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Ballistic stretching; 90-day challenge, ongoing reports

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I get the impression that Craig, Kit&Fred and Emmet are all working on filming some more setups for these stretches?  I'd love a good "calibrated" one for hip flexors.


At Emmets suggestion I've been working on Shi Pa Dan #1 and Hip Flexors at the end of "leg day" and after a few sets of Jefferson curls. 3 rounds "36.3" (ie front, left, right) pulses for the SPD and "72.2". Twice a week. 


SPD loads of improvement, moved from palms about 5cm positive (ie short of floor) to 5cm negative in I guess 6 sessions.  I use a pile of fractional plates that are about 1cm thick as a target, and really find the quantified and progressive target a key part.  For the kneeling hip flexor (back foot held up by opposing hand) I havent worked out a effective and reproduceable targeting system yet, but am definitely making progress too.


A bit of stiffness but nothing too bad.

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Hello everyone, I've been lurking about, reading lots of good things, working through the Master series and seeing tremendous changes in flexibility. Thanks to all of you on this forum, you're doing excellent work.


A little background - I started head to toe stretching as part of a different online coaching system and worked for 4 months with little change.  Then I saw Emmet's video and things clicked for me.  In 3 weeks I went from same-side-elbow a fist away through the progressions to opposite side elbow and finally head to fist+half thumb away from toe. Then for the last two weeks I've been at about that same place. I can even get to that spot within a few bounces during my morning stretches, which told me this wasn't my max flexibility, but it was the farthest I could get with this setup.  


Kit, I watched your Coffee shop conversation #3 yesterday (loved it) and was interested in your comment that your strong hamstrings needed more than just bouncing and gravity.  I started to think that maybe this is my problem too.  So today I played with adding weights - behind the head, in front of the head, and on the back were all bad from an implementation standpoint! But what worked was to put a 25 lb dumbbell on the ground next to my propped up foot.  That is heavy enough that it won't move. Then I used my opposite side hand to pull on the dumbbell, pulling myself down into the stretch (interesting note: just pulling against my foot caused me to tighten up, so that didn't work).  After the first 10 bounces I went down to a solid 4 fingers on both sides!

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Oh man, this image and sentence are still so funny for me.. Second time seeing it I was literally crying with laughter for about 5minutes.. I think for me, having seen this expression many times, and heard the accompanying remarks, it's even funnier. Classic.

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Day 45 today. Sharing some post-workout thoughts.


My abiding impression is that ballistics is not for adult beginners, because to done effectively they require at least some body awareness, some strength, and some ROM (with the knowledge of what good form feels like) to even begin. I know that the Wu Shu folk have a different position, but my counter-position is that the vast majority begin as very young children—and ballistics is their first exposure to any kind of stretching. And we know it works. But this is not the case with normally stiff adults, and especially older ones. And pretty much no one reading here qualifies in this way. I feel our standard approach is best for beginners, in other words.


Picking up on DOMS (especially MH's comments a couple of pages earlier): the DOMS I refer to has been unrelenting and is real muscle soreness, not an awareness of new sensations or some remapping phenomenon: it always there when doing the workout, sometime more intense and sometimes less. The soreness is only experienced when trying to lengthen those tissues (and not any kind of problem in normal daily life). I have been using the intensity to calibrate the day's workout: when permitting, I go deeper; when too sore, I just go gently, and as deep as I can. It is genuine soreness that limits movement in that direction; worst on the R leg, and a fairly broad length of the hamstring, mostly the outer (biceps femoris). This affects the standing weighted KB pike the most strongly, but also standing legs apart (especially over the R leg) and floor pancake (again, especially over the R leg). None of this has stopped me getting looser, however. Today's routine:


108 standing calf bounces

72 wall SLDP, two kinds of bounce: ankle only; and chest towards floor

weighted (7.5Kg) bouncing bottom position of squat; trying to get elbows on floor; alternate knees forwards, and with DB on back of neck

two benches standing pike, 16KB; alternate leg straightening, then both straight

72 lunge HF; 72 folded back leg lunge


This is the warmup. Then two sets of:


1. two benches standing pike, 28KB; alternate leg straightening, then both straight

2. standing legs apart, sticky mat, 50 over each leg; 72 between legs

3. Pu Bu. Leg strength enough now to get to bottom position, no support, trunk about 40 degrees from vertical, 72

4. bolster front splits; two movements: rotate back lags hip forwards x 40; then forward bend over front leg x 72. This position affects the DOMS-affected parts of the legs the most (both sides; R worse).

5. standing back bend x 50. Most of the tightness is felt in front of throat; this movement provokes a strong sensation in the septa of the nose, as well as the nasal passages, and internally (internal organs). This makes me feel it's important!

6. legs apart, back straight, concentrating on pelvic movement, stomach and chest on Aerobics step plus two supports. Great and strong sensation in adductors and inner hamstrings; very controllable. I can do 180 degree side splits now over same height support, so on one set started that way before bending forwards.


Last set of 111: floor pancake, 111 over R, 111 over L leg; 111 to middle. I could not see how bent my back was; but touched head to fist.


I have committed myself to 90 days (three lunar months). Overall impressions are that my old flexibility is coming back, along with a lot of bounce and strength. Completely different feel in the body to getting the same flexibility using our standard methods. How would I characterise this? Worse daily DOMS (no recovery time), but new movement in some patterns most days, so no problem. 


Would my flexibility be any better/worse had I used the same 45 hours using our standard approaches (C–R, long holds, rotating the work around the body with recovery in between)? Impossible to say, but similar or better than the ballistics, I feel. Nonetheless, in the mode of a tinkerer, I wanted to try something different. The look on my face in the images above says it all though: most of the sensations are less than pleasant.


In the front split exercise, my chest was very close to the thigh of the front leg; this is a massive hamstring stretch (the stretched HF on the back leg makes sure lower back is straight; when I begin the bouncing, my trunk is vertical, and that is already a stretch!), and a huge improvement in ROM.


​The final point, added late today, is that the fatigue (systemic) generated by ballistic stretching in my body has been significant and, in comparison with past experiences of focussed P&F-type stretching, much higher.  This might be an important consideration for some people, depending on their life circumstances.

Edited by Kit_L
added last paragraph
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I thought I'd share my current routine and experiences. Have been experimenting a lot with different ballistic stretches, volume and frequency recently this is what I have come up with for myself:


Straight out of bed

- Pike 1x30 middle plus each side 90 total

- Elevated Leg Side Bend 1x50/side (stomach height)

- Straight Leg Calf Pulses 1x50/side (toes elevated, driving hips forward, massive gastroc stretch)

- Bent Leg Calf Pulses 1x50/side (foot flat on ground, only the first few pulses do anything then I go nowhere, get pinching in front of ankle)

- Head to Toe 1x50 each side (reach head to 4 fingers by the end atm)


- Pu Bu 1x50/side then 10 side to side transitions through Ma Bu low as possible

- Pancake 1x50 (gracilis gets a huge stretch)

- Tailors Pose 1x50 (pulling myself forward, feel the stretch right in the groin area)

- Side Splits 1x30 plus 10 second isometric at end rom (unassisted)


- Pigeon Pulses 1x50/side aim for chest to calf then after I hit that I aim for chest to foot (really opening up glutes/piriformis)

- Rear Leg Bent Kneeling Lunge 1x30 leg angle at 180 degrees driving hips forward while focusing on back bending arms overhead head back

- Kneeling Lunge 1x30 exact same as above except the rear leg isn't bent (massive psoas stretch)

- Front Splits 1x30/side plus 10 second isometric at end rom (unassisted)


- Back Bridge 1x30 pushing with legs opening up shoulders (has been improving my bridge dramatically, huge stretch is psoas)

- Straight Arm Shoulder Extension Pulses 1x50 holding a stick with my hands together I raise the stick into shoulder extension and pulse further into extension 


Looks like a lot but doesn't take very long. I repeat this again later at night but everything that has 50 pulses goes to 72 and I do 3x30+10s for the two splits and 3x72 for H2T. Have been doing this a week so far never have any fatigue or DOMS, everything is improving. Before I was just doing 3x72 everything just at night minus the splits but since I started this I have been feeling really loose. I can almost get all the way down in Pu Bu now! I really try and focus on actively pulling into the stretches it allows me to feel the muscle.


Apart from this I am doing minimal loaded stretching 1-2x a week for Ma Bu squats, isometric pigeon, jefferson curls and diagonal stretch and on a different day, loaded shoulder flexion/extension/external rotation and weighted stick dislocates. This is all while squatting, deadlifting and pressing 2x a week each over 4 days with high volume. Sitting in a full squat with heels not on the ground (bad dorsiflexion) 10mins a day minimum, stretches out my soleus well and the daily 5 to unwind and relax. Having no issues whatsoever. The perks of being young I guess haha.

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A real breakthrough today, in ROM terms. As I sit here writing, I have real, but mild, soreness in all hamstrings and in the ischial tuberosities, though. Looks like I might have to organise that standing desk!


Miss O will shoot something on this later, but I took a leaf out of her book somewhere in the middle of a 1.5 hour session today (might have been longer) and sat on the gym floor with my legs apart, and made very small movements ('micromovements' as Diva likes to call them) of the pelvis and trunk, in all directions. Very potent and, following this, was able to touch my head to my two hands (on top of each other) flat on the floor. Legs are significantly wider apart, too. I can definitely feel sensations in the hip joints themselves, during and following, but nothing unpleasant.


The soreness in the hamstrings is like what Chris Scott reported on Emmet's HtT thread: present from the beginning of the session, but now not limiting increases to movement, which pretty much increase slowly with each pulse. In seated legs apart, I gently bounced my chest off my thighs, starting with pulling my stomach onto the tops of my thighs—this really helps to keep the back straight.


And, as expected, getting so much closer to either the floor or the respective body parts means the body is starting to relax more while doing all this—and that reduces the Apprehension Reflex significantly. 


I am finding myself automatically (meaning that my body is running the show more) doing whatever contractions and static holds needed, while doing the ballistics. I can see that we will have a very powerful 'hybrid' system in a while that will yield rapid results for most people and add bounce and strength to the system too. I have put muscle on my glutes and hamstrings since beginning this protocol.

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@ Kit, I agree that these type of stretching isn't for adult beginners. I put these in the install a new pattern side rather than the remove the old pattern. We need a cleanish slate to begin.


What you describe on the auto pilot section is pretty much how my pancake ballistics are going. I try to do the 72 pulses but sometimes have to break them up with holds or side to sides or some quick 1-3s contractions of various directions.

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...and in the ischial tuberosities...


So that's what it's called! I always referred to this as the "sitz bones." This area has been quite sore for me recently as I have progressed further with my pancake.


Speaking of pancakes, I have also been playing with pelvis angles and contracting different muscles recently and I've found that pushing the legs down into the ground seems to make bending forward in the pancake much easier. For the first few weeks my legs were actually hovering above the floor while pulsing. I am now pushing them down into the floor which makes the bend feel much easier, although it also makes the sets much more tiring. Is this pushing down "normal" pancake form?

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