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Let's get stretched - but how?


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Hey guys!

 

I want to get more flexible. Because currently I'm about as flexible as a tree trunk. I can't reach my toes with my fingers when my legs are straight, for example. It's something that prevents me from taking a yoga class, for example, because I often feel like I can't even do the basic poses. I don't want that anymore.

 

During my next challenge, I want to do more stretching exercises on those days that I don't do strength training. However - I don't even know where to start. Sure, I know those basic stretches like reaching down to touch your toes, but I want to get into a real routing that can take 30 minutes or more and not just the 10 minute beginner's yoga I do every now and then right now, or the stretching I do after lifting/working out at the gym. I want more.

 

What helps me personally is having videos or apps that I can simply follow. It's much easier for me if there's a routine I can just join in with, that tells me what stretches to do, how long to do them, and helps me progress towards being more flexible.

 

Now - I've looked at the play store (I have an android phone, just in case you have apps to suggest!) and I've looked at youtube and found a few things, but I'd really like the opinion of all you experts to find something neat that's what I need.

 

Thanks in advance! :D

Just trying to get back on my feet. :)

ApfelStrudi is out of control

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I've been using the Yoga Studio app by Modern Lotus, and I really love it so far.  They have a bunch of pre-built classes organized by focus (balance, flexibility, or strength) as well as by ability.  Plus, they have an option to create your own exercise routines by adding all of the poses or stretches you want to do, and then letting the program add linking moves to string things together. 

 

I have the iphone version, but a quick google search shows me that there's an android version, too. 

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I actually think you'd get more gains if you stretch after your work outs. It's hard to warm up to max flexibility in 30 minutes, especially if you're not used to it. A short yoga routine on your off-days will be great for general mobility though (not the same as flexibility). What's best for you depends on your goals!

 

And don't knock basic stretches. :) They're great for improving flexibility, as long as they're performed correctly and at a high enough intensity. Simple is good.

 

The only yoga resource I've used is YogaToday, which is great (except that most of it is subscription only) but for longer classes, so not very helpful. There's lots of pure flex videos as well but they vary quite a lot in quality. If you post or send me the youtube links I can help you tell whether they're good or bad ones. :) 

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I've been searching through tons of youtube videos, but none of them are really what I'm looking for, because they're all 10-20 minute exercises max.

So amazon was my next stop. 

 

http://www.amazon.com/Lastics-Stretch-Workout-Like-Other/dp/B0076OIFV4

 

Have any of you got experience with this? It looks pretty great to me, but since I'd have to have it shipped in from the States (it's not sold here anywhere), I want opinions first before I spend money on it.

 

Or do you perhaps have any stretching DVDs that you think are really awesome?

Just trying to get back on my feet. :)

ApfelStrudi is out of control

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Don't know anything about that video BUT I just remembered a great resource http://www.studioveena.com that I've used!

 

It's aimed at pole dancers but there's strength and flexibility lessons there as well. The teacher's really nice and explains everything very thoroughly with focus on how to do things safely. There's both individual stretching lessons and short routines 20-25 minutes for splits and backbends. The first 3 days are free so it's worth checking out before buying anything. If you'd then rather buy a DVD then have a look at the forums there for recommendations.

 

Though once you know how to stretch I honestly think you're better off with a list of stretches and a timer than a video. It's just so boring listening to the same thing over and over again. :P

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There is just so much physiologically involved in stretching a muscle.. more than just getting the right 'poses' i mean
I learnt about it when I was studying physiotherapy years ago, but will try and give a quick run down here that might help, without getting too heavy into the anatomical details and such...

 

Physiologically there are a few different methods of stretching... 

 

- you can just hold a stretch and progressively lengthen a muscle.. this is the usual method..

     -eg for quads, bending your knee and pulling your foot towards your bum with your hand.

     -to get the maximum benefit, take the movement only until you first feel the stretch.. barely.. and hold it until the stretch feeling goes away.. can take 30-60 seconds.. then move further until you again JUST feel the stretch and hold it again.. rinse and repeat until the stretch feeling doesn't go away within a minute or two.

 

- you can contract the muscle you are wanting to stretch, then relax it and gain more length using the natural relaxation that follows contraction to gain more length

     -eg for quads, you bend your knee and pull your foot towards your bum with your hand, THEN you use the quads to try and pull your foot down into your hand for a 5-10 seconds, THEN you relax and take the stretch a little further and rinse and repeat

     -after contracting the muscle and then relaxing, you can temporarily gain more range

 

- or you can use the natural inhibition produced by the body by contracting the OPPOSITE movement

     -eg for quads, you bend your knee and pull your foot towards your bum with your hand, THEN you contract hamstrings and try to pull the foot closer to your bum actively.

     -The hamstring contraction produces natural relaxation in the quads and allows you to get more range

 

Grin it is also worth being aware of just what is stopping your motion.. it isn't always muscle.. a muscle stop is kinda springy feeling, a ligamentous stop is a bit firmer and bone is hard.. for me, my ankle range for squats sucks majorly, but no amount of calf stretching is ever going to improve that range as it is stopped by hard bone on bone so i need to adjust my squat movement to allow for generally crap ankle dorsiflexion... 

 

note that stretching ligaments is also possible, but that you do it like method one above, but only holding the stretch for 10 seconds at a time

 

 

i just find that being aware of how my muscles are working or not working during a stretch can help me get more out of the time spent stretching :)

 

 

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Lots of good stuff there!

 

Grin it is also worth being aware of just what is stopping your motion.. it isn't always muscle.. a muscle stop is kinda springy feeling, a ligamentous stop is a bit firmer and bone is hard.. 

 

i just find that being aware of how my muscles are working or not working during a stretch can help me get more out of the time spent stretching :)

 

Completely agree that it's really important to be aware and feel what's stopping the movement. That's why I prefer a list and a timer rather than a set program. If I for example feel my lower back stretching instead of my hamstring in a pike stretch then I can take a step back and roll it out with a tennis ball. If something feels wonky and misaligned I'd adjust the position until it feels right again. 

 

One thing I don't agree with though is when to stop in a stretch (in the first option in the list). If you don't push yourself you won't increase in flexibility. Stopping at the point where you can just about feel the stretch is the equivalent of never upping the weights in weight training. The key is to go slowly so that the stretch reflex is not activated (the involuntary motion that protects the muscle from being sharply overextended) and really focus on relaxing the muscle. A lot of stretching is a battle with your brain. The flexibility is already there (unless you have some weird deformities) but the brain is preventing the body from using it. By staying in the max stretch for a long time you're telling your brain that's it's ok to be in that position. 

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Just to clarify, I didn't mean to totally stop when you can just feel a stretch, you are just pausing for a moment or two and allowing the muscle to adapt to the length.. then continuing to move... it actually means you end up getting more length from your muscles compared with going to the complete end of range in the first movement. This works because as you stretch there is a protective reaction that actually causes the muscle to contract, and the reaction is stronger the faster and further you move into the stretch... therefore restricting the final length you can gain from your muscle. Moving into the range slowly and with appropriate adaptive pauses allows you to bypass the protective shortening that can sabotage your stretch.. 

this might explain that a little better: http://web.mit.edu/tkd/stretch/stretching_2.html#SEC15

  • "One of the reasons for holding a stretch for a prolonged period of time is that as you hold the muscle in a stretched position, the muscle spindle habituates (becomes accustomed to the new length) and reduces its signaling. Gradually, you can train your stretch receptors to allow greater lengthening of the muscles."

also a link for reciprocal inhibition (using hamstrings to allow quads to get more range): http://web.mit.edu/tkd/stretch/stretching_2.html#SEC18

 

and finally some great info on the types of stretching: http://web.mit.edu/tkd/stretch/stretching_4.html

 

edit: sorry late here and I should be in bed.. can i just say 'snap!' now that I've read your complete reply ;)

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