There is a major change coming to the health and fitness world. It has been rumbling among fitness professionals in-the-know since about 2007, and it’s old news for some folks in academia. But, for the general population it is totally new. It may be counter-intuitive, and even sound like blasphemy to the average gym goer.
You may find this mind-blowing: Restoring mobility and improving long-term flexibility does not happen by stretching muscles, it happens by changing the position of the structure the muscles are connected to (the skeleton).
Every person that walks through the doors of BEST wants to move better and feel better. They are putting flexiblilty and mobility at the top of their wish list, and in order to achieve those goals, they think they need a stretching program. Unfortunately, they have been misinformed. Even many self-proclaimed “experts” are wrong about how people are losing their movement options, and about how to gain movement at the joints.
The truth of the matter is that stretching and attempting to change the length of muscles that someone told you were tight or short is going to get you short term changes at best by making your muscles more tolerant to a particular stretch but you are also running the risk of creating more strain on a muscle that CAN NOT loosen up due to the underlying structure of your body.
So what are ya gunna do??
The ability to move freely comes down to muscles being able to contract or compress and other muscles being able to elongate or expand. Movement is a constant change between contracting and elongation – it’s a gradient and people tend to get stuck somewhere in that gradient. Your goal is to be able to move along that gradient FREELY!
If you are like many of the people I train, your skeleton is in a position that causes particular muscles to naturally be in a gradient that biases you toward compression, and in your mind this will make you feel stiff and in need of more flexibility and mobility. So your simple solution is to just stretch out. Right?
The real solution is to respect the position of the structure that your muscles are connected to (A.K.A. your skeleton). To regain your movement, you have to reorient your skeleton using a variety of methods to make meaningful and lasting changes to the muscles.
- Manual techniques from a skilled physical therapist or massage therapist
- Positional breathing exercises
- Exercises that do not create more compression in the places that you are trying to regain that flexibility and mobility you desire, or as I like to say, expansion rather than flexibility.
Here are some examples
At BEST we use methods 2 and 3 from above. But, you need to determine the angle of your rib cage first. You can do this with a crude self-assessment.
You can find the angel by grabbing ahold of your rib cage, just below your sternum and assessing that angle.
Is is 110 degrees or wider? Then you are a wide.
Is it 90 degrees or less? Then you are a narrow.
If you are in between? Then you have lost dynamic capabilities of the rib cage, and you can start with any of the examples below and monitor changes in your ability to move.
Wides do these breathing drills for 3 sets of 5 breaths:
Narrows do this: