The beginner's guide to flexibility

Discussion in 'Health and Fitness' started by Van Zandt, Feb 6, 2009.

  1. fabrizio

    fabrizio Valued Member


    I've been doing thai boxing for about 3 years and my flexibility has improved very very slowly. I can't kick at all cold, feel like my lower back would give way and even when I've warmed up and done some dynamic stretching I still need to go a few rounds on the pads until I feel comfortable with my kicks.
    I tried to do dynamic stretching in the morning (cold) but this caused me to pull a muscle in my lower back.. I couldn't walk for about 3 days. Isometric stretching maybe the answer but I'm not sure if I'm strong enough. I do a side split stretch as part of my routine but I can’t keep my body up because it's causes a lot of pain and pressure on my lower back… would you have any clue about what this could be?
    The front split is a complete disaster; again pain in my lower back like it’s going to be split apart and also I feel I’m overstretching the ligaments behind my knee.
  2. Patrick Smith

    Patrick Smith Tustom Cuser Uitle


    My life... my purpose... gone... all gone... :'(

    Realistically, does that mean that we should stop doing dynamic and relaxed stretches and only use isometric and full ROM strength training? Now we really need your book! :)
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2010
  3. Patrick Smith

    Patrick Smith Tustom Cuser Uitle

    Don't forget, it's good to be able to kick cold (for self defense reasons or simply because it's cool), but in the long run, YOU SHOULD WARM UP. It's like a last resort (or next to last resort). Warm up properly for any training session.

    It sounds like you have a back problem. A good chiropractor could help you.
  4. Smitfire

    Smitfire Cactus Schlong

    Is there such a thing as a good chiropractor? Aren't they all basically peddling rubbish?
  5. Late for dinner

    Late for dinner Valued Member

    Lots of back problems occur when your hips are tight and you use your back to try to gain the range that isn't in your hips. Its amazing how much easier it is on your back when your hips are loose!


    (oh yeah.. chartered physio :' )
  6. Van Zandt

    Van Zandt Mr. High Kick


    A weak back is a common cause of problems in people who are trying to do splits, particularly in the muscles which stabilise the spine and pelvis. You need to get on a first name basis with deadlifts.


    Yes, drop dynamic and relaxed stretches. (I can hear Thomas Kurz shouting for me to be burned at the stake :D). Dynamic stretches have been found to be as useful and safe as ballistic stretches. Most people just do not have the ability to control them as Kurz directs. Microtears were evident after dynamic stretches too. Besides, Kurz contradicts himself when he says high kicks are possible by dynamic stretches alone, but that dynamic flexibility is determined by passive flexibility.

    There is also no need to use all the different labels for flexibility. As you have correctly assumed, stick with full range ROM strength exercises and isometrics. It's all you need. In my book I also state why it isn't necessary to warm up. Ever.
  7. adscottie

    adscottie Valued Member

    Van Zandt, first I want to say thanks for an immensely useful thread. However I am interested to find out where the information about dynamic stretching being bad etc comes from? (Please note I am not doubting you just with so many changes in views it is difficult to follow). Does the general changes in views of flexibility come from empirical research and if so from any particular sources? And what is the current position on static active stretches? (if some of this is going to be in your book don't worry, I plan that anyhow).

    Also are you saying that the dynamic stretches themselves are bad for you or that most people don't have the control to stop them from becoming a ballistic stretch?

    Many thanks.
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2010
  8. Van Zandt

    Van Zandt Mr. High Kick


    I appreciate your stance on this as flexibility training has always been a contradictory subject and no doubt people are now thinking, "WTF?"

    My statement is based on a number of very recent studies in which athletes were subjected to both ballistic and dynamic stretches for a number of weeks. Following this they underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, which detected multiple muscle microtears in each athlete. These occurred in all the areas targeted by the two forms of stretching, particularly in the hamstrings. There was little difference in the severity of trauma between those who used ballistic stretching and those who used dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretches are as bad as ballistic stretches. Kurz states that controlling the movement will stop it from becoming a ballistic exercise, but even controlling it as he suggests does not prevent this. The level of control he requires from his readers is very difficult for most anyway.

    I will cite the studies in my book when it is published. I'm releasing this information now because a lot of people (no-one from MAP) have asked how my material is different to that which exists already.

    In terms of static-active stretching, which is not actually a form of flexibility development but strength training, it is helpful on developing the ability to lift and control the limb during kicking. It features heavily in my book and I demonstrate numerous exercises for developing it.
  9. adscottie

    adscottie Valued Member

    Thanks for you reply, it has certainly helped me get things a bit clearer in my head. At least I don't have to feel guilty about missing my morning routine now!

    Looking forward to the release of your book.

  10. Patrick Smith

    Patrick Smith Tustom Cuser Uitle

    Definitely not. Chiropractors are becoming quite common in the care of athletes, elite and non-elite. For example:


    And as a side note... next year I enter college to study preparatory courses for entering a chiropractic college in a few years! Hah! I definitely support the proper use of chiropractors in sports and regular life. :D

    I thought isometric tensions were a form of strength training, and that you should always warm up for strength training. Is isometric stretching an exception?


    Do dynamic stretches done cold cause microtears or is it just dynamic stretches in general? Are dynamic stretches still an important part of a kicking sessions warm up?
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2010
  11. Van Zandt

    Van Zandt Mr. High Kick


    Yes, isometrics are one form of strength training. But research indicates that warming up is only necessary for those who believe they need it. Your body functions according to how you train. So if you always warm up prior to your main workout, your body comes to expect it. Studies have shown that there is no difference in athletic performance or rate of injury between those who warm up and those who stopped warming up a long time ago. This is nothing new; even Pavel Tsatsouline mentions the same. My book teaches you how to wean yourself off warm ups gradually so you can safely exercise without them.

    It is the action of dynamic stretches which causes damage whether you are warmed up or not. In both cases you are forcing the limb past the point when the stretch reflex activates. You should not rely on methods which rely on tissue extensibility for increasing flexibility (which dynamic and ballistic do). Aside from hurting you, dynamics are not necessary for kicking so you can drop them altogether.
  12. proteinnerd

    proteinnerd Valued Member

    Sorry Patrick, I have to disagree with your opinion of chiropractors. The true Chiropractic method rejects the theory that Germs cause disease, identifies vaccinations as poison and discourages their use and at its core has zero scientific validity as a legitimate method of health care. Plus there are some alarming studies appearing now regarding chiropractic manipulation and stroke.

    A Canadian study by the Institute of Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Ontario found that patients younger than 45 who had experienced stroke related to posterior circulation are "5 times more likely than controls to have visited a chiropractor within a week of the event" (Stroke 2001;32:1054-60).

    Another study states, "The researchers reported that patients under age 60 who had strokes or transient ischemic attacks from tears in the vertebral artery were six times more likely to have had spinal manipulative therapy in the 30 days prior to their stroke than patients who had strokes from other causes."

    Scary stuff.

    The study you cited wasn't really a study, it was a survey that asked who used it...big difference.

    You can find a decent skeptical analysis of chiropractic here.

    Sorry for Hi-Jacking the thread...back to Flexibility
  13. Patrick Smith

    Patrick Smith Tustom Cuser Uitle

    Okay, that's going to dramatically change my schedule! :D

    For my own knowledge, would good full ROM exercises for the front split and side split would include the following?

    Front oriented:

    • Lunges (all kinds)
    • Split squats
    • Good mornings
    • Deadlifts
    • Squats

    Side oriented:

    • Adductor flies
    • Adductor pull-downs

    I'm concerned about this, because I can't do isometric stretches yet (still only 16 years old), so the only option I have is to do full ROM strength training.


    I'd like very much to discuss this with you, but I need a little bit of time getting my argument ready (I'm a little slow with research). I'll post back.
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2010
  14. proteinnerd

    proteinnerd Valued Member

    To clarify, are you saying that research now shows you can go from cold to 100% maximal effort with no transitional/warmup phase??


    any links for that study?
  15. Van Zandt

    Van Zandt Mr. High Kick


    Yes, those exercises would be appropriate. You can also do slow kicks to increase the strength of your kicking agonists. My research has shown that individuals who are still growing respond well to just full ROM strength exercises and kicking strength exercises. Adductor pulldowns are especially useful, as I know a chap who managed to slide into a split using just those, squats and holding the horse stance. Might work for you too. Heck, you could even try a light isometrics session and see how your body reacts. I said to wait until 18 to give yourself time to finish growing, but I haven't grown any since I was 15. It's up to you: play it safe and wait until you are eighteen, or give them a careful try now. If you decide to try then, let me know how you get on (by PM if you prefer) and we can discuss what to do next.
  16. Van Zandt

    Van Zandt Mr. High Kick


    The bottom line is: yes, you can safely go from resting to all out effort without warming up. I am not disputing that people perform better with a warm up; my point is that they do so because that is the way they have trained and so they have programmed their bodies to respond better with a warm up. By unlearning the habit of warming up, they can achieve the same level of performance without one.

    As a sports therapist I have authored a couple of studies myself, which will be cited in my book upon publication. But I am not the first person to state that warming up is unnecessary. In his book Beyond Stretching, Pavel Tsatsouline cites a study by Dr Judd Biasiotto in which he tested the batting speeds of players from the Kansas City Royals. He found that 47 out of 50 players tested produced faster batting speeds without a warm up. In another study, Biasiotto found that elite powerlifters performed better in the bench press and squat without a warm up five times out of six.
  17. Smitfire

    Smitfire Cactus Schlong

    And as a side note... next year I enter college to study preparatory courses for entering a chiropractic college in a few years! Hah! I definitely support the proper use of chiropractors in sports and regular life.

    Im with proteinnerd and how he answered that. If you are serious about getting into a form of helpful therapy then I would advise getting into proper sports physiotherapy.
    Chiropractors have migrated into mainsteam physical therapy over the years (so some are better than others) but at its core it's a full on pseudo-science crock of...faecal matter.
    "Innate inteligence" and all that. It has no scientific basis at all as it was founded before health science properly got underway.
    Check out the recent Simon Singh case in the UK for how chiropractors respond to criticism. Not with evidence but with litigation.
    Sports people are notorious for being superstitious so it's easy to see how something that is placebo like chiropractic can get wide acceptance.

    End of thread hijack. :)
  18. Patrick Smith

    Patrick Smith Tustom Cuser Uitle

    I haven't grown since I was 15 either (I'll be 17 within 40 days), so I'm not very concerned with that. I'll try them next workout and let you know how it goes. I still have a little of PPS, so instead of using a standing side split that puts a lot of pressure on my knees, I'll probably this stretch:


    Not sure what stretch I'll use for the front split, though.
  19. Patrick Smith

    Patrick Smith Tustom Cuser Uitle

    How does that work? I thought the warm up was to raise the heart rate and core temperature, and prepare the body for intense activity. Alwyn Cosgrove, Joe DeFranco, Mike Boyle, Eric Cressey, David Tate, Lou Simmons, and a horde of other world class coaches stress the importance of the warm up.

    Alwyn Cosgrove ( uses a system called MAMP: Mobility, Activation, and Movement Preparation. He even uses tools like the foam roller and The Stick to improve the quality of tissue before it is stressed.

    I trust you Van Zandt, but maybe these coaches know something we don't.


    Hi PASmith.

    I started a thread for this topic at:
  20. Van Zandt

    Van Zandt Mr. High Kick

    The SAID (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands) principle determines that your body functions according to how you train. A warm up does do those things you say - I'm not disputing that fact. But my point is that people who need a warm up do so only because they have always trained that way, thereby programming themselves mentally and physically to need and expect it. It is possible to unlearn the habit of warming up and train safely & effectively without one. My guess is that the coaches you referenced probably stress the importance of a warm up because that was the way they were taught, and they haven't made the time to look into the possibility of training without one or they're so regimented in their ways that they refuse to accept it is possible. One thing I have found in this industry is that "experts" don't like being proven wrong. :)

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