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Truth About Flexibility Interchange Between Kit And Myself


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I initially came across Kit and Stretch Therapy in my quest to understand flexibility.

Through much trial and error, then finally getting actual flexibility results myself that made sense, I think I found out what flexibility truly is. At least a far greater understanding of the mechanisms involved.

Kit seemed to be one of the few people that aligned with my thought process. I browsed the forums and watched a few of his videos for further information. I found we didn’t completely agree on the topic but that is to be expected.

The similarities and differences pushed me to reach out to him directly through e-mail. He requested me to post our e-mail exchange in the forums and if I wanted to continue the conversation, to do so here.

I don’t know the best location for this post or the best way to post the following exchange. I decided to copy and paste the e-mails in their entirety so the full context is preserved. Each post will be a different e-mail. There are a total of 13.

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E-MAIL 1. Maurice

 

Hello Kit, my name is Maurice. I have a history of recreational bodybuilding and powerlifting and have gotten great results. Examples being able to bench press over 400lbs while squatting and deadlifting over 500lbs. I researched, applied what I learned, and benefitted accordingly. My flexibility was terrible throughout my entire lifting experience. I could barely touch my toes with straight legs, I couldn’t touch my fingers behind my back, and the splits in any direction seemed like an impossibility. I thought more muscle equaled less flexibility and my joints just won’t allow it so that made sense. But I looked at gymnasts, circus performers, and other muscular people who also had great flexibility and that made me question things. In the pursuit of trying to prevent injury from lifting heavy weights, I researched flexibility extensively. I found it is one of the least understood topics so the advice given is usually subpar at best. I’ve tried many forms of stretching. Ballistic, Static, Active, Dynamic, PNF, Self-myofacial release, etc. Some of them worked to an extent but the results usually were extremely temporary unless I focused on them primarily. As a weightlifter, focusing primarily on flexibility was not high on my to do list and the lack of flexibility gains showed. Eventually I was able to find something that appeared to be “the missing link” and if it worked, it would make flexibility that much more understandable. In the couple months since I applied what I learned, I am able to place both palms on the ground with straight legs without warming up, I’m able to clasp my hands together behind my back with the over/under reach, I’m almost able to put my feet behind my head, and the splits are within inches of reality. These were accomplished without stretching daily. Most of this is anecdotal evidence but just because there are no specific studies on it, doesn’t necessarily make it not true. The science behind why it works makes sense as well. I browsed the internet and your forums and it seems you understand flexibility a lot more than the average person and I agree on a lot of the points you make. I am not trying to reinvent the wheel sort of speak. It’s more along the lines of showing you a better wheel and explaining what makes it better. I felt direct email was the best course of action and would love to discuss my findings in greater detail if you are interested

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E-MAIL 2. Kit

 

Maurice,

 

If you wish, you can become a member of the forums and post your findings there (we have an explicitly open learning system), or we can talk further here.

 

Please use returns in what you write; breaking up your text makes it a LOT easier to read.

 

Thanks for writing and I look forward to hearing more. A comment or two below.

 

Hello Kit, my name is Maurice. I have a history of recreational bodybuilding and powerlifting and have gotten great results. Examples being able to bench press over 400lbs while squatting and deadlifting over 500lbs. I researched, applied what I learned, and benefitted accordingly. My flexibility was terrible throughout my entire lifting experience. I could barely touch my toes with straight legs, I couldn’t touch my fingers behind my back, and the splits in any direction seemed like an impossibility. I thought more muscle equaled less flexibility and my joints just won’t allow it so that made sense. But I looked at gymnasts, circus performers, and other muscular people who also had great flexibility and that made me question things. In the pursuit of trying to prevent injury from lifting heavy weights, I researched flexibility extensively. I found it is one of the least understood topics so the advice given is usually subpar at best.

 

This is why I found it so interesting.

 

I’ve tried many forms of stretching. Ballistic, Static, Active, Dynamic, PNF, Self-myofacial release, etc. Some of them worked to an extent but the results usually were extremely temporary unless I focused on them primarily. As a weightlifter, focusing primarily on flexibility was not high on my to do list and the lack of flexibility gains showed.

 

Easy to understand.

 

Eventually I was able to find something that appeared to be “the missing link” and if it worked, it would make flexibility that much more understandable. In the couple months since I applied what I learned, I am able to place both palms on the ground with straight legs without warming up, I’m able to clasp my hands together behind my back with the over/under reach, I’m almost able to put my feet behind my head, and the splits are within inches of reality. These were accomplished without stretching daily. Most of this is anecdotal evidence

 

Nothing wrong with that.

 

but just because there are no specific studies on it, doesn’t necessarily make it not true. The science behind why it works makes sense as well. I browsed the internet and your forums and it seems you understand flexibility a lot more than the average person and I agree on a lot of the points you make. I am not trying to reinvent the wheel sort of speak. It’s more along the lines of showing you a better wheel and explaining what makes it better. I felt direct email was the best course of action and would love to discuss my findings in greater detail if you are interested.

 

Most definitely interested.

 

Regards, Kit 

 
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E-MAIL 3. Maurice

 

Thanks for the reply Kit. I’ll try to break up the messages as much as possible. I found some people are very stuck on their beliefs so I wanted to discuss things in a private matter before opening it up to others. I didn’t want to go to the forum with others thinking I was purposely trying to attack the information within.

 

I read somewhere that you said in one of your podcasts that ballet dancers have an anterior pelvic tilt in their front splits. The reason being because of hip flexor weakness. I completely agree. I looked up as many YouTube videos and google images as I could and couldn’t find 1 person that’s hips weren’t anteriorly tilted to some degree in the front split.

 

I believe flexibility is two part. Mind and Body. Most methods attempt to train the mind. I believe it’s much easier, effective, and injury preventative to train the body. Inflexibility is muscle weakness at the end range. Most injuries happen because of weakness (Assuming to traumatic external force). The stretch reflex and subsequent pain is your mind trying to protect your body. It’s saying, “I don’t think your strong enough in that position so I’m going to prevent you from going further.”

 

People attempt to shut off or control that response and if successful, will indeed gain flexibility. Meditation, controlled breathing, static stretching, and reciprocal inhibition are attempts at teaching people to relax the stretched muscle. The more relaxed the muscle is, the more it can elongate. The problem is those methods do nothing to strengthen the muscle in question.

 

The stretch reflex and pain are defense mechanisms. Shutting them off doesn’t protect from injury. Very flexible people still get injured. If a person has no feeling in their leg and gets stabbed, their will be damage whether he felt pain or not.

 

So I thought, what if you get stronger in the end ROM? It worked for me. Your mind won’t trigger a stretch reflex and pain if it doesn’t perceive the body is in danger. Instead of focusing on flexibility or strength, you get to increase both simultaneously.

 

I believe isometric stretching is the best in this regard because it allows the most time under tension in the end range. PNF is similar but people focus on the static aspect of it more than the contraction portion so that’s why I believe it falls short. Other possibilities could be full ROM exercises but the TUT in the end range is minimal in most cases.

 

The question arises...Is it even possible to specifically strengthen the end range of the muscle? With people like male gymnasts doing phenomenal displays of straight arm strength, I do believe the answer is yes. The sliding filament theory is something I would use to try to explain why it’s possible

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EMAIL 4. Kit

 

 

Maurice,

 

I have been saying this, and more, for a great many years now, and it is becoming common. All the PNF (isometric) stretches we do explicitly strengthens muscles and tendons (and capacity to consciously exert force) at both the contracted and extended ranges of movement, with our emphasis being on the extended range. Emmet Louis calls the former (strengthening the shortened position) “end range closing”. We were the first to identify the mechanisms you describe below, over 20 years ago, and wrote about them in the first edition of Stretching & Flexibility. I have published widely on just what you describe. The “Elastisteel” system is another I know that teaches the same mechanisms. There are a few more too, but probably ours is the best known these days.

 

For side splits and front splits, for example, you need to be strong enough to hold your whole body weight, and more, at the full range, for 30” and longer if you are male (the mechanisms are different for most women), before most people’s minds accept that lengthening is both possible, and safe. 

 

There are many references to these mechanisms on the forums, too.

 

So: I agree completely with what you write here, and this is what we have been doing for a very long time, now! And I am sure I was not the first to find this; because people do not read much these days, each generation seems to need to rediscover what earlier ones discovered.

 

More below.

 

The question arises...Is it even possible to specifically strengthen the end range of the muscle?

 

Most definitely, and there is no doubt about this.

 

With people like male gymnasts doing phenomenal displays of straight arm strength, I do believe the answer is yes. The sliding filament theory is something I would use to try to explain why it’s possible.

 

The exact mechanisms are never one thing in isolation; there are multiple causal dimensions at work here. So, if you want to talk about this more, feel free to join, and post, on the forums; you will find many other people there who have found that this approach is the best (there are others we use too; and we can talk about that more over there).

 

Thanks for writing

 

Kit

 
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E-MAIL 5. Maurice

 

Thanks Kit for replying and discussing this with me. I have seen you and Emmet Louis discussing this. Others as well. You are definitely right. This is not new information. Some of the articles I viewed were published 20+ years ago.

 

My issue is people continue to promote static stretching and relaxing into the stretch. If the goal is specifically to increase flexibility, teaching your muscles not to tense up is potentially way faster than strengthening it. I just equate that to teaching someone bad form in the pursuit of quick results. It’s not long lasting and very dangerous. You get extra range but no strength to protect from injury. Nullifying your body’s defense mechanism is similar to taking a pain killer. Pain exists for a reason.

 

My problem with isometric stretching, even though I believe it is the best, it has similar drawbacks to PNF. It is very hard to do some muscles without a partner and voluntarily contracting the target stretched muscle is easier said than done because of gravity only pulling down.

 

I’ll browse your forums more and post accordingly. I apologize if it seemed like what I said was just telling you what you already knew. It seemed like some methods I saw you continue to teach focused on relaxing more than strengthening and I didn’t understand why. If there is a better/safer method, why teach something else?

 

Thank you

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E-MAIL 6. Kit

 

Let’s continue this on the formus, Maurice. The reason I’m emphasising relaxing is not in anyway a contradiction to emphasising strengthening – just that for best results both are necessary. They are not done at the same time, so they’re not in opposition to one another.

 

And stretch therapy does not promote static stretching – we only hold of the positions for the length of time we do in order to allow fascial remodelling to occur. Once contractions produced no more elongations, and one is strong enough to support oneself in the final position, the restriction is then fascia. Completely different approaches, including deep relaxation, are necessary to re-model fascia. But please understand these are done at different times, And for different purposes.

 

Please excuse brief reply from phone. If a more nuanced reply is needed, I will respond from the computer, which has a real *keyboard* when I return.

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E-MAIL 7. Kit

 

My issue is people continue to promote static stretching and relaxing into the stretch. If the goal is specifically to increase flexibility, teaching your muscles not to tense up is potentially way faster than strengthening it. I just equate that to teaching someone bad form in the pursuit of quick results.

 

Well, that approach is how the majority of Yoga is taught. 

 

It’s not long lasting and very dangerous.

 

It’s not dangerous, Maurice, though some people do write this. The body is smarter than the owner, in my experience, and the tens of thousand of active yogis who use this approach swear by it.

 

You get extra range but no strength to protect from injury. Nullifying your body’s defense mechanism is similar to taking a pain killer. Pain exists for a reason.

 

Of course, but nowhere in our work is there any recommendation to nullify the body’s pain mechanism. Please try to understand my system at a deeper level; comments like these suggest to me that you are inadvertently conflating our work, which is always active, to static stretching. 

 

 

My problem with isometric stretching, even though I believe it is the best, it has similar drawbacks to PNF. It is very hard to do some muscles without a partner and voluntarily contracting the target stretched muscle is easier said than done because of gravity only pulling down.

 

That is not what I have found. I can stretch any muscle in the body (or, better, stretch any functional line in the body) by using isometric techniques against gravity. The reason we use and recommend using partners (though we have a full repertoire of solo exercises that work all parts of the body) is that even more force can be created—and for some muscles, like the hip flexors, the arrangements we have come up with are simply more efficient (in terms of results gained for time spent).

 

I’ll browse your forums more and post accordingly. I apologize if it seemed like what I said was just telling you what you already knew.

 

No need; I am happy to engage.

 

It seemed like some methods I saw you continue to teach focused on relaxing more than strengthening and I didn’t understand why.

 

I think you have put separate elements and techniques together here; we always, without exception, teach strengthening. Some people, more females than males, can improve ROM by relaxing more deeply, but everyone in our system uses contractions at the ends of the ROMs they are exploring—and that makes all students stronger.

 

If there is a better/safer method, why teach something else?

 

I think when you understand the system more deeply, you will see that this question is misdirected. We do already do as you are suggesting, but relaxation, at a separate phase or point in the larger process, is also necessary—not to become more flexible, necessarily, but to feel better. Using stretching to increase ROM is only a part of what we do.

 

Cheers, KL

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E-MAIL 8. Maurice

 

Like I mentioned, I believe flexibility is mind and body related. Mind=relaxing, Body=strengthening. A relaxed muscle isn’t getting stronger and a contracted muscle is not relaxed. I agree they are not done at the same time.

 

“We do already do as you are suggesting, but relaxation, at a separate phase or point in the larger process, is also necessary—not to become more flexible, necessarily, but to feel better. Using stretching to increase ROM is only a part of what we do.”

 

Makes sense. A couple reasons people are inflexible is because of being overly stressed and anxious about life. Teaching people to relax would do wonders for their well-being I would imagine. Being relaxed just so happens to lead to flexibility gains as well.

 

“Please try to understand my system at a deeper level; comments like these suggest to me that you are inadvertently conflating our work, which is always active, to static stretching”

 

I apologize if it seems I am saying you’re doing something your not. The most common PNF usually involves a relax phase, which is static. But there is the version that has no static phase, but antagonistic contraction, which is active. So if you don’t promote the static version for flexibility gains, I am not disagreeing with you.

 

“Once contractions produced no more elongations, and one is strong enough to support oneself in the final position, the restriction is then fascia”

 

This is where my opinion may contradict yours. I believe a muscle can continue to elongate and be strengthened until it reaches an anatomical barrier. For example, the forearm coming in contact with the bicep during elbow flexion.

 

Active Flexibility Stretching and its benefits are where I think the main differences come about. It strengthens the muscles being used to get into the position by utilizing the antagonist’s tightness (and sometimes gravity). The stronger the active muscle, the more it can fight the stretch reflex contraction of the antagonist.

 

An example...Someone lying on their back can do a straight leg raise so their legs are perpendicular to the floor. That’s their limit due to their hamstring contracting which provides too much resistance. Too much resistance to the weak hip flexors. The person probably won’t feel much of a stretch  in their hamstrings due to the hip flexors not being able to push through the stretch reflex. 

The person proceeds to do a lying knee raise instead and only gets stopped due to their quads hitting their abs. While in this position, the person tries to straighten their legs while keeping the quads to the abs. The average quads being much stronger than the hamstrings, and can push through the stretch reflex resistance, the person feels the hamstrings stretching and the pain that comes with it.

 

Maybe not the best example but both ways do nothing for hamstring strengthening. The first way (straight leg raise and hold) is active flexibility training for the hip flexors. Ultimately just strengthening them by contracting continuously against the resistance of hamstring tightness. The stronger the hip flexors become, the more force they can apply to counter the stretch reflex. 

 

Wouldn’t it be better to just strengthen the hamstrings so the stretch reflex won’t kick in as soon? Wouldn’t the hip flexors benefit more from strengthening in the long range instead of the short range so it gets both flexibility and strength instead of just strength?

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E-MAIL 9. Kit

 

Maurice,

 

Please post a compendium of your recent emails on the forums, but please spend a day or two reading there before you do. It’s clear from what you write below that you do not understand what I have written back to you in the previous email; no problem, but to continue the discussion, you need to understand a lot more about the system you want to comment on than what you are showing here.

 

A small note: no one’s opinion can contradict another’s, as you write below. Opinions are just that: positions taken in a discussion. The example you give below ("For example, the forearm coming in contact with the bicep during elbow flexion.”) is not a contradiction of anything I wrote; just a special case. 

 

I will respond to whatever you decide to write on the forums, but in all honesty, I have to say that you do not understand what my system is about. And strengthening a muscle group by itself does not change the point in the ROM where the stretch reflex is elicited, in my experience, to counter your last point. If that were the case, powerlifters would be the flexible ones, not dancers—their hamstrings are way stronger than theirs, by your logic. 

 

I have spent an hour or so today replying to you. Please spend a few hours, at least, trying to understand the ST system. Look over what you have written in the last little while and join the forums, and present your position there.

 

Regards

 

Kit

 
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E-MAIL 10. Maurice

 

I very much appreciate you taking the time to respond to me and even doing so in a timely manner. I never claimed to know everything about the ST system. But from the browsing I did do of it, it seemed to be the closest I could find with the most agreeable points. I do not expect you to reply anymore. I just had one last topic to cover.

 

“And strengthening a muscle group by itself does not change the point in the ROM where the stretch reflex is elicited, in my experience, to counter your last point. If that were the case, powerlifters would be the flexible ones, not dancers—their hamstrings are way stronger than theirs, by your logic.”

 

This is where my anecdotal evidence proves otherwise. I did recreational powerlifting. I reached over 400lbs bench press, and over 500lbs squat and deadlift. There is no question my chest and hamstrings were stronger than most dancers. Yet I was as stiff as a brick. Tight muscle equals a weak muscle made no sense to me. But my logic still stands. 3 things about those lifts.

 

1. They are compound lifts. They cover so many muscles at once that it’s difficult to isolate the muscle that is stretched. If I want strong quads, I’ll do quad dominant lifts. If I want a strong lower body, I’ll do heavy lower body compound lifts.

2. They have a set ROM. For bench press, once the bar hits your chest, that’s it. Some powerlifters arch their back to reduce the ROM even more. Let’s say that bench press uses only 80% of your chest’s potential full ROM. Why would a powerlifter train the weaker 20% if it’s unnecessary? I know I didn’t. They’ll get stronger in the 80% range, very strong, but not much carryover, or flexibility gains, into the remaining 20%.

3. If the muscle being stretched isn’t the muscle contracting out of the position, there is no benefit. For Straight Leg deadlift, the hamstrings are what’s stretched the most. If you use the stronger hip extensors, the glutes, to extend the hips instead, the hamstrings reap little to no benefit in end range strength.

 

Once I focused on end range strengthening the right way, which I do believe is possible, my flexibility improved accordingly. Like my newfound ability to place my palms on the ground with straight legs without warming up. No forced relaxation, meditation, controlled breathing, or reciprocal inhibition needed. My mind believes I’m strong enough in the position, because I am, and thus doesn’t trigger the stretch reflex in the strengthened range. I think others think this is possible too. I just think most go about it incorrectly. A great method done incorrectly will produce suboptimal results. Some may believe it’s mainly neurological, I believe it’s physical.

 

Like I said, it is mostly anecdotal. You said it didn’t work for you in your experience so how could I expect you to believe me over yourself? If I said you did it incorrectly, why would I think you would just listen to what I tell you? I have no credibility but my word. Coming from a random person on the internet, it doesn’t equate to much. I don’t know what it would take for me to become more convincing. I hope the best for you and yours.

 

I am truly thankful

 

Maurice

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E-MAIL 11. Kit

 

Maurice,

 

I have skimmed this reply. I understand strength training at a deep level, too, in case you are not aware of this. Please post this and the rest of our exchange on the forums, as I asked, and I will respond there.

 

And when you claim, "You said it didn’t work for you in your experience so how could I expect you to believe me over yourself?”, please show me where I said this, and be specific about the “it” in your sentence.

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E-MAIL 12. Maurice

 

I will post the interchange in the forums. I just have to figure out how to do so in the most logical way. If you could give some instructions in that regard, that would be helpful.

 

And when you claim, "You said it didn’t work for you in your experience so how could I expect you to believe me over yourself?”, please show me where I said this, and be specific about the “it” in your sentence.

 

The “it” I was referring to was this claim...

“And strengthening a muscle group by itself does not change the point in the ROM where the stretch reflex is elicited, in my experience, to counter your last point.”

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E-MAIL 13. Kit

 

I will post the interchange in the forums. I just have to figure out how to do so in the most logical way. If you could give some instructions in that regard, that would be helpful.

 

No, I won’t help you there; you want to make a case? Make it your way. I have already commented at length on what you have written. 

 

Think about how you want to make the points you want to make, and make them your way.

 

And when you claim, "You said it didn’t work for you in your experience so how could I expect you to believe me over yourself?”, please show me where I said this, and be specific about the “it” in your sentence.

 

The “it” I was referring to was this claim...

“And strengthening a muscle group by itself does not change the point in the ROM where the stretch reflex is elicited, in my experience, to counter your last point.”

 

Key point in this sentence is “by itself”; which was your claim, not mine. At no point did I say "it didn’t work for you in [my] experience”.

 

All further discussions on the forums, please. If you re-read our exchanges, we are not in opposition here—my objections to what you write are about precision and a lack of understanding of what the ST system is about. Your main point, strengthening muscles at end ROM, is the core of the ST system, and has been for a very long time. This is what you seem not to have appreciated.

 

I will respond on the forums only, from now on

 

KL

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Welcome to the Forums, @Maurice.

May I suggest you review all of the above, and summarise in a new post, below. I re-read all this a moment ago, and my key point is made in the last post, above, namely:

4 hours ago, Maurice said:

Your main point, strengthening muscles at end ROM, is the core of the ST system, and has been for a very long time.

What can you add to this?

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I have moved this topic here from the "Promoting your work" sub-forum. All comments/thoughts/discussion welcome.

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I’ll try my best to summarize. 

 

I believe if the goal is to gain flexibility, you can train the mind or the body. I also believe training the body is easier, more effective, and is better at injury prevention. There are many other potential benefits as well.

For the mind...If someone is stressed, anxious, or suffering from some other mental roadblock, then that is different. Meditation, yoga, controlled breathing, and other therapeutic activities may prove beneficial. A relaxed mind typically means a relaxed body. A relaxed body is more flexible than a tense one. In this case, flexibility should be a bonus, not the main objective.

For the body...The mind protects the body. If you are too weak in the end range of the muscle, the stretched/lengthened position, the mind will trigger a stretch reflex in an attempt to keep you from going too far. If you manage to push through the stretch reflex with added force, pain will occur. If you get stronger in the end range (lengthened), the mind will no longer trigger a stretch reflex at that ROM because it believes the body is strong enough and safe.

I believe the best way to accomplish building end range (lengthened) strength is through isometric stretching. Muscles get stronger through progressive overload and isometric stretching allows the most time under tension in the desired range. One can build strength and flexibility simultaneously this way instead of choosing between one or the other.

2 hours ago, Kit_L said:

 

6 hours ago, Maurice said:

Your main point, strengthening muscles at end ROM, is the core of the ST system, and has been for a very long time.

What can you add to this?

 

The difference is I think the lengthened position is the only ROM that really matters. The ST system focuses on the lengthened, and as quoted from above, “(strengthening the shortened position) “end range closing”.” If you strengthen the lengthened portion, it benefits the entire muscle with increase in flexibility. If you strengthen the shortened portion, you’re only benefiting the shortened portion and with no flexibility increase.

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Hi Maurice,

Welcome to the forums.

Reading over this thread, there are two things that really stick out to me.

First of all, I get the general impression that you've found something that worked great for you, and you're very excited about that. That makes sense. I think we've all felt something similar. There is nothing at all wrong with anecdote, either - it is incredibly valuable. But you must maintain perspective. You found one tool in the toolbox that just happened to be the one that you needed. Because it worked so well for you, it is easy to think that it is the best tool. But we all bring our own unique set of individual requirements to the table, and some people will need additional tools, or perhaps even completely different tools. The one you found is a very important tool, which is why it is an integral part of the Stretch Therapy system, as Kit has explained.

Second, I notice you keep talking about the mind/body divide. The truth is, there is no divide. I will not try to go into great detail about this, but I strongly urge you to look into this subject more deeply on your own. I think once you spend some time exploring this idea, much of what Kit has said will make a lot more sense to you.

5 hours ago, Maurice said:

The difference is I think the lengthened position is the only ROM that really matters. The ST system focuses on the lengthened, and as quoted from above, “(strengthening the shortened position) “end range closing”.” If you strengthen the lengthened portion, it benefits the entire muscle with increase in flexibility. If you strengthen the shortened portion, you’re only benefiting the shortened portion and with no flexibility increase.

Similarly to the mind/body division being illusory, the clear division between pieces of the body is false, as well. Everything in the body is connected, and muscles do not function in isolation. Here we are looking at the agonist/antagonist relationship. Even if you maximally strengthen the lengthened position of an antagonist muscle, you will simply have a strong muscle that cannot be fully lengthened if the agonist is too weak to do so. Muscles contract - that is their strength. They do not lengthen themselves. You might think of it like this: strengthening the lengthened ROM creates potential, while strengthening the shortened ROM offers a way to express that potential. Both are useful.

Again, welcome to the forums. Please continue to look around - there is lots of great info here. I look forward to your further contributions as you continue to explore the fascinating topic of flexibility with the rest of us here.

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Hi Nathan,

About the mind/body divide, I tried to word it in as simple language as I could. They are connected in more ways than I can imagine. There are differences though.

I believe the other (non flexibility related) aspects of the ST system can potentially benefit greatly from working the mind/body as one. I’m just in the line of reasoning that many physical problems (muscle tightness and injuries for example) can and should be addressed physically through the body, not mentally through the mind.

3 hours ago, Nathan said:

Similarly to the mind/body division being illusory, the clear division between pieces of the body is false, as well. Everything in the body is connected, and muscles do not function in isolation. Here we are looking at the agonist/antagonist relationship. Even if you maximally strengthen the lengthened position of an antagonist muscle, you will simply have a strong muscle that cannot be fully lengthened if the agonist is too weak to do so. Muscles contract - that is their strength. They do not lengthen themselves. You might think of it like this: strengthening the lengthened ROM creates potential, while strengthening the shortened ROM offers a way to express that potential. Both are useful.

I’m not sure my interpretation of isolation is the same as yours. For agonist/antagonist, I’ll use biceps and triceps. When you do bicep curls, you are working your biceps in isolation. Your triceps will being moving as well throughout the lift because they are the antagonist muscle. I’ve never heard of anyone getting strong triceps from doing bicep curls.

I think the biggest issue of this whole situation is the following; I believe that the more you strengthen the lengthened position, the less stretch reflex (involuntary muscle contraction/shortening/added resistance) you will have. The ST system and many others seem to not agree with my assessment. 

The less resistance an antagonist muscle provides while lengthening, the less force (strength) an agonist muscle needs to have while shortening. The ability for the agonist muscle to shorten (and possibly hold in place) while the antagonist is lengthened is known as Active Flexibility.

Lengthened muscle strengthening makes the muscle stronger while simultaneously reducing the stretch reflex resistance (Dual benefit). Shortened muscle strengthening only strengthens the muscle. (Singular benefit).

If my assessment is true, which I have anecdotal evidence to prove it, I don’t see why anyone would do shortened ROM strengthening.

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1 hour ago, Maurice said:

They are connected in more ways than I can imagine. There are differences though.

Again, I am encouraging you to challenge your own belief and consider the possibility that they might indeed be one and the same, and not simply connected. It's a difficult notion for us because the divide has been so deeply ingrained in our culture, but this is a relatively modern phenomenon.

1 hour ago, Maurice said:

I’m just in the line of reasoning that many physical problems (muscle tightness and injuries for example)

This is a good example. If there is a division between the two and muscle tightness is physical, then why do muscles become loose when the "mind" is turned off (via anesthetics, for example)? And if a distinction can be made between the two, can we ever actually separate them and address one without influence from the other in practice - in real life? If not, then it only makes sense to consider both when approaching either.

But I suppose we should keep the discussion here focused on your intended objective, which are the assertions you make below.

1 hour ago, Maurice said:

I’m not sure my interpretation of isolation is the same as yours. For agonist/antagonist, I’ll use biceps and triceps. When you do bicep curls, you are working your biceps in isolation. Your triceps will being moving as well throughout the lift because they are the antagonist muscle. I’ve never heard of anyone getting strong triceps from doing bicep curls.

You went off on a bit of a tangent here. It seems you got caught up on the word "isolation." I said that "muscles do not function in isolation" and you acknowledge this by the fact that you recognize the agonist/antagonist relationship. You are using the word in the bodybuilding sense of splitting exercises up between compound and isolation exercises. In that sense, the bicep curls "isolate" the biceps because the biceps are moving the weight, but they are still not literally working in isolation, because there are many other pieces of the machine at work. Whether or not the triceps get stronger is irrelevant to this conversation.

1 hour ago, Maurice said:

I believe that the more you strengthen the lengthened position, the less stretch reflex (involuntary muscle contraction/shortening/added resistance) you will have. The ST system and many others seem to not agree with my assessment.

I don't think that they disagree at all. They simply recognize that the equation is multi-faceted and that is only one piece of the puzzle. It was the one you needed to complete your puzzle, it seems, which is why it seems like the Holy Grail from your experiential perspective.

1 hour ago, Maurice said:

The ability for the agonist muscle to shorten (and possibly hold in place) while the antagonist is lengthened is known as Active Flexibility.

Exactly. This is why end-range closing is so essential for active flexibility.

1 hour ago, Maurice said:

Lengthened muscle strengthening makes the muscle stronger in the lengthened state while simultaneously reducing the stretch reflex resistance (Dual benefit). Shortened muscle strengthening only strengthens the muscle in the shortened state. (Singular benefit).

Please see my additions in bold above. This is the key point that you are missing. Yes, strengthening the muscle in a lengthened state leads to less resistance to the stretch from the mind/body. But strengthening in the shortened state is what allows you to express that flexibility without relying on gravity or outside resistance. It is the difference between sliding into the side splits effortlessly vs. being able to perform the side splits in open space, while standing. The former may be possible by simply reducing resistance to the stretch from the mind/body, but the latter will never become possible without agonists that are very, very strong in the shortened state. (One uses gravity to induce the stretch, while the other must fight against gravity.)

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2 hours ago, Maurice said:

If my assessment is true, which I have anecdotal evidence to prove it, I don’t see why anyone would do shortened ROM strengthening.

I have anecdotal evidence to the contrary! Literally all the ROM gains I made over the past year have been due to shortened ROM strengthening. This varies from pulling deeper into a seated pike using the hip flexors (giving gravity a hand, so to speak) to overhead liftoffs (really working against gravity). Has been working excellently.

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5 hours ago, Nathan said:

If there is a division between the two and muscle tightness is physical, then why do muscles become loose when the "mind" is turned off (via anesthetics, for example)? And if a distinction can be made between the two, can we ever actually separate them and address one without influence from the other in practice - in real life? If not, then it only makes sense to consider both when approaching either.

That doesn’t contradict anything I said. When the mind is “turned off” (via meditation, controlled breathing, or even with anesthetics), the stretch reflex won’t trigger. If the involuntary muscle contraction (stretch reflex) doesn’t occur, that results in instant flexibility gains. I never said the mind doesn’t play a part in flexibility or that you should not address mental roadblocks. For the specific goal of flexibility increase, I believe it is better, more effective, and injury preventative to focus efforts on the body.

I’ll try to explain why. The mind is very powerful. It is also difficult to understand how the mind works or strengthen it quantifiably. The body (muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, etc.) is much more simple.

If someone’s goal is to gain muscle strength or get a tight muscle to relax, I have no doubt that “strengthening” the mind will allow them to do so. Meditation and other ST System techniques can cause improvement in that area. I, on other hand, would say it is much easier and effective to strengthen the body through progressive overload. How do you know if your mind is strong? It’s easier to quantify the strength of your body. 

5 hours ago, Nathan said:
7 hours ago, Maurice said:

Lengthened muscle strengthening makes the muscle stronger in the lengthened state while simultaneously reducing the stretch reflex resistance (Dual benefit). Shortened muscle strengthening only strengthens the muscle in the shortened state. (Singular benefit).

Please see my additions in bold above. This is the key point that you are missing. Yes, strengthening the muscle in a lengthened state leads to less resistance to the stretch from the mind/body. But strengthening in the shortened state is what allows you to express that flexibility without relying on gravity or outside resistance. It is the difference between sliding into the side splits effortlessly vs. being able to perform the side splits in open space, while standing. The former may be possible by simply reducing resistance to the stretch from the mind/body, but the latter will never become possible without agonists that are very, very strong in the shortened state. (One uses gravity to induce the stretch, while the other must fight against gravity.)

I see the additions made. There are 2 points I would like to address.

1. I believe lengthened muscle strengthening actually benefits the entire muscle whereas the shortened muscle strengthening only benefits the shortened range. I’m not sure why, but I would use the sliding filament theory on muscle contraction to help explain it. But in simple terms...if you use 100% length of the muscle, the entire muscle strengthens. If you use 50% or less length of the muscle, only 50% or less would strengthen. Why work 50% when you can work the whole 100%?

       Gymnast bicep strengthening while doing straight arm exercises is an example. I’m sure they can still do heavy bicep curls with full ROM without doing specific bent arm (biceps shortened) exercises

2. If the antagonist muscle provides less resistance, the agonist muscle would need less force (strength) to express that flexibility without relying on gravity or outside resistance (Active flexibility).

         I’ll use your side splits example. If you decrease the resistance (stretch reflex) of the hip adductors, even without strengthening the hip abductors, you will increase in active flexibility. If you keep the resistance of the hip adductors the same while strengthening the hip abductors, you will increase in active flexibility.

         Lengthened muscle strengthening achieves both decrease in resistance and full muscle strengthening simultaneously. Strengthening in the shortened state only achieves strength gains.

          Continuing with the side split example...Lengthened muscle strengthening of the hip adductors  causes them to fully get stronger and to provide less resistance to the hip abductors. Shortened muscle strengthening of the hip abductors only strengthens the hip abductors (in the shortened range at best)

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3 hours ago, Maurice said:

When the mind is “turned off” (via meditation, controlled breathing, or even with anesthetics),

With respect, from what you write here, you know nothing about meditation. Not only is the mind not turned off while meditation (what does "turned off" mean in this context, anyway?) it is wide awake and clear, and (depending on the type of meditation you are doing) the meditator is also clearly aware of physical sensations, too. As well, doing walking meditation (one of the species of moving meditation, one of the four foundations of mindfulness, according to the satipatthana sutta) the stretch reflex works perfectly as expected. The practitioner could not walk otherwise. And if you can meditate while stretching (perfectly possible; I have been doing this for years, and why I was invited to teach in traditional Buddhist monasteries in the first place) you will see/feel that while in this state, all reflexes we use (described elsewhere) work perfectly as expected.

And is the substance of your main argument that, because strengthening in the lengthened ROM strengthens the muscle at all points in the ROM (so, as a matter of efficiency, say, a waste of time to also strengthen in the shortened ROM) there is no need to train strength in the shortened ROM? If so, this is simply incorrect.

Developing strength in the shortened ROM is extremely specific, in my experience, and is not related functionally to strength gained in the lengthened ROM, nor is is related to strength gains in the stronger parts pf the ROM, as trained in traditional strength training (powerlifting, Oly. lifting, and bodybuilding). This is why gymnasts and dancers train it endlessly. Two things here. Training strength in the shortened ROM activates the reciprocal inhibition reflex (and is one reason why our bent-to-straight hamstring stretches work so well) and gives the practitioner active control of that ROM. I can tell you from extensive personal experience that training lengthened ROM has no effect on one's capacity to exert force in the shortened ROM. Many, a great many, other adults who have taken up gymnastics strength training can also attest, they are simple not related. Both have to be explicitly developed, and for different reasons.

Please spend more time in trying to understand the whole of the ST system; I suspect is is broader and deeper than you realise. And as @Nathan and @161803398874989 have mentioned, these other methods have worked well for them, and this is something that you cannot argue against. 

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3 hours ago, Maurice said:

Gymnast bicep strengthening while doing straight arm exercises is an example. I’m sure they can still do heavy bicep curls with full ROM without doing specific bent arm (biceps shortened) exercises

Maurice, this is simply nonsense. There is no gymnast on the planet who only trains straight-arm strength. Have you hear of one-arm chins, for example? A gymnastics staple. Gymnasts train all ROMs that the biceps can influence—so the conclusion you draw from their undoubted SAS is just not sound.

Let me draw this out. There are no gymnasts who have only trained SAS, so you cannot licitly conclude that, because they have excellent SAS, they would have had excellent bent-arm strength without training it. This argument is called a "straw man" in logic, and I invite you to research this. 

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31 minutes ago, Kit_L said:

Not only is the mind not turned off while meditation (what does "turned off" mean in this context, anyway?) it is wide awake and clear, and (depending on the type of meditation you are doing) the meditator is also clearly aware of physical sensations, too.

“Turned off” as in the stretch reflex produced by the mind, not necessarily the mind itself. I think semantics are playing a bigger role in this discussion as a whole than I would have hoped. My use of the words such as “mind”, “body”, and “stretch reflex” I believe are being misunderstood. I can say we breathe in air and somehow my lack of using oxygen and other gases will make it seem to some people like I don’t know what air is. “Mind”, “body”, and “stretch reflex” are extremely simplistic terms. Giving mini descriptions of what I meant by each was clearly not enough.

I am not an expert on meditation by any means. I know there are many forms and different purposes. You love to claim I know absolutely nothing about a topic instead of trying to figure out why I say what I do. My skill level in explaining things to others is very low. I admit that. Maybe the problem isn’t necessarily what I said, but how it was interpreted?

I mentioned stress and other mental blocks affecting flexibility. I also mentioned the involuntary muscle contraction (stretch reflex) that tries to prevent the muscle from further lenghtening. If someone meditated, leading to a clearer mind, a healthier mental state, or allowing them to voluntarily relax the contracting muscle, flexibility increase will happen.

52 minutes ago, Kit_L said:

And is the substance of your main argument that, because strengthening in the lengthened ROM strengthens the muscle at all points in the ROM (so, as a matter of efficiency, say, a waste of time to also strengthen in the shortened ROM) there is no need to train strength in the shortened ROM? If so, this is simply incorrect.

 

All semantics aside, this is the substance for my main argument. 

Most people don’t isolate and contract (or know how to), the muscle being stretched. Many exercises people do are compound as well. Gymnasts included. The planche and iron cross are two straight arm moves that heavily tax the biceps in a lengthened position. Just because you can do the planche, doesn’t mean you can do the iron cross, and vice versa. Both moves will strengthen the biceps in a lengthened position but there are other muscles involved, among other factors.

56 minutes ago, Kit_L said:

There is no gymnast on the planet who only trains straight-arm strength. Have you hear of one-arm chins, for example? A gymnastics staple. Gymnasts train all ROMs that the biceps can influence—so the conclusion you draw from their undoubted SAS is just not sound.

Compare apples to apples, not apples to oranges. A better test would be “how does doing the iron cross or planche affect my standing bicep curl” not “how does the iron cross and planche affect my ability to do one-arm chin-ups ”. A strong standing bicep curl is not a gymnast staple so they wouldn’t care how much they could curl. Who tests their standing bicep curl anyway? The biceps are used in all of those moves. But since other muscles are involved, training only the biceps won’t produce optimal results. I’m not advocating training only one muscle. All muscles should be strengthened.

P.S. I’m not saying the iron cross and the planche are the best for increasing overall lengthened bicep strength. There are too many other muscles involved and other factors that make them suboptimal for the specific task of lengthened bicep strength.

 

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