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Mick

Mick's Big Breath At Home

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Hello, I’m Mick and I’m gonna start posting here semi-regularly.

I have a question that sprang from an exciting little breakthrough I had on my stretching adventure.

If imbalances in muscle tightness & inflexibility from left to right is (one of) the main reasons for pain & discomfort in the body (as well as inefficient movement), would it be wise not to stretch the more flexible side for a period?

For example, I’ve recently discovered my left calf is much less flexible than my right. I can also feel that the tightness in the left calf has been affecting the rest of my body:

  • Tightness & lack of mobility in my left hip
  • A perceived ‘problem’ with my left hamstring
  • A back injury since the age of 14 that has been left unresolved (although it’s improving all the time)
  • Tightness in my right upper-back

Actually, I had one of those experiences where I saw my entire body (it is ‘being pulled’ by the tightness in my left calf).

The experience was similar to those I had while training Wing Chun in Hong Kong, where training focused on relaxation of muscles to re-align the body and generate power without using muscular force. Similarly, the sensation was so clear I was instantly left wondering, “How did I not see/feel this before?”

It was on the ouskirts of my awareness, I guess.

I was giving a squash lesson and during a break, I went into a pancake position (or what my body can currently do in attempting the pancake). Then I brought my legs together and flexed my toes. It was then that I saw & felt the obvious difference between the left and the right sides.

You can see in the front-on picture the difference in angles of the toes on each foot/ankle.

That was about two weeks ago. Since then, I’ve been focusing on stretching my calves (and enjoying noticeable effects), which brings me back to my original question:

Should I just not stretch my right calf for a period, to let my left calf ‘catch up’, so to speak?

I’m guessing the answer might be to stretch both sides then stretch the tighter side again :)

 

Pancake1 15.12.18.jpg

 

Pancake3 15.12.18.jpg

Edited by Mick
Trying to work out how to paste images inside the post, not just as an attachment at the end of the post.

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1 hour ago, Mick said:

I’m guessing the answer might be to stretch both sides then stretch the tighter side again :)

You got it :) This is the standard practice in Stretch Therapy. Start with the tight side, stretch the other, and then come back to the tight side one more time. The difference will fade with time - there is no need to completely neglect one side.

And welcome to the logs forum! Look forward to seeing how you progress :)

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Well, so much for the semi-regular posts!

Anyway, I'm currently doing a 30-day challenge where I'm performing 1000 squash lunges every day. I'm up to day #10.

The saturation seems to be letting me go deeper into stretching positions. Ever-so-slightly. In particular, left piriformis and right hip-flexor.

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*** I guess disregard this post because I just found the Form Check thread and posted there. This was probably the wrong place. Anyway...

---------

I'm up to day #20 of my lunge challenge. I've been feeling somewhat dormant muscles in my left glute & hamstrings activate. It's allowing me to feel the area more and actually stretch it with a little more mindfulness after each session, which is exciting. So much so I've tentatively tried some jefferson curls. I watched one of Emmet's videos - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYS0R4c3qCA as a guide.

If anyone has the time & incentive to take a look at my attempt and can give some feedback on anything they see I can change or focus on, I would really appreciate it. I did 3 down and up then held one more time for about a minute ---

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tg4Q2gv7O98

 

Edited by Mick
Should have posted in different thread.

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In the morning spent some time in the garden with the family moving between some bent-leg hamstring and hip-flexor stretching.
Then I was in child's pose and my step-daughter sat on my lumbar spine. It felt great and I went deeper into the stretch than I ever have!

I did my 1000 lunges in the evening and afterwards went through some bent-leg hamstring stretching again, moving into a floating piriformis stretch. This combination seems to be great after doing the lunges.

I came across a Tim Ferriss video where he was demonstrating 2 hamstring stretches that have helped him, which came from Jerzy Gregorek (who I just discovered tonight... he is extraordinary!). I tried them and will continue with the first at least. Here is the video I watched...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSh16vvYJBk

Finally, walking the dog in the park I did some core isometric contractions coupled with some breathing exercises, then some... not sure what they're called - tricep exercises where my body is extended with arms holding a bar at about navel height in front of me, and I lower down until elbows are about 90 degrees, then back up again, 30 of them. I should really find out the name of that one :)

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On 3/29/2020 at 12:22 AM, Mick said:

This was probably the wrong place. Anyway...

Not at all. Form Check will get more views, but it's perfectly fine to post form checks in your log. I was going to respond here before you posted there :) 

8 minutes ago, Mick said:

I should really find out the name of that one :)

Took me a sec to visualize what you're describing ("body is extended" had me a bit confused), but it sounds like you're doing tricep extensions/push-downs using your bodyweight, right? Maybe tiger-bend push-ups on a bar would be a better description.

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5 minutes ago, Nathan said:

Took me a sec to visualize what you're describing ("body is extended" had me a bit confused), but it sounds like you're doing tricep extensions/push-downs using your bodyweight, right? Maybe tiger-bend push-ups on a bar would be a better description.

Yeah, that's probably the best description!

And I'll definitely post some more form checks here somewhere along the line :)

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Worked in the garden in the morning, picking up wood we had cut and weeds we had pulled. Quite enjoyed replicating the elephant walk to do so for about an hour. Also threw in the occasional squat when required.

I did my 1000 lunges.and straight after did 2 sets of 6 reps of the Jerzy Gregorek hamstring stretch. After a shower I spent time on the bent-leg hamstring stretch moving into floating piriformis.

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Did a couple of minutes of the Elephant Walk before and after my 1000 lunges...

This was before I knew about or committed to the #300DaysofPracticeChallenge so I did another 6 or 7 minutes just now. While doing it, I remembered that Kit says to let the hamstrings relax before attempting to straighten the next leg. I don't think I was doing that in the video.

Anyway, I've committed to 10 minutes of Elephant Walk every day starting from this 1st April (no, this is not an April Fool's joke, I am doing this!).

I am exploring other hamstring stretches and still getting used to what my body is ready for and wants/needs. For example, I'm spending quite a bit of time on the bent-leg hamstring stretch and will probably look to transition my Elephant Walk practice to Jefferson Curls (or add to it). But in time.

So, the 10 minutes of Elephant Walk is the nucleus of my endeavours :)

#beastmode #eyeslikeafightingcock

This morning, I also did some isometric contractions of my core. And I had a delightful afternoon nap!

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Is there any option to reduce the appearance size of the embedded YouTube video? At the moment it seems the only 2 options are include a link or a big-assed embed...

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1 hour ago, Mick said:

Is there any option to reduce the appearance size of the embedded YouTube video?

Afraid not. It's reactive and expands to full width based on screen size.

2 hours ago, Mick said:

So, the 10 minutes of Elephant Walk is the nucleus of my endeavours :)

Excellent!

Just a couple of things:

First, and most importantly, you really want to bend the legs at the beginning to take the stretch off the hamstrings (the tighter you are, the more you should probably bend), and then glue your torso to your thighs and keep it glued there throughout. Feel free to really exaggerate the leg bend, until you feel almost ridiculous getting set up. And feel free to wrap your arms around the thighs to keep yourself in place. Remember that you don't need to fully straighten the leg (and you probably shouldn't be able to)! The magic comes from gluing the pelvis in place and stretching the hamstrings while maintaining that pelvis positioning.

Second, you could definitely slow down a bit, especially in the beginning. Really pay attention to the sensations and allow the hamstrings to lengthen. Feel free to speed up a bit as you continue. The different speeds will provide different stimuli, which can be a good thing. You can also play with different patterns, e.g. bending and straightening both legs at once. Have fun and explore :) 

Keep up the good work!

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Thanks for the feedback.

I have to bend the legs quite a lot which calls upon the quads to hold myself in position. I remember Kit mentioning this at the course I attended that those less flexible will have a simulataneous quad-strengthening exercise. It's quite fatiguing. Because of this I'm doing my 10 minutes of the Elephant Walk in 60-90 second blocks throughout the day. This is also employing the greasing the groove approach that Pavel talks about (little bit of reverse reasoning from me there!).

There are only 5 days left of my 30-day 1000 lunge challenge, which I'm looking forward to finishing. After that I'm gonna start doing more contract-relax in the bent-leg hamstring stretch.

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Today I did 10 minutes or a little more of the Elephant Walk. It occured to my body that having to bend my knees so much and, therefore, my quads needing to engage to support myself is part of the process. For example, when performing contract-relax in the bent-leg hamstring stretch, while we can play around with pushing the heel straight into the ground or 'hooking' it back toward our hips, the impetus (as I understand) should come from the quad. And after we relax our stomachs then attempt to slide the foot ever-so-slightly forward on an exhale, the movement should be initiated/executed again by the quad. Seems like the same/similar process with the Elephant Walk while in such a bended-knee position (if there is limited flexibility, like with me).

I also did 3 sets of 6 reps of the Jerzy Gregorek hamstring stretch. And I played around with lying down with a strap wrapped around one extended foot, pulling it towards the head for a straight-leg hamstring stretch. It's the first time it has ever felt worthwhile pursuing for me. I didn't count reps or times, just made sure to do it twice on the left side.

And I found a great stretch for my calves. While wearing my shoes which have quite ridged soles, I"m able to rest one of the ridges on the bottom of the balcony fence. It's a great relaxed position where I can pull my body forward quite effortlessy and also play around moving left & right.

I did my 1000 lunges. 4 days to go!

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1 hour ago, Mick said:

For example, when performing contract-relax in the bent-leg hamstring stretch, while we can play around with pushing the heel straight into the ground or 'hooking' it back toward our hips, the impetus (as I understand) should come from the quad.

Strengthening the quads is a nice bonus, but it's not the same as the C-R. With C-R, the lengthened muscle is contracted, which allows it to lengthen further when relaxed. This strengthens the muscle being contracted while it is in a lengthened position. However, the quads would be an agonist in this case, and contracting the agonist is another way of encouraging the target muscle to lengthen further. A gentle version of this is what the straightening of the leg during elephant walk is doing.

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14 hours ago, Nathan said:

Strengthening the quads is a nice bonus, but it's not the same as the C-R. With C-R, the lengthened muscle is contracted, which allows it to lengthen further when relaxed. This strengthens the muscle being contracted while it is in a lengthened position. However, the quads would be an agonist in this case, and contracting the agonist is another way of encouraging the target muscle to lengthen further. A gentle version of this is what the straightening of the leg during elephant walk is doing.

Great description. Thanks.

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Clocked off my 10 minutes of the Elephant Walk interspersed throughout the day. Doing the bent-leg hamstring stretch beforehand seems to give me more freedom to explore with the Elephant Walk.

In the evening I did 1000 lunges after which I did 3 x 6 reps of the Jerzy Gregorek hamstring stretch.

Earlier in the day I spent some time stretching out the calves on the balcony rail again. And on the couch with the strap exploring the hamstrings. I was imagining something I saw Emmet mention in relation to the front split... https://youtu.be/c-NBDZpK9bA?t=187
I doubt it was actually what I was doing because of the difference in absolute flexibility but the idea seemed to help somewhat.

 

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10 minutes of Elephant Walk. Did a couple of sets of 2 minutes without forcing it. Again, when I do the bent-leg hamstring stretch beforehand (particularly left side) it creates a bit more space for my chest to rest on the thigh more comfortably.

After the 1000 lunges I did 3 x 6 reps of the Jerzy Gregorek hamstring stretch. Then after a shower I spent quite a bit of time in the bent-leg hamstring stretch slowly exploring on each side.

Earlier in the day I spent time on the standard hip-flexor stretch then grabbing the foot to make it more of a quad stretch (dunno what that one's called). Plus a few other hamstring stretches.

While doing this 30-day lunge thing I haven't done any C-R stretch sessions because I didn't want to be so sore that I couldn't do the lunges the following day. However, the time I've spent exploring the hamstrings in particular has been worthwhile. After I finish on Tuesday I will start doing a more intense(?) C-R session every 5-7 days. I feel my body is primed for it like never before (that sounds like hyperbole but it's how my body is feeling). So I will take some before/start photos & videos. My focus is the hamstrings but I will take photos/videos of as much as I can.

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Felt a little fatigued after yesterday. Even though it was just limbering style stretching the amount was more than my body is used to. So today I just stuck to the 1000 lunges and 10 minutes of Elephant Walk. I interspersed it with some light bent-leg hamstring exploration.

Plus a delightful afternoon nap!

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Finished the 30-day lunge thing. That will free up a bit of time & attention for me now. I'm looking to explore lots of different hamstring stretches and see how my body responds.

Did 5 x 2-minute sets of the Elephant Walk. It's only been a handful of days but already excited about the potential/possibilities. I'll try to upload a video every week. And I just realized that means I'm due to upload tomorrow!

In the morning I did my regular isometric core contractions. And in between online lessons I did light bent-leg hamstring & hip-flexor stretches.

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Kind of a rest day without the lunges. Had a couple of online meetings too.

Still did 10 minutes of the Elephant Walk. For better or worse, here is the latest video:

 

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Nice! Much, much better pelvic positioning! I'm not sure what you're looking at on your phone, but that's a lot of extra tension in the neck and upper back. It's fine to do it like that sometimes, but every now and then I'd suggest doing it with the intention to relax everything that isn't necessary to keep you upright and in position. Then compare and see if it makes a difference! :)

Keep up the good work!

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I had the phone in selfie mode, checkin myself out as I stretch! :)

No, it was a timer. Ridiculous to be looking at it the whole time.
I've started letting my head drop with gravity which has, indeed, released unnecessary tension in my neck and upper back, as you said. Initial resultant feelings was being able to lengthen the hamstrings a tiny bit more (subjectively) and also feeling an extended stretch in the upper back. And good to hear I'm moving in the right direction with the pelvic position.

Thanks for the heads up, or heads down, as it were! (Drum sound!)

Same today - just did 10 minutes of the Elephant Walk.

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7 hours ago, Mick said:

No, it was a timer.

Use an audible alarm :D

7 hours ago, Mick said:

Initial resultant feelings was being able to lengthen the hamstrings a tiny bit more (subjectively) and also feeling an extended stretch in the upper back.

Excellent! It's all connected! Stretching the calves first is another little trick that will make the hamstrings feel looser for a lot of people :)

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16 hours ago, Nathan said:

Use an audible alarm :D

Yes, but I always set my phone to silent - constant beeping from messages is unnecessary stress for me. And I forget to turn the sound back on before I start the Elephant Walk! :D
Today I just made sure to relax my neck and look at the clock after a while - usually ended up being around 90 seconds, then I knew I had a few more quasi-extensions before the 2 minutes was up.

16 hours ago, Nathan said:

Excellent! It's all connected! Stretching the calves first is another little trick that will make the hamstrings feel looser for a lot of people :)

Yes, definitely not-so-loose calves on me. Thanks for the thought.

Today I did 5 sets of 2 minutes of the Elephant Walk. And I threw in 50 Hindu squats too. In between my online lessons, I was moving between standard hip-flexor stretch and bent-leg hamstring stretch. I wasn't using the yoga mat like I usually do. My socked feet were able to slide on the wooden floor. Will definitely experiment with that more.

Tomorrow no lessons or meetings so I'm gonna try my first longer C-R session in the late afternoon / early evening.

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In the morning I did 2 x 2 minutes of Elephant Walk.
In between did a light hip-flexor & bent-leg hamstring. Left hamstring, then right, then left again.
Then finished with light side-split position with forearms resting on the sofa.

Mid-afternoon I did my first C-R session for my hamstrings. Here is what I did for the session:

- Calf stretch on balcony fence. Left, right, then left again.
- 100 Hindu squats.
- 2 minutes of Elephant Walk.
- Downward dog for a couple of minutes, changing weight slowly between each foot.
- 3 x 6 reps of the Jerzy Gregorek hamstring stretch.
- Bent-leg hamstring stretch; exploring lightly for about 45-60 seconds, then pushing heel into ground for about 15 seconds, hooking heel back toward hips for about 15 seconds, then repeating pushing heel and hooking heel again. Then relaxing and on exhalation letting back leg slide back while keeping chest on the front thigh, thereby opening knee angle of front leg.
I did this on the left side, then the right, then the left again. On the second time with the left hamstring my back was straighter (although it felt more because of my right hip-flexor engaginging & releasing slightly)...

1903638004_1sttime(1).jpg.62ae8e2b65042a70721d54ee4d38024f.jpg

- Straight-leg hamstring stretch; exploring lightly for about 45-60 seconds (trying to let hip of straight leg sink down), then pushing foot into wall for about 15 seconds, pushing heel into ground for about 15 seconds, then repeating each push a second time. Then relaxing and on exhalation trying to sink hip of straight leg further down, closer to level with the other hip.
Again, I did this on the left side, then the right, then the left again.
- Hamstring static stretch while lying on my back with a strap wrapped around extended leg's foot for about 2 minutes on each side.
- 4 minutes straight of Elephant Walk; I didn't force this, my body just felt like it. I could feel it a lot deeper than usual (probably not surprisingly).

Overall, I think I could have pushed a little more but maybe I will feel it more than expected tomorrow. I didn't want to force anything too much. Marathon, not a sprint.
Anyway, that's it for today!

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