5 Secrets of Real Stretching
Posted by Roger Edmunds in Self-Treatment 26 Jul 2013
How to achieve longer-lasting benefits from stretching at a deeper level. These principles enable you to accomplish more with less effort, by better understanding muscle tissue and how it behaves. Based on years of clinical experience and recent scientific findings, the John F. Barnes Myofascial Release Approach™ addresses the root cause of pain and tightness in the body and offers a solution to recurring and complex symptoms.
Aim: Using a 4″ Inflatable Myofascial Release Ball
♦ Improve flexibility ♦ Increase circulation ♦ Prevent injury
By apply gentle sustained pressure into tight areas of the body
Results: Longer lasting release effects, hydrated tissue and cellular suppleness
Most stretching today is held for 10 – 30 seconds. If you’re super-focused and committed, you may hold for a minute to a minute-and-a-half and expect better results. Indeed, this is enough time to get *a* release but not long enough to address the real cause of short, tight muscles. Science would say that within 30-90 seconds the elastin in our tissue will stretch, and elastin makes up approximately 20% of our muscle tissue. Within minutes, the elastin will spring back to where it was before (hence the name – elastic) leaving us exposed to injury again. The other 80% of our muscle tissue is called collagen and is the fibre that holds us together. Collagen is the true source of tension and short muscles and is the *second* release that once released, stays released – unlike the elastic elastin. Research is finding that the collagen in our tissue requires 3-5 minutes of constant sustained pressure to begin to release and holding the stretch longer than 5 minutes doubles the amount of natural anti-inflammatory production.
Secret number 1: The true benefits of stretching are given to those who wait.
The motto “No Pain – No Gain” does not apply to the human body. When the body is threatened, frightened, or over-stretched it puts the brakes on and locks down in protection. A perfectly useful and necessary survival mechanism, but should never be self-induced. (The body’s flinch response – when interrupted – is the source of 99% of recurring or chronic pain). Therefore, the best results of stretching come when the pressure is gentle and is within the comfort tolerance of the body. Ideally, stretches should be modified so that gravity and body weight alone will do the work, leaving every muscle relaxed. If stretching is forced, the tissue will oppose your efforts and become shorter, tighter, and more constricted.
Secret number 2: Stealth beats strength every time.
However tempting it is to bounce at your limit, foam-roll tightness until it screams, and rub tight muscles to break them down – resist the temptation! It is the equivalent to waving bread past the toaster while making breakfast. If you’re looking for lasting change, more supple tissue and longer muscles, it must be held in the one place. In addition to becoming longer, true stretching aims to rehydrate the tissue and make it more fluid, enabling good nutrients to flow in and toxic waste to flow out. The reason is the constant pressure is so important is that it creates an electro-chemical process that changes the structure of the tissue. If you stop a stretch before the full release, this process stops and the clock starts again. Going back to breakfast, it takes 3-5 minutes for a hard-boiled egg to change from a liquid to a solid. We are doing the reverse, waiting for knots and grisly bits of muscle to become fluid again.
Secret number 3: It is hard to hit a moving muscle target.
Awareness is key. The mind-body connection demands that we give our full attention to sensations arising from the body because without it, our tissue will not be able to fully release – even if we are doing everything else correctly. Thinking about what we had for breakfast and other distractions actually limit the release potential of our body, as does analysing or ‘figuring-out’ our symptoms. One of the easiest and most effective ways to be fully aware is to direct our breath into areas we are stretching and letting go of the tightness when we breathe out.
Secret number 4: The key to healing is feeling.
The body has a natural self-corrective mechanism that may be the biggest secret of all. Given the opportunity to spontaneously move, the body will find the 3-dimensional positions in space necessary to unlock trauma, injury and cellular memory. This will reset tissue holding-patterns and speed the healing process. Like the stretch that happens on waking when we’re in the twilight zone, our body knows how to move instinctively, complete with grunts and groans and yawns. Watch a cat, they do it several times a day, whether they are going to exercise or not!
Secret number 5: Like a loaded spring, let your body unwind tension naturally.
This work is based on the John F. Barnes Myofascial Release Approach™ and is an application of the principles of myofascial release to athletic stretching. For more information on how to adapt your present stretching regime to incorporate these ideas, or for information on effective treatment for recurring tightness, pain, or other symptoms, please contact us.