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Flexibility and Suppleness - key to injury prevention

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Postby John Duffield » Tue Oct 13, 2009 5:45 pm

I think there's a certain inverse relationship between flexibility and strength. "Muscle Bound".

At the Bikram Yoga studio, I've learned to tell what other disciplines people are probably doing, based on how they perform in certain postures. This time of year, for example, we're innundated with the Nutcracker Ballerinas who come into town from all over to fill the various Nutcracker casts. They're extemely flexible but obviously not used to the postures. They'll do the posture slightly incorrectly, but go far deeper than I could on my best day. Incredibly, they wilt around 45 minutes into the practice. You would think they'd have more stamina.

To be involved in sports, you need flexibility, strength and endurance. In varying degrees depending on sport. For climbing you'd need all three. So you'd have to have a flexibility component in your training.
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Postby ksolem » Tue Oct 13, 2009 7:16 pm

I watch a lot of climbers. It is interesting to see how many climbers have more strength than they can actually use. They are limited by technique, flexibilty, mental disconnect, weight, etc.

I know one climber who used to do a lot of very heavy deadlifts. I would joke with her that she was training to be the worlds strongest 5.8 climber... :wink:
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Postby Gak Icenberg » Tue Oct 13, 2009 8:03 pm

I believe that the nutritional aspect of becoming more flexible plays a big role. I followed instructions from a certain health book's nutrition section, cleaned myself out, was cycling, doing crunches and push-ups. I did stretch, but it wasn't my main focus. Before I started, I couldn't even get close to touching my fingers behind my back (with one arm up and one down low, diagnally) probably had 6" to go. After, (I'm guessing) a couple of months, I could hook my fingers. Im sure I stretched my shoulders using a basic stretch and swung my arms around to loosen up. Plus, I learned that you get more limber just by dropping some weight. It was about 20 yrs ago. Man, I was firing on all eight. Everything was crystal clear, physically, mentally, you name it. Flexible and no pain anywhere. I did this because I was getting ready for major knee surgery and I read somewhere, "the better shape you are in before surgery the faster you will recover". Thats my 2 cents.....Gak
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Postby foweyman » Tue Oct 13, 2009 9:20 pm

ksolem wrote:
"we learned the more flexible you are, the faster you’re gonna be.”

That non-specific generalization comes from a guy who, when he said it, was one of the fastest sprinters in the nfl. Couch potato? There is nothing non-specific or generalized about it. It is the observation of a top pro athlete based on his personal experience.


Obviously I didn't say the football player was a couch potato. Not that it really matters, but it sounded more like the general statement was made by the Pilates instructor and echoed by the football player.

I guess pro football players aren't always the most articulate people. I called it non-specific because it doesn't specify which joints need to be more flexible and in what direction, in order to increase speed. As stated, it implys that any increase in flexibility in any joint in any direction will make you faster.

I used to do lots of static stretching for over 2 decades because that is what all the 'experts' said to do and that ballistic stretching was absolutely forbidden. Finally, people started to realize that there wasn't much, if any, research to back up their recommendations. Now that it's been supported by some (certainly not yet extensive) research, more and more coaches etc seem to be incorporating less static and more dynamic and ballistic stretching into their warm up routines.

As for joint instability from poor muscle balance, that refers primarily to the relative strength of opposing muscles. An overly loose/flexible joint or persistent 'tight' muscles can also create instability. Massage is a better release technique for tight muscles that any type of stretching.

Yes, hurdlers do specific stretches, mostly to lengthen the hamstrings. I don't know why they would waste their time doing stretches to lengthen every other muscle and increase the range of motion (rom) of joints that aren't necessary for their technique. Even gymnasts, who need greater rom in many directions and more longer muscles than most athletes, limit their training to the necessary muscles and joints.
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Postby ksolem » Tue Oct 13, 2009 11:05 pm

foweyman wrote:Yes, hurdlers do specific stretches, mostly to lengthen the hamstrings. I don't know why they would waste their time doing stretches to lengthen every other muscle and increase the range of motion (rom) of joints that aren't necessary for their technique. Even gymnasts, who need greater rom in many directions and more longer muscles than most athletes, limit their training to the necessary muscles and joints.


Lengthening the hamstrings without doing the same for the quads is a recipe for low back problems down the road. Many trainers are loooking at the short term - the Olympics are coming up or whatever - and don't really consider the longer term health of their athletes. So what is commonly accepted practice in sports like gymnastics where the competitors are very young has little to do with the work I do and what I study.

foweyman - you and I are just going to have to agree to disagree. That's cool.

I've looked through your photo website. It is absolutely beautiful. I know the Sierra well, and you have captured some of my favorite places in a new and wonderful way.

Cheers, Kris
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Postby foweyman » Thu Oct 15, 2009 12:08 pm

ksolem wrote:
foweyman wrote:Yes, hurdlers do specific stretches, mostly to lengthen the hamstrings. I don't know why they would waste their time doing stretches to lengthen every other muscle and increase the range of motion (rom) of joints that aren't necessary for their technique. Even gymnasts, who need greater rom in many directions and more longer muscles than most athletes, limit their training to the necessary muscles and joints.


Lengthening the hamstrings without doing the same for the quads is a recipe for low back problems down the road. Many trainers are loooking at the short term - the Olympics are coming up or whatever - and don't really consider the longer term health of their athletes. So what is commonly accepted practice in sports like gymnastics where the competitors are very young has little to do with the work I do and what I study.

foweyman - you and I are just going to have to agree to disagree. That's cool.

I've looked through your photo website. It is absolutely beautiful. I know the Sierra well, and you have captured some of my favorite places in a new and wonderful way.

Cheers, Kris


Thanks for the good words Kris. I'm still looking for the east coast equivalent of the Sierra, but so far all I've found is the high point of Delaware.

It isn't really between you and me. These aren't my opinions. It's really the difference between the old way based on years of expert-perpetuated hear-say, and the emerging research-based practices that have been gradually starting to prevail. (I recently watched a local high school cross-country invitational where almost nobody did any static stretching and most teams used a primarily ballistic warmup.)

Since even the small percentage (10-15) of the quads (the rectus femorus) that can be stretched can't be lengthened to the same degree as the hamstrings, anyone that does a hamstring stretch is creating an 'imbalance'.
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Postby John Duffield » Thu Oct 15, 2009 2:15 pm

ksolem wrote:
Lengthening the hamstrings without doing the same for the quads is a recipe for low back problems down the road. Many trainers are loooking at the short term - the Olympics are coming up or whatever - and don't really consider the longer term health of their athletes. So what is commonly accepted practice in sports like gymnastics where the competitors are very young has little to do with the work I do and what I study.



Exactamente.

Two thoughts here, so

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Postby ksolem » Thu Oct 15, 2009 5:01 pm

Hmm. back again...

It's really the difference between the old way based on years of expert-perpetuated hear-say, and the emerging research-based practices that have been gradually starting to prevail.


Nothing I am saying here comes from "old way hearsay." Most of my experience comes from training and working with a group of young, recently educated and highly credentialed physical therapists at one of the most cutting edge places around, Core Conditioning, in LA. The rest comes from my own experience in my own body. So when I hear this stuff about how only 15% of the quads are stretchable, and later this morning after a walk I'll hit the mat and thoroughly stretch the whole bunch of 'em I have to raise an eyebrow.

I recently watched a local high school cross-country invitational where almost nobody did any static stretching and most teams used a primarily ballistic warmup.


We know that heavy static stretching is not a good way to warm up muscles for peak performance. I would be curious as to the coaches thinking in having them do ballistic stretches to warm up for a running event. Again, I don’t work with, or want to work with teenage athletes so there could be some thinking here I have not come across. My focus is on more high mileage bodies – like mine… 8)

edit: ballistic as opposed to dynamic that is..

Since even the small percentage (10-15) of the quads (the rectus femorus) that can be stretched can't be lengthened to the same degree as the hamstrings, anyone that does a hamstring stretch is creating an 'imbalance'.


But my friend you neglect the important observation that each person’ body is unique. If a person has tight hamstrings, causing them to tuck their pelvis leading to a flat (or worse lordotic curvature) lower back, then stretching those muscles is a move toward balance. And again this idea that the quads are somehow not stretchable is silly. I am pretty well balanced posturally, but after getting thrashed on a big climb or whatever my quads are tighter than my hammies so I’ll tend towards a forward pelvic tilt, often more on one side than the other. I’ve gotten quite good at stretching those quads. The yoga pose reclining hero is great for this. Varying the angle between the legs, and inner or outer rotation of the legs in subtle ways will bring the stretch to the muscles differently.


Yeah, Mtn. photography back east – that’s where I’m from – won’t be as spectacular as out here. Maybe some of those wild river canyons (like the Chatooga.) Just watch out for guys with banjos… :shock: :wink:
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Postby ksolem » Thu Oct 15, 2009 9:02 pm

Took a quick look and found this. I won’t say I agree with every word in the guy's blog and stuff, but the picture is good, and the functional description of how the muscles work is there. Rectus Femoris is primarily a hip flexor while the remaining 3 quads play a role in extension of the knee…

quadriceps picture
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Postby foweyman » Fri Oct 16, 2009 3:14 pm

Here’s a demonstration and explanation to illustrate the non-stretchability of the 3 vastus muscles of the quads: Lay on your back. Bring your knee near your chest (flex the hip) so the femur is at a roughly 45 degree angle with the spine. Using arms, pull down on lower shin, forcibly flexing the knee. No matter how hard you pull, none of the quads will be getting stretched, and this isn’t how ‘quad stretches’ are done. Now, put the hip in an extended position, like any of the three ‘quad’ stretches in the referenced page. This will allow the rectus femoris to be stretched because the point where it attaches to the pelvis is now further from its insertion at the knee. However the 3 vastus quads are not similarly affected because they aren’t attached to the pelvis, but to the upper femur, and therefore their length is independent of hip position. They receive no more stretch than when the hip was in the flexed position.
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Postby ksolem » Fri Oct 16, 2009 5:18 pm

foweyman wrote:Here’s a demonstration and explanation to illustrate the non-stretchability of the 3 vastus muscles of the quads: Lay on your back. Bring your knee near your chest (flex the hip) so the femur is at a roughly 45 degree angle with the spine. Using arms, pull down on lower shin, forcibly flexing the knee. No matter how hard you pull, none of the quads will be getting stretched, and this isn’t how ‘quad stretches’ are done. Now, put the hip in an extended position, like any of the three ‘quad’ stretches in the referenced page. This will allow the rectus femoris to be stretched because the point where it attaches to the pelvis is now further from its insertion at the knee. However the 3 vastus quads are not similarly affected because they aren’t attached to the pelvis, but to the upper femur, and therefore their length is independent of hip position. They receive no more stretch than when the hip was in the flexed position.


So I am not trying to beat this topic to death, or win a point. I actually enjoy discussions like this and any opportunity to learn.

I’ve seen that exact argument, or scenario before, that the Vasti are not able to be stretched. In my case, since I have loose quads it is close to true although after a good thrashing carrying a heavy load etc. mine get tight enough to stretch.

Actually the first stretch you describe is the one, as hip flexion keeps the rectus out of the picture while changing nothing regarding the Vasti.

From “The Anatomy of Movement” by Blandine Calais-Germain, pg. 219

“The three vasti can be stretched by full flexion of the hip and knee.”

I agree that the mechanics of this stretch are very limited, but again it really depends on the individual. I see people frequently who cannot fully flex their knee. When we add hip flexion (to take rectus femoris out of the picture) it becomes apparent that the tightness is indeed in the Vasti (assuming there is not a problem in the knee joint.)

My own experience is that I can usually do the reclining hero pose beautifully without preparation. But after a big day I will need to warm into the pose by getting to those vasti with the hip flexed first.

In other words, I think there is validity to your point to the extent that bio-mechanically the ability to stretch the Vasti of the Quads is very limited, and if they are loose they will not really stretch. But, these muscles do lengthen and shorten as the knee flexes and extends and in some people they do get tight enough to limit the range of motion of the knee. When this occurs stretching is possible.
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