Flexibility

Hey everyone,

For basically all my life I have been involved in athletics. Running, lifting, soccer (of course), etc and I find that I am quite inflexible for the level of athletics I am pursuing (pro soccer) My lack of flexibility probably stems mostly from years of not stretching properly or long enough and as a soccer player my lower back muscles and everything blow to my toes are tight. For over a year now I have been working on a stretching routine for my lower body (where I need it most) but find now I am plateauing as far as the gains I am making and want to make more gains, quickly - particularly in my calves and hipflexors as I find these give me the most problems. Anyone have any suggestions to increase my rate of gains -supplements, techniques, particular stretches, etc. I want to develop more of a long/lanky look for my muscles b/c despite having lots of power in my large legs, I need the flexibility to be able to run fast over long periods of time and also have a large range of motion. I seek all of your help. Please assist.

I have had some good success with some of the PNF stretches I found in a book by Pavel Tsatsouline called Beyond Stretching. I sort of hesitate to recommend it because I think the book is outrageously expensive for what you get, and also because I personally find Pavel’s tone cocky, condescending, and annoying. However, I did learn some things and really seemed to benefit from some of the stretches. I would advise, though, don’t just stretch everything without thinking. You can sacrifice stability of joints through overstretching, particularly the spine.

Andersons,

Could you please share with me what you learned and which stretch in particular helped you out?

Thx

I, too, lift and play many sports and wanted to increase my ROM & flexability. I bought Stretching Scientifically, by Tom Kutz. He is an authority on stretching, E. european highly scientific style. The reading is somewhat technical.

One of his claims to fame is that he can do
full suspended splits and even support the weight of a woman sitting on his legs while
he is suspended between 2 chairs. Which he can definately do. He says he can teach virtually anyone to do the same.

Well, my static flexibility has always been poor but dynamic flexibility has always been pretty good. That is to say, I have a hard time putting my head to my knee but I can swing a bat through probably over 320 degrees (estimate).

I did Kutz’s routine for 2 months and got very little in the way of results. I am nowhere near doing a split and at this point I don’t believe I ever will. Yet, I can kick about a foot over my head. (I am 45 y/o).

At this point, me being able to do a split means very little in actuality.

Also, I think that if you are real limber, you tend to be less strong. I posed this issue before on line and could not get anyone to really confirm or deny this theory. Strong guys are hard to move. I think if you make yourself limber you will probably compromise strength.

Good luck with this. I don’t know if I would recommend the book. It has some good points but his claim is rediculous.

Bruce Lee was a very flexible individual yet also very powerful.

If hip flexors and calves are the main issues, train the tibia (I prefer cable over dumbell) and abs more. Stretch 30 min before bed or 10+ upon waking and before bed. Stretch after training too. You won’t be weak with flexibility. Gymnasts aren’t. I’m not that strong, but I’m very explosive and flexible.

I believe Ian King has a pretty good stretching video. Should cost you as much as Pavel’s book!

  1. Do a search on ‘T-mag’ for Coach King’s “Lazy Man’s Guide to Stretching”.
  2. You may also wish to reference Coach Davies’ football book. I understand some of the dynamic stretching routines I’ve been introduced to recently are in there (BTW, dynamic stretching is not the same thing as ballistic stretching).

Hope this helps.

T.E. Young

clint, what are you talking about? train the tibia?? when you find a way to train a bone let me know.

soccergod, if you listen to this guy, you will wind up hurt. there is absolutely no reason to stretch first thing when you get out of bed. in fact, it’s downright dangerous especially for your spine. there is an article on here by a spinal biomechanist that goes into the reasons why, so i’m not going into it. find the article or email me later and i’ll explain in detail.

Whilst stretching the agonist muscle before a max strength effort will reduce the force that can be applied, good flexibility IMO does not affect strength if performed afterwards.

I used to be able to do full side and boxer splits from martial arts training when i was a teen. Then i didn’t stretch for years. However recently i have got back into stretching regularly and whilst i can’t do the splits (yet!) i haven’t found it to be detrimental to my strength.

Gymnasts and olympic lifters are very supple and also very strong so its obviously possible.

To second what someone else said dynamic flexibility for sports is alot more important than static flexibility with the exception of diving and gymnastics. But if you can improve your static flexibility your dynamic flexibility will also improve.And it is easier to measure improvements in static than dynamic plus less likely to cause injury.

boonedoc, tibialis anterior. I’ve read that article. Does that have any carryover to stretching hip flexors or calves in a way that doesn’t involve bending of the spine? Ever watch an animal when they wake up?

Clarification - Strength vs. Flexibility

I am talking about becoming extremely limber - like a Yogi. I believe being that limber definately comprosmises strength.

Why do you guys think olympic lifters are limber and gymnasts are strong? Do you think a 160 lb gymnasts can bench 350. Pro football players are strong. Gymnasts have decent strength but I wouldn’t call them strong like a power lifter or football player.

Wrestlers and graplers are also strong and flexible but I wouldn’t call that “limber”.

Doesn’t stand to reason if you increase the elsticity of your tendons they will loose tension (strength). Is an over-stretched elastic able to offer the kind of resistance a new elastic does? No.

Specster

Who’s talking about being limber anyway?
I assume by limber you are talking of contortion-ability from over-stretching tendons across joints or hyper-loosening specific joints.

This is not what soccer god or anyone is proposing. I think we are all talking about functional flexibility be it static or dynamic.

Olympic-lifters may not be ‘limber’ but studies done at the Montreal and Barcelona Olympic games showed olympic weightlifters to be second only to gymnasts as a group in flexibility.

As for gymnasts not being strong, well Blaine Wilson could bench 250lb at 135lb. Not quite 350 but not bad for someone who doesn’t specialise as a powerlifter and can be assumed to be doing it raw. Teach him some Westside and put him in a shirt and i think he’d be benching 350lb in no time!

Creed, the point I am making is that it is a matter of gradations - If you increase flexibility a lot there is an obvious decrease in strength. If you do it to a lesser degree, are you going to loose some stregnth? I think so.

I know there are studies that if you stretch and then lift you loose or don’t loose max but that is not what I am talking about. If you stretch like crazy, and become more flexible in general I think you are going to loose some strength in general.

What happens when you do a cycle? - you get stronger and become less flexible. Don’t you think there is a relationship there?

And as far as a small gymnast pressing 250, that means nothing. He is one person. I saw Joe Frasher (the boxer) try to press 150 and he couldn’t do it. Yet, Tank Abbott, who is a pit fighter and for the most part a boxer claims he can press over 500. It means nothing in this context.

Specster
I don’t agree in my own experience gains in flexibility have not hindered my own strength gains. In fact often increased range of motion has run concurrently with strength gains.

As for decreased flexibility resulting from strength gains I don’t think this is true. Why is it that bodybuilders have such good posterior chain flexibility relative to other athletes? Because they work their posterior chain so much through lifts like stiff-legged deads and the like.

Tank abbott is not a boxer! He might train as one but he is not a boxer. Tank abbotts endurance is terrible it has improved down the years but it is still bad. This is why he loses alot of fights!

Do you mean Joe Frazier? If so I find it hard to believe he struggled with 150lb bench when the man could do hundreds of press-ups at body-weight of 205lbs. Also he was a world champion professional boxer with phenomenonal stamina which would adversely effect his strength. They used to fight for 15 rounds in those days. And ‘Smoking Joe’ was one of the best conditioned heavyweights of all time!

Flexibility and Sport?

Check out AIS and Aaron Mattes
Also PNF techniques for flexible strength.

Check out Microstretching also…

Kurz - very good for Dynamic flex., not so sure about the other stuff.

Pavel T. ??? - well the juries out for me.

See M. Atler also…

Just a few guides SoccerGod

Soccergod, the disagreement on this forum topic is a little snapshot of the disagreement between “experts” of various kinds, regarding stretching. I find it very interesting; people obviously have different experiences, so the “answers” about stretching are most likely complicated, with large individual differences. The contradictions I read as I tried to learn about stretching over the years really drove me crazy.

You seem to think that you are less flexible than optimal for your goals. You are probably right. So, stretching will most likely help you. Up to a point, you will not lose strength/power and will most likely make gains. There is probably some U-shaped relationship between flexibility and strength, where increasing flexibility helps increase strength – up to a point, after which there is a decrease in strength with increasing flexilibility. And this relationship may well vary between individuals. You have to find an optimum FOR YOU.

The kind of stretching advocated by Pavel is a contract-release method. (It’s been awhile since I have looked at the book, so I’ll have to check it again.) But the ones I remember and probably found the most effective are stretches in which I can get a good contraction, for some reason, OR where the release-lengthening phase is aided by GRAVITY. For example, a classic side/oblique stretch in which you bend sideways has a release that is aided by gravity. My flexibility increased rapidly with that one. Lunge-style hip flexor stretches are aided by gravity as well. Pavel also had a good chest stretch in which you kneel in front of a bench (or bed), with your upper body parallel to the floor, spread your arms far apart on the bench, then alternately contract and release the chest and other anterior flexors (abs, bis?). This is aided by gravity and quickly made a big difference in my rounded-shoulder posture.

On the other hand, I haven’t done so well with hamstrings, and this is probably one of the most important since many athletes are pulling them.

One other thing I have learned is NOT to do any stretches which cause flexion of the spine in the morning. One other poster referenced the “Mister Spine” interview with spine biomechanist Stuart McGill. I now have back pain from disc problems, so all spine flexion movements are out for me.

Try to find the book “The New Power Program” by Michael Colgan. I have borrowed this from the library like 3 times. Besides from being a great book about weight training, it has a whole chapter about stretching, the mistakes that people often make, and the good stretches that you should do.

Actually if you have any areas you want to work on just tell me, I could just tell you how to do the stretches.

If you want to be able to run over long periods of time you need to develop endurance, not flexibility. They’re different things.
To further develop your flexibility, try strengthening the muscles. It’s a known fact that a strong muscle will enable a better stretch of its antagonist counterpart (i.e., a strong Quad group will enable a much better stretch of the hamstring group).

What I suggest you do incorporate resistance training in your routine and focus not only on your legs but also your core and upperbody, by doing sets of 15-25 reps to develop this endurance.
Keep doing your stretching. It will benefit from the resistance training as long as you keep stretching consistently.