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Kit_L

Ballistic stretching; 90-day challenge, ongoing reports

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@ Jon.valentine: Ya have to be juicy to get it! I will correct that, thanks. 

 

In side splits practise today, got down hard on two blocks plus aerobic steps in both the feet-parallel and legs turned out forms—a first for me. I have always been much looser in the legs externally rotated SS position, but since starting the 90-day challenge (Day 67 today, IIRC), this has markedly changed. Daily Pu Bu practise has definitely helped. I have a weighted version, too.

 

Liv and I will film "Front Splits Part Two" soon, too; it has been an idea-fest this period we have all been stretching first thing in the morning. We have developed four more pulsing movements that are the next stage in the acquisition of Front Splits ("FS").

 

Finally for today, I have a straight-leg version of the bent-leg Cossack (and Skandasana, the forward-leaning version of Pu Bu) which is targeting my worst lines (along with Liv's bent-leg hamstring movement from the new program). I will be videoing this, too.

 

I have had 66 days of DOMS; a record for me. An interesting aspect of this is that although sore (and sometimes very sore) the soreness has not stopped me stretching and some days I get noticeable improvements even though sore.

 

Today's DOMS is day two from doing Cossack squats with 16Kg KB, and just a few reps—but slowly and zero momentum. I have done three sets of weighted Pu Bu just prior, too; all this adds up. Even sitting to type this I feel quite strong sensations in the hamstrings and the 'cups' around the ischial tuberosities. This area is definitely being worked hard.

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@kit Outside of the ballistics has the DOMS force you to lower the intensity of the other exercises? That either it takes a little longer initially to move into position or it affects how long you can work the position.

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@Tones: In short, no.

 

The longer explanation is that although I have been doing ballistics and/or pulsing stretching every day now for 74 days (I think) many of the exercises are allowing me to go deeper regularly, but not every day, and not consistently. So, I do them all, but calibrate the intensity on the day, in each exercise separately. So, for example, today the body felt like long, held stretches in the end position after (or during) some of the ballistics, but not all of them. SS today went nowhere, but pancake (and the part where you bend towards each leg with a straight back) had more movement available, so I spent 3–4 minutes in all end positions. Learning to feel more precisely what can be done on each day has been the biggest improvement for me. When I start every session, the soreness and resistance in the body is more-or-less the same, but I ignore it now, and some days I feel major improvements in some directions. I am sticking with this.

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Shane—this keeps me off the streets and out of trouble! Seriously, though, if you want to change something, a lunar month is good, but three lunar months will really make a lasting difference. The sheer pleasure in getting my flexibility back had let to me going downstairs to the gym eagerly, every day, It has been massively painful on occasions though, but I am certain I am alive!

 

Also, I am tired of coaches and teachers who cannot do what they teach, even if they could once. The walk must match the talk for me to feel congruent, personally. How can one have confidence in a system if the proponent does not use it him or herself?

 

The last point is the most important. Fred, Liv and I, working together every day, are uncovering new things every day, and this is not my debut at this kind of thing. There is much more to be uncovered, and I am still really interested in all this.

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Also, I am tired of coaches and teachers who cannot do what they teach, even if they could once. The walk must match the talk for me to feel congruent, personally. How can one have confidence in a system if the proponent does not use it him or herself?

 

 

 

The more I researched about all things physical the more I found this to be the case. There is so many people trying to sell you something or suck you into something they've literally pulled out of their ass. I think its one of the curses of the internet where the keyboard warriors can out type the practioner and make more verbose arguments which will sucker in the unknowing.

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Definitely second that, Kit and Emmet. It's been the curse of several forums that I've frequented, that the fastest typers who have nothing better to do than write posts will dominate the conversation. 

But then also, the right people will recognize those that walk the talk and those people (and even more so you yourselves - that's who we should do things for anyways, right?) are who matters in the end. I really appreciate the integrity I see in all you do, Kit.

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@kaiwert: I have to live with myself, man! I am my harshest critic (and I am surrounded by a slew of colleagues and friends who will jump, not step, on me if I get out of line!). So, that part is a habit now.

 

I think I am at about Day 85 now; Liv and I worked out in a park right in front of our apartment in London yesterday and the day before. We teach Day one of ST for Performance today. I am still really sore in all the places I mentioned in this thread, but ROM (and strength in interesting places) has significantly increased. I will be writing a long post > Day 90. I can't believe how many new things have been uncovered in this process.

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Thanks for this write up Kit, very interesting. Personally I began the head to toe stretching adding pubu and the sideways head to toe. It really helped reduce some of the spasms I have been suffering from for the last 2-3 years and I quickly reached opposite elbow to toe. However, a few weeks into the program I developed a tight soreness in the right glute that would not go away and I had to stop. In retrospect, I wonder if it would have been better to add some rest days. Any thoughts on that?

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a few weeks into the program I developed a tight soreness in the right glute that would not go away and I had to stop. In retrospect, I wonder if it would have been better to add some rest days. 

 

Well—your body forced you to stop, and hence rest days resulted. If that had been me, I would have added the advanced piriformis stretch, reduced the intensity of the main exercises, and continued. There is no problem in stopping, of course; but perhaps it's time to start again and see what happens this time around.

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Great write up kit!

 

You mention one thing that, although I don't talk of it much, is one of the primary reason's I enjoy ballistics and pulsing:

 

"The second, and unexpected, benefit has been the development of something I can only describe as ‘springiness’."

 

 

^^ This is one of the qualities that I aim for in my body, that I see is lacking in many other practitioners.  For me, it has always come naturally - I have been able to dunk a full size basketball ring since I was quite small, and always excelled at sprinting and jumping with little training.

 

More importantly than the performance aspects, the feeling of the body being springy is absolutely fantastic I think.  The spring concept is something that appears everywhere in my style of martial arts - the 10 spring legs the 5 bows (bows as in a bow and arrow, or a leaf spring if you want to think of it like that).  I remember being given some homework by dapeng at one point, he asked me to do all my practice imagining I was striking or running into springs and had to deal with the recoil - several years practicing with this idea has produced some very interesting results!

 

The quality Dapeng had (and I have been lacking!) is that of the supple (yin) spring (yang).  This is why I really clicked with ST methods, the suppleness of many of the practitioners was quite obvious! But what I saw lacking was the spring, only some people had it from other endeavours.  Adding the continuum  (ballistics [short/sharp contractions] -> pulsing [medium contractions] -> long contractions -> deep relaxation [no contractions]) into your methods I think will do something quite magical and transform the practitioners in a great way.  This way you get yin, yang, and the entire spectrum in between.   I do think it's important to emphasise to the practitioners that the only reason the practice of the yang elements is working so effectively is because they are balancing out a practice that was too heavily yin dominated (or in my case the reverse of this!) - it's not because yang elements are superior to yin or vice versa. We need both, in balance.  This is why I'm really favouring keeping the once per 7 - 10 days deep repatterning stretches, but adding the daily ballistic/pulsing stretches.

 

I did many years of ballistic elements, and I made myself quite strong, springy and explosive but I never addressed the suppleness effectively, this actually meant the ballistics weren't working so well.  The ballistics only really started to shine once I balanced them out with the ST contract/relax deep relaxation methods (and other qi gong-esque things that I wasn't practicing but should have been, I'm sure there is a lesson about doing what your teacher says in here somewhere! :D). You've already mentioned all of this in your post in one way or another, but I thought I would point it out explicitly for other people's benefits!

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Kit - thank you for writing this.  I am relatively new to ST but not new to stretching /joint mobility training.  That said, without question I have made more progress in two months using your methods and ideas than the last 20+ years of my static stretching/joint mobility routines. Really great stuff.

 

You stated, "The major effect of the last three months is that I want to keep doing daily physical stretching practise."

 

I'm curious if you have any preliminary thoughts re: if this experiment may change your recommendation for frequency?  In other words, would interspersing contract relax days with "pulsing days" be something that could be beneficial?  Currently, I've been doing stretching using c/r 2X per week and limbering on other days. Intuitively I feel I could do more but I've been following your recommendation as you are the sensei "one who has gone before."          

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Kit - thank you for recording your impressions in such detail. Your experiences have encouraged me to try pulsing more consistently (I've been using it occasionally for years) in the areas where I'd like to make progress - and these are where you say you have made particular progress, around the hips.

 

I am wondering how pulsing would work in quite a different area - that is, spinal back flexibility. In our tradition we suggest moving into and out of back stretches slowly and under control. But once I saw an Albanian-trained contortionist preparing for her extreme backbending - and it consisted entirely of pulsing backbends, done at increasing levels (for about half an hour). Of course, she was unusual and highly trained, but clearly it was working for her.

 

I am also wondering - do we know whether pulsing tends to target muscle or connective tissue? Since connective tissue flows when a stretch starts, fastest over the first several seconds but then increasingly slowly but still noticeably for tens of seconds after (Magnusson), we expect that long slow stretches will allow the connective tissue to reach its maximum extension, and then the limitation will become muscle and reflexes. However, maybe with pulsing and ballistic stretching the connective tissue does not have time to return so it ends up like a sustained stretch. I should say that for some time I have been wondering how I could fit a force transducer to my splits machine so I could see how the body softens during a stretch, and how that varies with time. As well as for basic research, this could be used as a guide when to take a stretch further.

 

So I've been wondering about using small portable EMG monitors and force transducers as a guide to help stretching and to help in devising stretching protocols (to monitor muscle and tissue relaxation), but not so far found or made suitable transducers, though it should be possible. If this might interest you to, please let me know, and it will provide me with the extra impetus to get going.

 

Jim.

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Hi Kit

Interesting you mention bouncing on your feet in this context. I've started working on bouncing (or jumping for clarity) in positions of stretch such as Cossack and forward lunges. Very interesting for developing that springiness you and Craig discuss.

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I'll comment more on this later but two things for now.

One if i were you i'd take two weeks off the ballistics and let all the doms clear and surcompensation happen. I do this with my students they do 8 weeks of pulsing and 4 weeks of no pulsing and it works very well.

On the bouncing front. I found that I suddenly developed a desire to go running when I normally hate running and avoid it like the plague but I added in bouncing on toes at 180 bpm. One explanation for this might be the Achilles is the pump for the lymphatic system and I suspect we're doing a lot of tissue work here which will result in a lot of metabolites that need to be cleared bouncing with a spring step would be a good way to do this. 

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Well with all that positive encouragement for the technique, I'm going to try my own 90-day pulsing (not ballistic) challenge, in a very specific area, which will be a nice test to see how it goes.

 

Its for a leg lift lying on the side - anantasana in yoga (as far as I can see there is no absolute equivalent in S and F). Three reasons - one is that I have been stuck with my leg about 2 inches from my shoulder and havent managed to improve for years. Secondly, this line does not seem to limit my other stretches (which for legs are more related to medial and inner hamstrings, and adductors), So if it screws up I wont affect anything else, and also it will form a fairly pure test of the new regime. Thirdly, it feels as though its a mixture of muscle and connective tissue limiting it, which will give me a good chance to feel whether the different components respond differently to the technique.

 

Ideally, I'd like to be able to get my leg behind my shoulder - and even more ideally, behind my back, though I'd be very surprised if I could go that far. If I can do this, then I will be able to do a standing forward twist in a performance routine, which will gross out the viewers (stand with legs moderately apart, bend forward, hold each ankle in the opposite hand, then twist the upper body to untwist the arms, and look forward at the audience - if you can visualise all that. I can do it to some extent at the moment, but cant face forward as much as I'd like to).

 

Jim.

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I want to comment on all the fantastic responses to my long post above, but am not sure the best way to do this and am still thinking on what I want to say. This week for sure.

 

Perhaps another long one with lots of @MH, @Emmet, and so on—would that work for everyone? The quote function here is not—shall we say—conducive to actually using it, if you like formatting and fonts, as I do!

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@Kit -- I am getting quite a bit of discomfort on the lateral side of my knees when doing this. following the directions my top leg is probably more at 100 degrees, i don't think i can actually get it to 90 physically due to limb lengths. IF i i put the resting leg further onto my knee to reduce the lever, then no knee problems but a significant loss of stretch! thoughts?

EDIT: I moved this to the piriformis thread: here http://kitlaughlin.com/forums/index.php?/topic/972-thinking-about-piriformis-and-the-advanced-p-stretch/#entry10271

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