legs (held together) as high as possible for time.

b. Straddle-hangs (same, but legs as wide apart as possible)

c. L-sit off parallets or floor if you are string enough

d. @oliviaa's excellent standing bent- and straight-leg lifting drills

e. Emmet's dog-wizzing moves (he can annotate this, but hands and knees, and bent top leg taken as high as possible, keeping lower leg parallel; pelvis moves WRT bottom leg, too)

f. Partially-bent and straight leg versions.

g. Arch Body Hold, as taught by Olivia, here:

https://youtu.be/OgyqYuh41Mw

h. Floor straddle-ups

Whatever the straight-leg version is called (hips on floor, hands in front of knees, try to lift straight legs from floor)

I will come back to this later today, and compile any suggestions.

 

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

I have just had a significant experiential and conceptual breakthrough as a result of trying some things that are a logical consequence of everything that's written above. And I know that @Emmet Louis will be commenting here as soon as he gets over his jet lag.

Today, doing the morning stretching on the sloping grass in front of the bowling club next door, I decided to combine Contract–Relax (isometric tension at end ROM) with Agonist–Antagonist (the way I am doing it, isometric tension at maximally shortened end of ROM; @Emmet Louis's "End-Range Closing"), all in the one set. Sensational. Here's how I did it, and what happened.

Legs apart, with the back of the knees very slightly unlocked (as a consequence of the curve in the slope of the grass), and I practised reaching (more or less statically) over each leg, on a line in between leg and mid-line on both sides, and then the midline (standard pancake direction. I then held my feet, lifted my chest, and used all the stretching muscles to slowly increase force until I was applying all the force I could. I then placed my hands on either side of the first leg and at the same time, lifted the leg and pressed my hands onto the grass, as hard as I could; relaxed, breathed in and out, relaxed the tummy and body completely, breathed in again, and as I breathed out, gently contracted all required muscles to place my face just below my knee. Same on other side. 

Then went to pancake direction line, and put my hands on the grass well in front of me, and tried to lift both legs off the gras while pressing down on the grass as hard as I could, then repeated the breathing cycle. I straighten my back, took my hands out to the sides, and gently, easily, folded forward at the hips. I re-did the C–R in the same position; arms out to the sides, and easily the best pancake I have done in years; pity I couldn't take a pic. 

I returned home and tried front splits on the back deck: straight down onto the baby bolster (3-4" thick). Used same hand pressure on floor next to the front leg to get down further; no contractions because I was basically fried at this point; fried but elated.

I know my abs in particular will be sore tomorrow.

@oliviaa has been talking for years about movements of the pelvis as the key to the pancake: this, too, is A–R, if the only muscles you use are internal (so, no hands).

@Florian wrote above about strengthening in two planes; I realise now that doing C–R and A–R together is literally flattening ends of the traditional strength curve—not by flattening the middle (i.e., getting weaker) but by lifting the two ends of this curve—so stronger over the whole ROM. Using your own body is the icing on the cake: the somatosensory cortex is madly remapping what it experiences as possible along the way.

The C–Rs push the experience of "restrictions" further away (the restrictions that children do not have in the way adults have them) and the A–Rs pull you deeper; the experience changes the experience.

This is major gold.

  • Like 4
Link to post
Share on other sites

Interestingly, this is something I have been doing to save time since I moved to Seoul.

When I was doing Aerial work several years ago, a lot of our conditioning was leg lifts from almost max straddle, pike and lots of lifting from hanging/climbing. (Endless straddle climbs)

I was trying to save time and do both ROM development and end range 'compression' work - and found that by using the 'compression' phase to draw me deeper, and then doing CR work (and repeating) not only drew me deeper into position than I expected, but also helped my hip strength.

My lower back has just recovered from a 2 week period of injury - so I'll try it out again this weekend with added details.

- In my notebook I call it agonist/antagonist stretching too! 

- In my head I call it 'Chuckle Stretching' as my verbal cueing for it is 'To me, to you' (Chuckle Brothers was a long running British TV show).

  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites

@Florian I used to do online training with @ bodyflexx for 6 months last year.  He called his method "end-range strength".  Basically, it's like what you mentioned, exploring new range of motions by using isometric contractions in the end range as well as using ballistic stretching to rewire the motor patterns.  Therefore, in pancake stretch, for example, he would start with isometric supine straight leg raise contractions with theraband tied between your ankle and wall bar, then ballistic stretch to the end range for reps.  Then lateral leg raises, straddle leg raises, and even hip extension.  All done with resistance (thera)bands.

With all of them prepped, he'll let you try going down into a loaded full pancake good morning.  Sitting on yoga block(s) in straddle, squeeze the adductors to stand up, perform a loaded good morning with hip hinge alone, come up, sit on the block(s) again.  Repeat for reps.  It was excruciatingly brutal yet rewarding for both strength and mobility.  Plus, I had no injury history training with this method at all; I got injured occasionally during the training period from my own stupidity doing static stretching in my yoga practice though.

What I learnt most is that:
- Flexibility is a given once we develop sufficient mobility into the new range.
- Mobility (active flexibility) is a given once we develop strength to enter AND stay the end-range we aren't familiar with before.
- Strength is given, um, once we learn how to develop the right motor pattern, so we don't cheat our way into what seems to look like the new range.

I still practice end-range strength twice a week, and seriously, it works for me. :)

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

A comment about the pancake/pike, and then some observations about working with children as compared to adults, most particularly in a gymnastics setting.

I've long argued that being able to move the pelvis – particularly in anterior tilt, but not only in this direction – is the key to being able to do the pancake. I do think that all of the techniques canvassed above will help 'get you further down', but, what I observe when I see people doing them is that the pelvis does not move anteriorly. Yes, with each effort they can reach further or compress more. And, yes, with the force and/or speed of the movements involved there is very likely a momentary pelvic movement, but I don't think this is sufficient for the feeling of the pelvic movement to be experienced. Even with maximum reaching effort to hold your end reach, if the pelvis didn't move then mostly (all?) you're doing is working hard to hold your reach. Practising pelvic movements well out of a stretch position, so that movement is possible, is gold, and once available, the pelvic movement can be used in conjunction with all the excellent techniques canvassed above.

Next topic! Kit has written extensively on the these forums and elsewhere about the differences in working with children's versus adults' bodies in the pursuit of increasing flexibility, all of which I agree with fully. A few years ago we spent a bunch of time working closely with a now well-known gymnastics coach who argued to us strongly that no-one needs to stretch because doing mobility training is all you need to become flexible. This has not been our experience in ST, hence the ensuing discussion about differences between children and adults (this coach worked with gymnasts from when they were young children; our experience in ST was working with adults).
 
I spent 10 years, from age 5 1/2, training as a gymnast, and many years coaching. Broadly speaking, we did not do a lot of 'stretching'. What we did do was high-volume/low-intensity conditioning, at the end of every training session. An example session would include, 4 x 20 chin ups, plus 4 x 20 hanging leg raises, plus many other exercises with similar number of sets/repetitions. As a child, there were no physical ROM restrictions to completing these full-ROM movements, and at those numbers; fatigue was what stopped us. As well, there were no mental restrictions: what I mean here is that whilst we all whinged about the conditioning work because it's incredibly boring compared to the fun training on apparatus, we could all do it – we didn't think about how our shoulders or hamstrings were too tight or our hip flexors too weak, we just did the work and if there were any 'deficits' they usually sorted themselves out over time.
 
Adults coming to work with their body have many ROM restrictions, typically, and many ideas about why they can't do X, and probably past injuries, too. These things combined, I believe, are one reason why just doing mobility work does not overcome ROM deficits in adults. A key feature of Stretch Therapy is to give the individual the direct experience of the part of their body that is stuck letting go, in particular using the Contract–Relax technique, but many others can be employed if necessary. Mobility training alone does not have this affect in adults, in my experience, or at the very least not efficiently: that is it takes a long time, like gymnasts spend when they start as a young child. Mobility can, however, help incorporate new movement as unlocked into the adult body so that it becomes embodied.
  • Like 4
Link to post
Share on other sites
23 hours ago, Kit_L said:

Florian: brilliant. I will re-read and explore these contents later today, but what you are talking about is Agonist–Antagonist stretching and strengthening, together. Now I am wondering again (as I have for years) whether "stretch" and "strength" are discriminations that have passed their use-by date.

What I want to see now is a list and descriptions of the best end-range closing exercises for all the end positions we want (the end positions of the Mastery Series).

I will start. I noted above that my strength in end-range is poor—so having to reflect on this, and learn to counter this, is partly what led to my thoughts above. When we (Monkey Gym) were training front lever preps, mine were probably the best in the group (most open hips), but my L-hangs were the worst, by far, and I never could understand this. Now I do. So:

L-hang (hang from bar, lift straight legs (held together) as high as possible for time.

Straddle-hangs (same, but legs as wide apart as possible)

L-sit off parallets or floor if you are string enough

@oliviaa's excellent standing bent- and straight-leg lifting drills

Emmet's dog-wizzing moves (he can annotate this, but hands and knees, and bent top leg taken as high as possible, keeping lower leg parallel; pelvis moves WRT bottom leg, too)

Partially-bent and straight leg versions.

Arch Body Hold, as taught by Olivia, here:

https://youtu.be/OgyqYuh41Mw

Floor straddle-ups

Whatever the straight-leg version is called (hips on floor, hands in front of knees, try to lift straight legs from floor)

I will come back to this later today, and compile any suggestions.

 

There is a lot of better compression movements in my opinion.

1. Press handstand forward walks: Trying to enter the starting press handstand position by leaning over your hands and have your feet follow.

2. Elevated L-sit press to handstand starting position. Having your hands elevated on some plates or boxes and then pressing the hips as much behind you and upwards as possible. Do the negative press backwards with feet starting on the boxes.

3. Elevated straddle L-sit press to straddle planche: This does not require any of the full positions; simply start off a forearm assisted straddle L-sit and then press towards a press handstand or straddle planche.

4. Skin the cat: Starting the movement with a leg raise (maybe with slightly bent legs) and then compress as hard as you can as you rotate in the shoulders into the German hang and back.

5. Seated leg lifts: Either straddled or piked with a straight back if possible.

 

Many of these can be done be intermediate athletes (also some for beginners) and scaled accordingly for advanced people.

Edited by Kit_L
Numbered list for convenience
  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

If I were to think of the end-range (bodyweight) strength moves for the Mastery series, they would be:

Master the Squat: Hanging Knee Raise

 

Master the Pancake: Stalder Press, Straddle Manna

 

Master the Shoulder Flexibility:

Flexion - Handstand

Extension - Back Lever, Manna

Adduction - L-sit, Iron Cross

Internal/External Rotation - Band works

 

Master the Full Back Bend: Arch Body Hold, Full Bridge Press Up, Scorpion Handstand

 

Master the Pike: Strict Hanging Leg Raise, Manna

 

I’m just thinking of the compression works to get into each end range itself.  Pulsing in and out of these movements are applicable.  Just throwing these out there.  Please correct me if I’m wrong. ?

Link to post
Share on other sites

@AlexanderEgebak: in my experience, the upper-body strength required to do your 1, 2, and 3 will be the main limit to the movement, and not the compression (though very necessary), and hence that's where the awareness will go. My list focuses only on moves or holds that target mainly the muscles that are needed in any Agonist–Antagonist situation. If you can do the moves you describe, excellent, but I made my starting list for anyone, not gymnastic strength training folk. 

Same applies to some entries on @Natawat's list: Iron Cross? If only!

  • Haha 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Kit_L said:

Iron Cross? If only!

Average, mostly-sedentary person just finding out about end-range closing: "Hey, I'd like to try this for my shoulders. What do you suggest?"

Yeah... :lol:

3 hours ago, Kit_L said:

in my experience, the upper-body strength required to do your 1, 2, and 3 will be the main limit to the movement

Very much agreed, and I would add that skin-the-cats are most definitely not a beginner move, either. They require plenty of muscular strength and also stress the connective tissue quite a bit, not to mention the fear factor for many. All great movements, but for other purposes. Sure, front squatting 200kg is simply fantastic for the core, but... ;)

On 2018/4/20 at 7:37 AM, Kit_L said:

Emmet's dog-wizzing moves

Funny, because at the workshop this is basically what I was referring to it as in my head :lol: More specifically, dog pees on the hydrant, etc.

For pike/pancake, I would agree with the piked/straddled leg lifts while seated on the floor. We're interested in the end range, so there is no need to do them hanging with full ROM. Adding light ankle weights to these is brutal and effective. Another option would be to lie on an elevated surface so that gravity is essentially increasing resistance as the legs get closer to full compression. However, for the vast majority, there will be more than enough gravity while seated, and ankle weights are an easier solution.

For side splits, the dog-wizzing/fire hydrant. Again, ankle weights can be added here. They can also be done with both bent and straight legs, and the femurs can be rotated to emphasize different lines.

For front splits, we want the legs doing opposite things at the same time. I can imagine two possibilities that seem like they would be effective. For the hip flexor of the back leg, get into a standing pike and raise one leg as far backward into extension as possible (isometric holds or dynamic kicks/pulses would both work). For the hamstring, the floor leg raises (can be done single-leg, as well) are probably enough, but raising the front leg while in some extension with the back leg should might be icing on the cake. This could be done in a solo hip flexor lunge/long lunge stretch (with hands supported for stability), or in the couch/wall quad stretch, for example.

For the shoulders, prone hands-over-head lifts with a stick in the hands. I'm pretty sure most of us here will have seen this movement. It is used often in handstand training. The position of the hands could be changed - out to the side, pointed downward at the sides, and anywhere in-between - to focus on different lines. Bending the arms at the elbows and doing the prone lift (like a lying Cuban rotation) will hit that external rotation. The same thing could be done with the hands pointed toward the feet for internal rotation. Very small weights can be used effectively with all of these.

For the backbend, yes, the arch hold. Some variation could be added by lifting one side (chest side/legs side) at a time, until you can curl up into a Swiss roll and roll away out of the room. And for piriformis, simply get into the advanced piriformis stretch and lift the front leg (think about initiating the lifting movement from the heel of the front foot).

Basically, it is a very easy formula. Get into the desired stretch, arrange it so that gravity is providing maximum resistance against the stretch, and then use the agonists to pull yourself deeper. Hold isometrically or pulse. Enjoy the pain :lol:

  • Like 4
Link to post
Share on other sites

@Demetris M: lifting kettlebell handle with instep-toes.

@Emmet Louis: there is something more in play. After the post-contraction inhibition reflex has been accessed via a standard C–R, an external force (like pulling on your feet with your hands, or a 20Kg plate on your back) has to provide the energy to go deeper.

Accessing end-range closing, or A–R, uses the internal strength of the muscles opposite the ones being stretched; I have been talking about this for years, but in relation to strengthening systems (moving isometrics against no resistance except what you can create yourself with the muscles together) but not in relation to stretching. 

Why I think this (A–R) works so well (and no DOMS from the other day's workout, either, BTW) is that the agonists have the same proprioceptors and mechanoreceptors as the muscles being stretched—and if my intuition re. the somatosensory cortex simply 'observing' what's happening, AND you are using the agonists to lengthen the antagonists, then that's double the proprioception/mechanoreception—not only is strength being built (by activation in new ROMs) but the body is smarter than we are—as I have said many times the body will not hurt itself. It may be that using agonists to lengthen antagonists might not only be effective, but might even have less risk, too. Using both together just makes sense when you think it through.

If these intuitions are accurate, what @oliviaasays above can be put in context: mobility training by itself has shown to be insufficient for adults, who have many restrictions in their bodies, for the reasons I have written about for years. The C–R approach in its many forms can loosen these restrictions, as we all know. But to then add A–R back in to the equation, once restrictions have been experienced and moved past, seems far and away the best way forward, and I am saying this after only playing with it recently a few times.

And I want to play more with something intriguing that @Florian said above, "If you overcome your weakness, you overcome the cause of tension your body creates to protect itself"—my lower back as always had instability problems. What if it were weak hip flexors all along?

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

Second serious (45 minutes instead of 5!) today on the Greenwell Point Bowlo lawn slopes; a stronger sense of how to contract key muscles, and another significant improvement in end ROM; I was resting my head on my flat hands today, comfortably. Face on shins both legs with no arm pulling support. When I came home, had best front splits in many years; the HF contractions seem to allow a much faster relaxation following the pancake work. 

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

There's a lot of good posts here, I'm dying with some respiratory illness that I got on the flight from Hong Kong so won't comment on each one. There's a few details missing that I think I can give that will help all your exploration.

Remember that whole point of the system in the intial phases is to educate the body about what the task at hand is. Strength training at the initial phase can be also described at just getting better more efficient at the movement.

I think stretching to relax / remove restrictions and stretching to develop active ROM are two different beasts so make sure what your wanting to achieve when you're training. They're perfectly complimentary but the active methods will raise HR etc which isn't the best for relaxing etc.

 I've found that if you training the shortening side of the joint first it'll get you the full depth and possibly beyond that you would achieve with multiple c+r in the position so that's what I do first now when design programming.

If you try to use the the shortening side when you're at the very limit of the stretch it won't be effective as we know muscles will be prepped to fire when stretched so you need to back out a bit.

The overcoming isometric is used to give the body clarity on agonist antagonist usage in the position as one of the things these type of contractions do is reduce co contraction. Also great for normal strength training.

A lot of this stuff is "hidden" in sports where the usage of flexibility is high, things like ballet or rythmic, circus etc, have all these sorts of things but maybe in a less formal way as they're part of the daily training and not the "stretching" at the end of training.

The idea is that you go from vector assisted, eg @Kit_L using the lawn slope, to vector neutralish eg flat ground, to vector resisted as  general plot when using it in big posiitions eg pancake. But then as a pre exercise you'll do a targetted movement on the shortening side. Simple example would be standing active straight leg raise then a single leg forward bend.

There's another class of movement here that isn't obvious but I'm terming the concentric quasi isometric, this is where you pull into a resisted movement and hold the end range but with the intent on going deeper, People who've done the work shop know I use targetting and external focused tasks here to achieve this. If the loading is too much you won't achieve this effect.

In general there's a risk of over using the end ranges strengthening with out fully integrating it into full range movements so be careful of making your movements all end range as some systems are promoting. I've been helping more than a few people this year so far who've experienced the issues related to this.

End range closing aka ERC refers to the specific technique of using 10s contractions to achieve a deeper stretch. Its a technique of Concentric stretching (I'll keep this term Kit) but not the only one.

Emmet




 

  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites
On 4/20/2018 at 1:22 PM, Kit_L said:

@Florian wrote above about strengthening in two planes; I realise now that doing C–R and A–R together is literally flattening ends of the traditional strength curve—not by flattening the middle (i.e., getting weaker) but by lifting the two ends of this curve—so stronger over the whole ROM. Using your own body is the icing on the cake: the somatosensory cortex is madly remapping what it experiences as possible along the way.

The C–Rs push the experience of "restrictions" further away (the restrictions that children do not have in the way adults have them) and the A–Rs pull you deeper; the experience changes the experience.

This is major gold.

 

@Kit_L Concerning your statement "whether "stretch" and "strength" are discriminations that have passed their use-by date": I thought on this too a wile ago. While I was formulating my thoughts for the girls I train and some sort of a system. I tried to define, what "strength" could be in the fullest or most integral sense of the term and my ideas were circling around the two terms strength and ease.

Integral strength as obvious cannot be limitied to something like "moving weight in a specific direction in a specific angle" etc. It needs to mean, that you have power over your muscles and through your muscles over your joints in a balanced way and in all kinds of directions and angles etc. And in all kind of ways too, slowly, explosive, gentle or harsh; in dance and acrobatics maybe more than anywhere else, you need to differentiate, you need to be able to unleash your strength in all those ways and switch between them very smooth or rapidly. Strength then is resistance. You resist gravity etc. And you do this not only in movements like shoulder presses etc., but for example in subtle balance work like Handstands and Footstands too.

And then there is this concept of ease. For me it means just the opposite: don't resist gravity, let yourself fold into the floor without resistance, like water or a soft blossom. But now, as I think, these "two" are causing each other. There are many people able to do a split after a warm up etc. But there are less people able to just stand on one leg in a perfect side split, and those are the ones who can really move with ease and seem less prone to injury. I don't see much worth or art in just be able to slide into a split after a warm up and without any strength to "express" this position in other planes (in a handstand, hanging on straps...) The problem with many children is, that they have a very great strength at close ranges (in opposition to adults; for example the little gymnasts have very strong hip flexors) but they do less strengthening of the "stretched" muscle itself (which means, for example, they are often not able to support themselves in a split.) But there are gymnasts too who do both, like the "sit in a side split and contract the hamstrings to lift your bum off the ground", as meantioned in my first post.

Olivia stated, that "Adults (...) have many ROM restrictions" in difference to children. But as I think and said earlier, they have less strength at end- and close-ranges too. By doing contract-relax stuff - which you find to be effective for adults - you do some end-range strengthening and you do it all the more, if you extend the contractions into longer isometrics or add weight over time etc. I consider this as the major reason why it works. If you combine this with strengthening of the opposite side by different means, reps, weighted or not, holds, isometrics, overcoming-isometrics etc. you get the balance you need into those muscles, which are complementary to each other. The one can "ease" into deep positions, while and because the other can strongly contract in close ranges to let you ease into it and vice versa, like in the mentioned standing split without hand support.

There are many possible ways to do this. You can do it with straight or bent legs, you can do it by reaching a point, doing a specific task (gymnasts are doing this by raising their straight leg unto, for example, a stall bar, then pulling it higher to the next bar/pole and so on, turned forward or sidewards, Dave Tilley is promoting this too and I think its quite similar to @Emmet Louis concentric quasi isometrics. At least I know that this is done in rhythmic gymnastics to a degree). They are doing the opposite side to strengthen their standing back/front split (standing straight leg scorpion without hands) by standing with their back to the stall bar, with the extended leg against it, then pulling it away from the bar in reps or just hold strongly with their hands to the bar while contracting the glutes of the extended leg etc.

For children you might not need weights for these strengthening exercises, but if you're a teenager or adult and especially if you are doing other weight training, so that you have strengthen your mid-range quite a lot, you might use weights for this close/wide/end-range stuff too.

Ballistics are done with the same contractions of the opposite/antagonist muscle, just in a more subtle and short manner, but I would just place them in the second plane mentioned in my first post. If someone has strong hamstrings and the only thing lacking are strong hip flexors in close range etc., it might be one reason why ballistics help them so fast to get a pancake. In some cases the antagonist contraction as done in ballistics isn't enough (or might just cause unhandleable doms, because the hamstrings etc. are too weak in this range; for this purpose, weight might be the right thing (straight leg good mornings, pancake good mornings with weight and emphasize on the hamstrings etc.) On the opposite site there are people having strong hip flexors but they don't get the front split and they always think "ouuh I have so thight hip flexors, they are hindering me to get my front splits!", but they might just lack glute strength in close range and/or strength in their hamstring end range. I do my training around this concept and I think it works quite well.

But anyway. I am very happy that these thoughts helped you Kit and thank you Emmet for explaining a few open topics. I would really like to read a bit more (examples would be great) about what you talked about here @Emmet Louis: "In general there's a risk of over using the end ranges strengthening with out fully integrating it into full range movements so be careful of making your movements all end range as some systems are promoting. I've been helping more than a few people this year so far who've experienced the issues related to this."

Thank you @Natawat too. I was wondering what this guy is doing exactly. This sheds some light on it. I could not afford his coaching.

 

 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
On 22/04/2018 at 3:01 AM, Kit_L said:

Second serious (45 minutes instead of 5!) today on the Greenwell Point Bowlo lawn slopes; a stronger sense of how to contract key muscles, and another significant improvement in end ROM; I was resting my head on my flat hands today, comfortably. Face on shins both legs with no arm pulling support. When I came home, had best front splits in many years; the HF contractions seem to allow a much faster relaxation following the pancake work. 

Have you any plans to make some video's explaining these technics, it would be much appreciated.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...
On 4/24/2018 at 4:02 AM, Colin-M said:

Have you any plans to make some video's explaining these technics, it would be much appreciated.

Yes, as soon as we have done of the many the other things we need to do! We are committed to making a number of follow-along programs for the whole Master Series, so make sure you are signed up to our occasional newsletter, and you'll be the first to know.

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 4/22/2018 at 8:45 AM, Kit_L said:

And I want to play more with something intriguing that @Florian said above, "If you overcome your weakness, you overcome the cause of tension your body creates to protect itself"—my lower back as always had instability problems. What if it were weak hip flexors all along?

I attended a Deeper into the Stretch workshop that Olivia taught last weekend in Melbourne; she has an incredible sequence (in one of the Slow Flow programs) for strengthening the HFs done while standing on a straight leg, and done at least three angles: straight ahead, 45° to side, then as far to the side as possible, done with both bent and straight legs. If that doesn't strengthen them, nothing will. 

I have been playing with using the kitchen benches for a similar purpose: suspended between hands, with body vertical, lifting and holding one folded leg as high as possible for w two-count. This is excellent scalable too; as I get stronger, I will simply partly straighten the leg at the knee.

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...