About stretching

Some technical stuff about stretching and flexibility

Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation. This method of stretching gives quick results. It’s a complicated story, but technically it is a way of misleading the nervous system. In the muscles are so called muscle spindles, they detect extension and \ or changes in the muscle and pass that on to the central nervous system. In the tendons are also detectors, the colgi tendon organs. If the muscle feels to much tension the ‘stretch reflex’ enters into force (myotatic reflex), that is the pain / resistance that you feel when you stretch a muscle. The muscle says as it were, ‘Whoa, this is enough, no further.’ It’s a reflex which protects against muscle damage. However, if you push the muscle in a stretched state by applying pressure the muscle ‘thinks’ that it will tear and the stretch reflex will reverse itself. In other words, it relaxes by getting temporarily longer. And that’s what we want to become more flexible. A muscle can stretch up to 150% by the way . This technique can only be practiced under supervision or by an experienced trainer.

Spindle en golgi

PNF stretching at work

Myofasciale massage. Muscles are wrapped in a membrane of connective tissue, the fascia. This tissue makes your muscles move supple and soft past each other, a kind of lubricant. If the muscles are not used for a time, or just after a period of overload, this membrane tends to be sticky, it works as a kind of glue. We then speak of adhesions. As a result muscles stick together and become difficult to stretch. By a particular massage technique (the muscles should be warm) I can help you to get rid of these adhesions so that the muscles are able to stretch much better. Especially professionals benefit from this massage technique.

 Adhesion of the muscles

Adhesion of the muscles

Pressure Point Massage. By manipulation of the muscle spindles and muscle knots muscles can be a lot more flexible. Most of the muscles of my clients are bruised and full of muscle knots. As the muscle tissue is hardened (scar tissue), and there is a rigid part in the muscle that will not stretch, It is important to pay attention to it, the best at the moment when the injury is healing. Pressure point massage on the muscle spindles or nerves can cause a muscle suddenly becomes a lot more flexible.

Passive stretching. This actually means that you have yourself stretches when you are as relaxed as possible be as relaxed as possible. Let the trainer do the work, however… Deep focused breathing is the secret here. At nearly the maximum time span you flex your muscles a little and send your breath through your muscles. You feel that your muscles will swell a bit. Then you relax again and let the trainer to push you a little further. The muscles get a little longer now.

Passive stretching at work.

Passive stretching at work.

Can anyone be a contortionist? Unfortunately not. Anyone can become a lot more limber through regular training, it is for instance possible for everyone to learn the splits. But not everyone can sit on his own head. There is a certain condition for doing this which we call hypermobility, congenital agility. Sometimes, this is the result of a condition, but there is also a healthy hypermobility. It means having naturally loose joints (large capsules around the joints) and stretchable muscles. The muscles contain more elastin (a protein in connective tissue) so that the muscles easier stretch. The result, of course, of the joint or ROM (range of motion) is much greater than that of other people. If hypermobile people start training for flexibility they get incredible results. Just look at Mongolian contortionists. The girls are  selected at a young age for their natural agility and then undergo years of intense training. The results are always spectacular. Contortion is a culture in Mongolia and is highly regarded. Hypermobile people however benefit more from strength training to increase muscle tone in order to stabilize their joints.

Mongolian contortionist

Mongolian contortionist