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Ballistic stretching; 90-day challenge, ongoing reports


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Please read the threads started by Mountain Hammer and Emmet:

 

http://kitlaughlin.com/forums/index.php?/topic/836-craigs-ballistic-stretching/?hl=ballistic

 

http://kitlaughlin.com/forums/index.php?/topic/875-head-to-toe-stretching/page-4

 

There are many others, too; search on "ballistic".

 

The back story is the conjunctions of two things:  the arrival of my apprentice from Denmark, the newly minted Dr Fred Beck, and the end of the six month period in my life where I have done no stretching at all. The reasons for this are many; primary amongst them is the sheer amount of work it has taken to move into and finish off the construction of our new house in Greenwell Point, and getting ready for the inaugural intern gathering.

 

Fred and I have decided to accept the 45 day ballistic challenge (I am not sure who came up with this exact period) and today we are at day five. At the recent intern gathering here, Mountain Hammer took us through about 45 minutes of ballistic stretching both days. On day two I was extremely sore, and I thought it probably can't get worse than this, so I'm just going to keep going.

 

What I have decided to do here is record my impressions and experiences at regular intervals until September 1, which Fred calculates will mark the end of the 45 day period for us.

 

We are using a mixture of Mt. Hammer's stretches and Emmett's head to toe protocol. Naturally we have tweaked the protocols to some extent! As taught to us by Craig, we used three sets of 50 repetitions; the techniques are one or more of using a mixture of pulling ourselves into the position with hands, aiming at physical targets, whether objects or parts of body, and using the antagonistic muscles to provide the momentum. I have added light KBs to some of the movements (Mu Bu, or Skandasana, for example) [*** Pu Bu; thanks for the correction] because the small counter balance helps get into a better (as in stronger) position, and I feel I am working the muscles better (and, like one of my favourites, the Cossack squat, the weight is both strengthening in the shorter term and allows perfect form without weight in the longer term).

 

Each day I have been slightly more sore and in different places. Today it's all hamstrings and pretty much all of the adductors. 'What's left?' you might ask. But interestingly, the adductor sensation is not only in my tight side; it's in both sides and that is unique for me. The sensation is a combination of simple muscle soreness (like from an unusual workout) and almost like a mild injury or pull. But the most interesting aspect of this is that these sensations have not stopped me getting slightly deeper in all positions each day.

 

I will detail the exercises later, but it will suffice to say at this point that I have included all variations of the standing and sitting pancake because I am so poor at this, Craigs "Mu Bu" (if I have got this right!), active front splits done up and down onto a bolster, Emmett's head to toe exercise, a version of downward dog, my advanced piriformis exercise, and a number of others. Each was selected to target my presently tightest areas.

 

Because we are at day 5, I expected significant soreness in the muscles. In no way has this stopped any of the other movements or any other kinds of exercise that we're doing, and I am committed to working through the soreness. 

 

Last night, to make the point, Fred found Shia LaBeouf's brilliant YouTube video:

 

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

 

Please excuse typos; I'm dictating. One more point: the soreness in the hamstrings and the adductors has shown me that ballistic stretching can also be done gently; in fact more gently than I thought. As well, once in my advanced piriformis stretch, I recalled that I have always used some gentle moving contractions and relaxations at the end of point, but that the ballistic approach simply emphasises what seems like a natural response to me (moving once in the final position). Also it has become clear that ballistic and static are simply two points on continuum. More to come.

Edited by Kit_L
Not Mu Bu!
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I'm going to jump in as I've been continuing the ballistics since the retreat too.

 

I've pretty much settled on one 50 rep set of standing pike (forward, left, right) and a giant set (super-set) of elbow/head to toe (L/R), Pubu (L/R), pancake, tailor/butterfly pose (moving really quickly, flap those wings!) and a standing counter-pose to all the flexion (basically the old man hands on lower back and pushing hips forward with straight legs) done for 3 rounds.

 

It takes me about 20mins at the moment and a lot of that is girding the loins for the head to toe (I'm trying to embrace the discomfort Craig, some days I just embrace it a bit more slowly). Each time gets a little bit easier though, and today I could touch thighs to ground pretty easily in the tailor pose after one round.

 

Is it my imagination, or do the ballistics seem to be more easily directed to the lower body? Is there an applicable upper-body 'set' that one could do? I can think of a few; downward dog as Kit mentioned, and the straight-arm 'cat' stretch we used to do in PandF (with the arms elevated), and the floor pec minor/biceps stretch if you can get into a decent position. Any more?

 

Cheers!

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As stated above by Kit, I am committed to 45 days of no days off ballistics. 

 

I am going for a more lean approach (fewer exercises) with more reps instead (3x72r) on my chosen movements which are Pu Bu (Dropstance) and Head-to-Toe. I am definitely getting into new range especially with the head-to-toe movement. The most interesting thing is how quickly I am able to get into a full ROM and a get very intense stretch.

 

This is not my first experience with this type of stretching, I have even done a similar experiment in the not-too distant past. The first four days left me with no soreness, at least from ballistics (I did a rather intense non-ballistic HF stretch yesterday, which yielded a very nice dosage of DOMS today). 

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That sounds less strange, more 'highly auspicious' style DOMS, Emmet. I look forwards to viewing said exercises. When my nerve heals, I look forward to joining in the general ballistic stretching vortex, too. But not yet.

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Kit, I had never thought of piriformis ballistics. Just tried it out and like it a lot so I'm going to commit to do this everyday for an exteneded period. It's a problamatic area for me, but as I respond really well to ballistic hamsting stretches I'm confident this can help too. I'll report back with my progress.

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Front splits onto bolster has been the biggest surprise: great HF and hamstring stretches (if the trunk is vertical enough), and bouncing off the bolster feels safe (but still strong).

 

@Chris: use a bolster or support under working hip/thigh, and the ballistic movement is much easier.

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Yesterday evening (and through the day) I played with the standing Pike version, and with current nerve issue getting fingertips to my couch was quite painful.. persisting at a slow, pulsing speed with Awareness and within my tolerance I, over about 120 pulses, made it to my toes.  Body feels good today and injury is healing. Not recommending this approach to all, but an interesting observation nonetheless. 

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Trying some side split pulse for the last ten days. Day 8 I hit calves down first time for a long time. For me I generally hit a big progression then my body won't enter that range for another 4-5 days. Yesterday I done my pulses then decided to try some Iso's. Previously in the depth I was in I could hole about 10-15s and was backing out to get my required times. Yesterday I was able to do I done 3 holds of 60 - 45s :o

Also today I have doms surrounding my pubic bone fyi

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They sure are.

I was initially doing the pulse like a micro straddle stand but then found there's a tight line for me about half way between toes flat split and toes up so I've been working that for the last few sessions. When I found that was the first time I got my calves down.

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Legs felt very heavy today in standing pike (might have been because I had just done 150 standing lunges, 3 x 50, very deep position with square hips and ticked tail, vertical trunk, and a brick held overhead). In the pancake, legs are getting wider; I start with some support then progress (again, 3 x 50, or sometimes 70-80; depends on feel), then less, then none on the last set. Deep sensation in all adductors now.

 

In Pu Bu, I used the brick in the last set, and was able to get arse to heel on support leg. I find this position quite tiring, too. All good. 

 

As well, have designed lots of new movements; will outline later.

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So: day 11. I am really tired (taught last two days and did my ballistics outside in Melbourne in real cold). I thought I'd list today's routine, with comments:

 

W/up (standing forward bend x 50, plus 50 to the left, and 50 to the right). Relaxed and slight knee bend.

 

Emmett's HTT: 3 x 50, slight knee bend on first sets

 

Pu Bu: 3 x 50: support leg felt fatigued today; used light KB to get the depth.

 

Cossack squats: 1 x 50, with KB

 

Standing pancake 3 x 50, done in FFs for grip (outside on concrete slab). Elbows to floor on last set (of 80; included intermediate angles, as well as directly over each leg). Used light KB on one set, emphasising straight back (I notice there's a real temptation to do these with a flexed thoracic spine!). And it is much easier for me to keep the knees straight in this exercise (the load on the slight hyperextension my knees have does this perfectly). As well, biceps femoris, everyone's tightest hamstring, is hardly involved, so that's probably part of the story.

 

Standing hip flexor 3 x 50; with 10Kg DB OH. Very tight today.

 

Standing side bend 3 x 50

 

The overwhelming impression is that the standing pancake is the most beneficial for me, and all adductors and the two inner hamstrings are involved. All are letting go, slowly.

 

Bolster Front Splits 1 x 50

 

Bolster Side Splits 2 x 50

 

Done.

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I hear you on the fatigue Kit!

 

Not just muscles either, I'm getting a real mental/emotional response when I start (nervous and panicky) which starts to ease off as I get into the sets. Interestingly though it peaks pretty quickly and then levels off, as in it's still there but I can deal with it. It reminds me a lot of doing metabolic work, the body freaks out but if you can push through it then it doesn't get any 'worse'.

 

The DOMS has really kicked in, hamstrings and particularly in the front of the hips, (although maybe not DOMS as it's more of a pinchy sensation as I fold over). 

 

I can also report that I feel very 'bouncy/springy' in the bottom of my Snatches, Cleans and Front squats which is a nice bonus.

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@ Emmett: straight legs FS; leaning back far enough to feel the bounce on both legs. Fists on bolster to facilitate bounce. We will take pics in a week (I am off to Qld for a retreat for five days; will be bouncing there, too).

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Day 14: definitely a breakthrough. Now, we need to contextualise this info: I used to have a decent (though nothing like Miss O's) pancake many years ago, and I did have full side splits once, too (for the book Stretching & Flexibility). As well, at a later time, a pretty good pike, in which I used the full body weight of a partner to flatten the spine onto the legs (which is how I know that my proportion will not allow a full head-to-toe; my legs are a bit too long in relation to my trunk.) This was many years ago, though, and I have done no stretching in the last six months.

 

Some parts of my body are looser than hers (I am using her flexibility as a baseline standard because many of you know it well from the VOD programs). My HFs are looser (though were not not five years ago) and my advanced piriformis is better too, but that's about it.

 

I have been following a 3 x 50, sometimes 3 x 72, and a few times (in the standing pancake) 3 x 150 (50 over each leg, 50 to the middle) protocol. The main exercises are mentioned above. 

 

I can also report that for the last week, I have been feeling nauseous while doing these exercises; this is what every beginner feels in the HF stretch. Funny. But real. And unlike Jon above, this does not pass in the workout. As well, my legs feel heavy and tired—it's actually hard for me to support my own weight in Pu Bu; this feel amazing (as in shocking) to me. And I have been resting (lying meditation) most days AND going to bed earlier than I usually do. All this tells me the neural dimension to this practise is affecting the internal organs significantly.

 

Today in the standing pancake, significant progress: bouncing the head gently off the floor easily. Legs noticeably wider than before, and a lot less muscle soreness (not that it was comfortable!). As well, side splits (SS) onto flattish bolster and two yoga blocks on their flattest sides (one at each end of the bolster) and hard down onto the bolster. 30" contractions; down further. Definite progress there.

 

Re. Emmett's HTT: this is the slowest to progress, but when I tried the sitting pancake, I was able to touch my face to my knee on both sides, and was well forward in the middle position, pulling myself towards a column. This tells me that, like most people, the outer HS (which are proportionally more loaded in the HTT movement) are my tightest.

 

The sensation in all the posterior muscles and all adductors was more diffuse and more widespread today; it was noticeably different. I was reminded of something Robert Schleip told me about their research, which was perplexing when I first heard it: that adjacent muscles to the ones that theoretically were being loaded maximally (think Bulgarian deadlift) experienced greater strains than the working muscles, in some instance. This is what this diffusion felt like. It might even be a superficial fascial response/feeling.

 

Anyhow, the DOMS is much reduced, and that's a blessing for me (I always get DOMS, from any kind of workout, and it's painful!). For me today, this has been the first positive feedback in the body. More to come.

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Please keep going Kit, it's extremely interesting to hear your feedback.

It's very different to my experience. Perhaps it's an age thing. For me ballistic stretching is quickly becoming my favourite stretching. I find it so easy, It's just a matter of doing the work in the period chosen. I get results every time. My body doesn't respond negatively in any way and doms no longer get in the way, as I can just bounce them away.

I had to restart my piriformis experiment as I missed a couple of days due to unforeseen circumstances. I was stuck travelling for 10 hours one day. I'm 5 days in now though and feel positive, I think I will be able to get my foot behind my head soon, when I can I will know for sure of my improvement.

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I just found this. What a great thread! Very insightful. I figured I would add my experience so far for an extra perspective.

 

I started with Emmet's head to toe program just less than two weeks ago, and I am having good progress so far. As I mentioned in Emmet's thread, I am posting weekly video updates of my progress on IG (@gaolaining), but to summarize I started with fist and extended thumb on same side elbow to toe, and 12 days in (yesterday) I reached same side elbow to toe on both sides during my third set of pulses. Today I reached the same point early in my second set, and after I finished my third set I tried opposite elbow to toe out of curiosity. I managed opposite elbow to toe on both sides, so it looks like I may be able to move straight on to head to toe next.

 

As for my experience so far, I've felt very little DOMS or soreness. A slight persisting soreness, but slight enough that I don't really notice until I pay attention. I've never done any intense stretching, so I have little to compare it to, though I have definitely experienced very extreme DOMS from lifting before. As I mentioned in Emmet's thread, I feel the stretch very differently on each side. On the left, I feel it mostly just above and below the back of the knee, while on the right I feel it almost exclusively in the side of the glute and a bit at the top of the hamstrings.

 

The ballistics make me sweat like nothing else, but for the most part are not that uncomfortable. There have been a few times where I dreaded the next bounce, but for the most part it's fairly easy to complete my sets. The morning sets are the most painful, relatively. There have been a few times where I felt a sense of danger (my brain interpreted it that way in any case), and when this happens I simply slow the bounces slightly and focus on control. This seems to take care of that feeling.

 

The last thing that I will mention is that I have been doing the calf rolling from Kit's video every night. I don't know if this has helped or hindered, but I enjoy it and it felt great at first because the stretching seemed to hit my calves more than anything. Lately it seems to be more evenly distributed, and I have shifted to focusing more evenly on calves and hamstrings during the rolling. The hamstrings seem to require quite a lot of force, which is difficult to create with the bar. I am pulling up quite forcefully with both hands, and it feels as if the hamstrings are just on the verge of releasing a great deal of tension. I have a feeling they will let go after a few more days of focusing on them.

 

All in all, this has been a great first experience with intense/focused stretching. I hope to address some of my other problem areas (HF are probably worst, pancake is also terrible) with similar protocols in the near future, but for now I'm excited to see how long it will take to achieve head to toe!

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Day 16  (might be out by a day or two): major breakthroughs for me today, and some insights:

 

All the way down in Pu Bu with only slight trunk inclination, arms stretched out in line with extended leg, first time ever. Felt very Wu Shu, for a few seconds. Wished MH could see.

 

Insight: leg strength for me in bent-leg ballistics has been a major limiting factor. MH may recall the almost-horizontal trunk position I used at the gathering; but today, support leg strong enough to lower butt to heel and and as this happens, hips move forward from backwards-most thigh-parallel position and, as a result, balance point moves forward—and trunk can straighten up. This felt amazing. I was able to relax in the bottom position; first time ever.

 

Bounced head off gravel in standing legs apart. Bounced chest off each leg (now, I am wearing a lot of clothing; it's cold here) but progress for sure. Holding outside of foot with opposite shoulder's hand, easily. Last set I found that it was immensely difficult to activate quads to ensure leg stays completely straight—reciprocal inhibition reflex, for sure (hamstrings inhibiting quads).

 

Best (as in deepest, widest) Cossack squats, whole of lower leg on the floor, and was able to incline trunk forwards and towards outstretched leg and hold foot while bouncing; new sensation in gracilis. 

 

Still (for me) leg strength is limiting factor I feel; this is a real insight. Legs feel completely flogged as I type.

 

Designed new (for me; I am sure Craig has a Chines name for it!) bouncing exercise: Eagle stance, almost parallel on support leg, bounce face and body to foot on thigh. Very interesting.

 

Off to sit now. Am wondering if no alcohol is contributing an effect to all this (I am on retreat at present).

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@MH: The traditional form of Garudasana (Eagle pose) is not what I am talking about here; what I am talking about is more like that image you put up of the young Chinese guy holding a parallel squat, with vertical shin and trunk—remember than one?

 

Getting somewhere near that (well, nowhere near, but roughly same body positions), but with inclined shin and trunk. Standing on one leg; other leg's foot on top of that leg, just behind the knee (in the image you put up, from memory, the top leg's foot was near the groin crease) so that the top leg's knee angle is about 90 degrees; bend support leg to parallel (or just above) while pressing folded leg's knee to the outside with that leg's glute. In the version I describe, the trunk is then bounce inclined to the foot that's resting on the support leg: this is a BIG piriformis stretch on the uppermost leg (it is the front half of the advanced piriformis stretch). The balancing component enhances the stretch, too (micro adjustments adds their other-plane 'bounces'). 

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