It has to be the most misunderstood and possibly the most underused and misused training modality.
Since my first introduction to martial arts at the age of 11, I’ve had a love hate relationship with stretching. Basically I love to hate it and avoid it where possible. This hasn’t always been wise.
Some of my peers seem to stretch endlessly. The force their hips open, fling their legs over their heads, yet they consistently complain of knee and back pain. So they’re not wise either.
I’ve talked with Yoga instructors, many of whom have shoulder and low back issues. They maybe have it wrong also.
So what’s right and whats wrong?
Correct answer, nobody knows.
But there seems to be a happy medium. It’s commonly refered to as Mobility or Dynamic Range of Motion (DROM), some call it flow.
It simply means taking each joint through its full, natural range of motion. Much like you did naturally as a child through play. However as we age we slow down, we spend more time sitting. We sit at a desk, in the car, on the bus/train, on the sofa. Hell, most of the gym going population train whilst sitting down!
If we train, we compress the body, muscles can tighten and become restrictive (hence “musclebound”). The facial network that holds the body together can get stuck, causing knots and adhesions that disrupt proper movement.
The more time we spend static or working partial range of motion, or even worse, only training our beach muscles (you know, the ones you can see in the mirror) in an imbalanced training program, the more we encourage the fascia to shorten, tighten and bind up.
By keeping your training program balanced and using full range of motion you can go some way to preventing this happening. Kettlebell lifting goes a long way towards this, but it’s not the only training modality that suits.
Adding in extra mobility work is a great idea, and so easy to do. A few minutes each day, add it into the warm up, use it as a warm up or cool down. Start your day with it, do it at intervals throughout the day. For most, the hips, shoulders and spine are the key areas to mobilise, if you work at a desk add in hands and wrists. Take your chosen joint and take it in a controlled manner through its full and proper range of motion. It should be a controlled movement, it may be uncomfortable but should not be painful.
I’m going to video a series of mobility drills that will be sent out to my email subscribers, make sure you’re on the list so you can receive these joint by joint drills.
But right now take a look at the video clip below, it was filmed as I prepared for a bodyweight conditioning session, but we also use it quite often as a cool down to a kettlebell session.
It may look like bad yoga, in fact it is. I took inspiration from several sources, including yoga instructors, and put together what I feel to be the most beneficial sequence for the majority. Take note also how the positions are not held for time, in fact we move through them, as we start to loosen up, the sequence is done even faster.
Obviously if you are trying to cool down from a session, you will start quickly and gradually slow down.
This is not stretching to increase flexibility, it is stretching to regain and maintain that childlike ability to move freely and with luck, remain injury free and mobile right into the twilight years of life.
This clip is by no means the only way to practice mobility, often we use the framework but add different moves, dependant on the day’s training and how we feel.
Please, watch and enjoy.