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Ballistic stretching; 90-day challenge, ongoing reports


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@MH: that's the one, but the way I am doing it, the top leg is out as far as possible (so least amount of lower leg on thigh); this makes the trunk forward lean really hit piriformis. DOMS tomorrow for sure, I'd say. 

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Day 23 of 45–day ballistic challenge

 

Brief comment on my last post; no DOMS in piriformis much at all; probably because these are among my loosest muscles; the only soreness I felt has been submerged in a much larger package!

 

Overall reactions to the challenge

THE major effect (which I believe DW asked about in another post) has been fatigue, and most likely neural fatigue. I am tired anyway (the sort of tiredness that does not respond to a single good night's sleep). Last night, for example, I was in bed, variously sleeping, lying meditating, and resting for 11 hours—unprecedented, for me. There is a strong sense that (in the back-bending exercise I will describe below) that the effect is on the fascial system and the internal organs, especially the organs responsible for apprehension and anxiety (stomach and 'spleen', spleen includes the pancreas in the oriental system). 

 

The second, unrelated (except through the neural system, so related in reality, if not in experience) is that I have realised that my hamstrings and lower back are the tightest parts of my body. I used to do Bulgarian deadlifts with 140Kg x 5 when I was at the ANU, perhaps ten years ago, and that, coupled with way too much time spent sitting on the same muscles has lead, I believe, to this result. I have put some weight on on my legs during the ballistic challenge, too, and my sense is that it is on the hamstrings and glutes. Now that we have an Olympic bar, I am going to get into the hamstrings with weighted stretching off our heavy benches. This has worked superbly in the past.

 

Exercises

I have added a number of preparation exercises that make the actual ones easier. In addition to the two-leg standing forward bend that Craig showed us, I have added a standing ballistic straight-leg calf stretch (done on the ladder bars, one leg at a time, 1 x 50), a floor ballistic version of the advanced piriformis stretch, and more reps in the two-leg standing forward bend than standard (today, 1 x 109), full squat weight on balls of feet trying to get head to floor. This I feel in ankles and lumbar spine. I sometimes use a weight on the back of the neck.

 

There are four core movements

I do Emmett's HTT (1 x 72, up to 109, depending on what's happening, improvement-wise, around the 60-rep mark); 

Pu Bu (1 x 72, never more at this point, because leg strength runs out around this time). I sometimes use a weight to get me down further; 6Kg feels about right; if I am too sore or too tight to get down, I come onto ball of support leg's foot (like the bent-leg Cossack) and this moves my body weight forward enough to get excellent stretch on straight leg.

Standing legs apart (1 x 50 over L leg; 1 x 50 over R leg; 1 x 50 in between legs; notes on variations below)

Then either standing HF, 1 x 72 each side, or in the last week, the new standing ballistic back bend, 1 x 50 (following description copied from SD's post today): Start standing, tighten the glutes and tuck the tail maximally, push the hips forward and bend the knees as much as you need, arms up and out (horizontally, to start with) then lift the chest maximally, and start leaning backwards. No wall, no support.

 

After the three sets of the core exercises are done, then the supplementary ones start. The last exercises vary. Sometimes I do another set of the adv. piriformis or the standing single-leg version described above. 

I do ballistic side splits (hand support on bench; trying to touch glutes to bolster, using a foot point–and–relax ankle movement to provoke the movement. This has been working very well; bouncing off bolster on some days.

Floor pancake, using column to get movement. Will use weights in time. I try to get chest onto each leg, then go middle line. 1 or 2 x 72 each position.

Dumbbell standing ballistic side bends. Using 10Kg presently.

 

Variations

This depends on soreness; if sore, start with easier variation to get movement in minimum number of muscles and max. movement in all joints, then the whole movement with straight legs. In standing legs apart I use a bent-leg version first (bend one leg; elbow to inside of support leg's ankle, 1 x 50; change legs; then 1 x 50 middle line, legs still bent. This feels like short head of biceps femoris, glutes, and some lumbar spine. In the full squat, a dumbbell really helps depth. 

 

Conclusions

I have asked Fred and Olivia to comment separately on their internal reactions. Apart from the fatigue (which resulted in me doing a sitting, then lying meditation before lunch yesterday in addition to the long rest last night) there have been periods of significant DOMS, which movement quells immediately. The ballistics the next day stretch through this speedily, but it's not pleasant. Pain (from lactic acid in the support leg) as well as in the actual parts being exercised is usually what stops the movements (Pu Bu, in particular). Both of us (Fred and I) spend some time lying down in between sets, sometimes. The F-bomb is the most commonly used word.

 

Real progress has been made in the pancake; when I looked yesterday in the column version described above, I got down to about 35 degrees from the floor, with a straight back. Still very significant resistance to completing the movement, but a massive improvement in only three weeks. Much slower improvement in HTT; my elbows are about a fist–and–thumb away from the top of the foot. Decent improvement in the standing back bend, but this is only a week old. Standing hip flexor is already decent, so this is not as effective for me as floor ballistic front splits, which I have not done this week with all the new movements.

 

I have had no alcohol for 10 days; because the pancake stretching line is the liver meridian, I have decided to spare nothing!

 

More to come. 

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My experience is not quite as an intense as what Kit is describing above. I have made comments on my experience with ballistic before, but I think it could serve as a useful complement to Kits perspective.

 

First I have not had any real down time from training in the recent past, so for me there has been no "getting back into it". Sure I have had a busy schedule, but have been able to put in consistent training. Also, I have done ballistic stretching in the past. I have even done something very similar to this 45-day experiment. Which I suspect plays into the fact that I have not had any DOMS to speak of. I have chosen the holy trifecta of HTT, Pu-Bu and Hip Flexor Lunge done for four rounds of 72 reps, at the moment.

 

 I am definitely in new ROM in the movements I am pursuing. But, the gains have been very incremental and fairly modest. It should be noted that I was not expecting anything to shift rapidly, given the amount of practice that has gone into getting to this point. Even so progress have been made and I am happy with my results. 

 

My experience with this type of stretching is that it is fairly exhausting, and while I find it useful also think it needs to be implemented in an intelligent manner: I do feel more tired or fatigued than is usual for me. I have a feeling of running a very low fever with out being able to pin it on something specific. Most nights sleep comes much more quickly than is the habitual state for me. It should be stated that I can usually sustain a fairly demanding exercise routine, on top of various other obligations. That said, this routine has definitely dug into my reservoirs and I have had to reduce the amount strength work that I do, not to drive myself int the ground.

My feeling is that it would be hard to implement this kind of a routine into a day that revolves around a regular day 8+hour day job plus the other stuff that comes with such a life-style. To put it plainly I feel that an extensive ballistic routine is some what an intermediate to advanced thing. I will probably be backing off after the 45days and shift focus somewhat. I will definitely keep some ballistics in the mix, and very likely as a daily thing at that, but probably more as a maintenance tool. Even if there was no concern with neural fatigue, there is still the question of time-energy and other things also need attention. Maybe ballistic stretching is something you do intermittently, and then back off and do other stuff for a few months to a year?

 

More to come ...

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Chris wrote:

 

 

 

It's very different to my experience. Perhaps it's an age thing.

 

This could be; but in my view, much more a fascial density/tightness thing. My fascia is definitely at the Viking end of the fascial tightness continuum (as opposed to Balinese temple dancer); my name means "from the fjords" in Celtic...

 

I have always found extreme tension (whether another person's body or a weight) is needed to effect change, so this means usually I have to get a LOT stronger to become looser—yet we know that women can get ultimate flexibility through relaxation only. 

 

Today, I had a great deal of soreness in all muscles being worked, so I cut the reps down to 50, and loaded everything. Then when I did my pancake, using the column to get down, there was a lot of relatively easy movement. 

 

The workouts leave me feeling a bit shaky, like a strong weights session, so I am thinking this is the neural dimension. 

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My two cents worth. I did the ballistics for just two sessions (at the gathering in mid-July where Craig showed us the template) and the response in my system was inflammation in all joints – big time – that lasted almost one week. Not unexpected, as I am simply bone tired at present, but I took it as a sign that doing this type of stretching right now is not the best thing for my system. I will try again in time, to focus on the stabilisation and strength benefits that I felt would be the benefit to me from doing ballistics (especially from head-to-toe and Pu Bu), rather than any focus on/interest in improving my flexibility per se.

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Kit,

 

From your descriptions you're describing neural fatigue and over stimulation of the cns. Not to be unexpected with the volume of work you're doing. My suggestion would be to up your salt intake, any sea salt is fine, take a magnesium supplement at 600mg a day, 300mg post session and 300mg pre bed. Other adaptogenic herbs, ashwandgwanda or Rhodiola wouldn't go a miss either.

Also what you're doing is essentially a higher volume specialization program where you are pushing yourself into the fatigue zone so some /alot of fatigue is expected by this phase but once you plough through and return to a lower volume you should surcompenstate massively. 

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Ok the big reveal from the ballistic stretching.

A small bit of History in the first few months of circus school I had both my adductors torn by a coach dumping her weight into me in a middle split. Both grade two. This was about ten years ago now but it has stopped me doing doing middle splits, pancake and limited other leg stretches immensely. I've tried every treatment going from sports massage to direct injection of peptides to the site. Some improvement but nothing immense from each treatment.

So onto present times. About a month a go I had been doing pancake ballistics and mentioned to MH that my scar tissue had kicked off and was really at me so was going to stop the pancake ballistics which I did. Last week I was on a working holiday with my GF and I was getting her to do the gracillis release and she mentioned it was much looser. I went in my self and the scar tissue on both sides had literally unzippered. I could sink my fingers into the second knuckle pretty much all the way to the knee on the left side and the right which was the worse scarring had also improved immensely.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

My experience with this type of stretching is that it is fairly exhausting, and while I find it useful also think it needs to be implemented in an intelligent manner: I do feel more tired or fatigued than is usual for me. I have a feeling of running a very low fever with out being able to pin it on something specific. Most nights sleep comes much more quickly than is the habitual state for me. It should be stated that I can usually sustain a fairly demanding exercise routine, on top of various other obligations. That said, this routine has definitely dug into my reservoirs and I have had to reduce the amount strength work that I do, not to drive myself int the ground.

My feeling is that it would be hard to implement this kind of a routine into a day that revolves around a regular day 8+hour day job plus the other stuff that comes with such a life-style. To put it plainly I feel that an extensive ballistic routine is some what an intermediate to advanced thing. I will probably be backing off after the 45days and shift focus somewhat. I will definitely keep some ballistics in the mix, and very likely as a daily thing at that, but probably more as a maintenance tool. Even if there was no concern with neural fatigue, there is still the question of time-energy and other things also need attention. Maybe ballistic stretching is something you do intermittently, and then back off and do other stuff for a few months to a year?

 

More to come ...

 

 

My 2 cents here. I have done wushu training daily for about 4 years while holding a regular 8-9 hr/day, five day a week office job. That basic training was mostly consisting of kicks (your ballistic stretching), stance training (including mabu, pubu and what have you), punches (consider ballistics from the shoulders hehe). Followed by form training, which was putting the elements together to short and then longer linked sequences.

 

Every morning I would get up at 5:30 am to train between 6 and 7:30 am before getting breakfast, washing and setting off to the office.When I was travelling, I did my workout in my hotel room or at the hotel's gym. This - every day. Sunday I was getting up one or two hours later though. I should have taken at least on day a week to rest but, as many athletes here can vouch, you always feel that you don't train hard enough so it was hard to take a day off. Besides, I had my teachers who never thought of encouraging me to rest, but always encouraged me to work hard. (The difference was, they started wushu at the age of 6 or 16, and I started it at the age of 34 - even though not entirely unfit...)

 

The bottom line, I felt tired all the time  - yet not satisfied with the amount of work I had done in my training. My body ached. It also changed a lot in those years: got very compact, 'hard'. Can't comment on flexibility, it stays pretty constant throughout my life (somewhat above average). The training was never specifically about flexibilty, though; we were after speed and power. Its 'ballistic', right? :)   So, the mental tiredness, lack of energy and muscle soreness was something I could live with; but my joints kept showing sighs of fatigue and inflammation, one after another. One hip heals, there would come a wrist. After the wrist, there would be an ankle. One side of the knee was always there reminding of itself. Lower back, of course (all the bouncy stretches, then jumps and jumping kicks). I went from acupuncturist to chiropractor back to acupuncturist again.

 

After about four years, I quit, and switched to other activities. I feel great, and never went back to the chiropractor. Do not remember having joint problems either since then. (I also changed my lifestyle and left office, but that was much later). I do admire you guys for doing the 45 days challenge. Yet what I read here is 'tired' and it resonates so strongly with my own memories. :)

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Hi Kit,

 

I am curious as to how your soreness has been recently.

 

This may be completely in my head, but I have a feeling that the soreness that I have been developing recently is different than DOMS, or the soreness that I have experienced with lifting in the past. I have always felt DOMS significantly throughout the muscle as if the muscle had become tight - in a state of perpetual slight contraction along with a bit of pain. The soreness that I have begun to feel with ballistic stretching feels much more superficial to me - almost as if it is the fascia rather than the muscle that is sore. I wonder if this is possible, or if it is simply my imagination?

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My current theory about DOMS is that the highly increased sensation post workout (especially when "new" areas are accessed) is not that the sensations are put there as a warning (area damaged! avoid use!), but more that it is there as the system bringing attention to areas that require attention to be paid to them. In this sense, the increased sensation is not actually indicating *avoid* as most people treat it, but is actually indicating "pay attention to this shit! it's important and you weren't using it before and so it's weak and frail and you can't control it properly and can't feel it properly so guess what you get to feel it vividly for the next few days!". Having these new areas in the awareness helps remapping of the nervous system so you can more accurately be aware of this area in the future and use it effectively. It seems that, for me at least, DOMS only presents itself in my system when I access parts of the body I was previously unaware of.

 

Thinking about DOMS like this has been highly effective in my own practice, sensory awareness is improving rapidly, and I don't get DOMS in areas I am fully aware of. If I do get DOMS, it indicates to me I'm in new territory and to tread carefully, but continue exploring specifically in these areas. New territory is, after all, what I'm actually searching for here :)

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Hi Craig,

 

That's an interesting idea, and it very much applies to the "DOMS" that I am experiencing now.

 

That said, when I was really lifting heavily in high school years ago, I could very much manage to get DOMS without accessing new territory, unless you count the new muscle tissue that was probably generated as a result of destroying my legs and thus having trouble climbing the stairs :) Or there was the time that I decided to join a friend for a crazy arm workout after a while of not lifting and couldn't bend my arms the next day ;) These sensations were very different than the soreness that I am feeling as a result of ballistics, though. Perhaps it is a difference of actual damage vs. the call-for-attention that you mention.

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Could be different types of soreness....expansion of the sensory lexicon is also super important I think!

 

Could also be that to do max lifts you regularly need to engage muscle fibres that you haven't engaged before, so even though you are within the same muscle complex, you are still using new parts?  Like I said, its just a theory/feeling in my body, a theory which was the result of lots of working in DOMS for many years, while paying attention to the sensations of the body! (chinese saying: training stops hurting after 5 years - effective 5 years of training could produce a full sensory awareness in the body?). 

 

Im not doing any heavy lifting right now, will definitely pay attention next time I do.  Does anyone care to experiment with this idea?

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@Craig In regards to the heavy lifting and doms I was doing 5x5 for my squats a few months ago 3x a week, increasing the working weight 2.5kgs each session. I started at 100kgs and it was all pretty easy and fast until I got to 110kgs. It was pretty tough that 2.5kgs jump was significant at that time. I still got all 25 reps but I was sore the next day even though I was conditioned for that specific work. The 100kgs felt heavy and sparked a change in my body and I had DOMS for a few days after. 

 

I get the same thing ballistic stretching. I dont get DOMS any more but when I access a new range of motion in a particular movement I am usually sore the next day. Not massively but noticeable.

 

It's like the body is waking up after it realizes something new about itself!

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Perhaps the idea should be expanded to account for the body "forgetting" or having to recall territory that it may have once known. This would explain the DOMS experienced when returning to previously experienced ranges after some time away from them. I don't have enough experience with stretching to know whether this is true there, but I will definitely feel DOMS with familiar weights/stressors upon returning to them after a long period away.

 

I still have a feeling that the lifting DOMS is different than the stretching DOMS, though. How did your squatting DOMS compare to your stretching soreness, Matt?

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Nathan I completely get what you're saying as my main soreness comes from a specific line near my medial hamstring. I say near as it actually feels between that and another muscle, I have described this as fascial sorness too. It really feels like that, even if it's not a thing.

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Interesting, Chris. Perhaps I am simply looking for confirmation, but it is nice to know someone else feels something similar. And yes, I hadn't really thought about it but the stretching soreness often seems to lie on some kind of imaginary line between the muscles, rather than within the muscles. However, I also feel it encompassing areas like the hamstrings or the underbutt, almost as if a sheath around the muscle is sore, but not the muscle itself. It's an interesting sensation since I have never really focused on stretching enough to experience this until now.

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