Stretching for flexibility

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jwcalla
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Stretching for flexibility

Post by jwcalla » Wed Jul 19, 2006 6:22 pm

Hey,

I'm kinda frustrated. My lower body flexibility is pretty bad. Imagine... the worst flexibility humanly possible. It's 10x worse than that. So I've cut out my leg training day because I can't do squats with proper form (after awhile I develop a little knee pain). I think the tightest groups are glutes, hips, and especially ankles (very little dorsiflexion ROM).

So I'm trying to develop a stretching program based on some of the stretches depicted here at ExRx.net, using what I think is a static stretching technique, but I don't think I can do this without eventually hanging myself with a rope. I'm finding it to be (a) incredibly boring, (b) incredibly time-consuming, and (c) incredibly not producing results. At this rate I expect to be flexible enough to resume squats sometime after retirement. (Fortunately I'm not bitter though.)

Isn't there a better, more effective way to increase flexibility? I'm not looking for tweaks or to loosen up or to maintain -- none of that tofu and yogurt stuff; I need the meat and potatoes here! I need to make serious progress! Hook a brotha' up! Has anyone out there had measurable success moving from rigor mortis to ballerina girl? Is there some sport I can do to help? A better method of stretching? I'm especially concerned about the ankles (my primary limitation for the squat), since there's not really a lot to "stretch" there.

I mean... if y'all think that I just need to buckle down and do the stretches and be patient and resume leg training in a few decades, then I guess I'll do that... albeit very begrudgingly.

If at this point you're still reading this, I thank you for the love.

John

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Post by Matt Z » Wed Jul 19, 2006 7:13 pm

Stretching doesn't have to take a long time, and you don't have to do it every day. 15 or 20 minutes 3 or 4 days a week should be enough to produce results if your stretching properly. I like to hold each stretch for 30 seconds, although you may want to go a little longer (like a minute) on the calf stretches, since that's a problem area for you.

PS.) Bent-knee calf stretches are probably more relevant to squatting than convensional standing calf stretches.

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Post by DeadFrog » Thu Jul 20, 2006 5:08 am

I stretch every muscle group after every workout at the gym. It only takes 5-10 minutes, and that's all you need for flexibility. It's easy when your muscles are so warmed up.

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Post by northernbelle » Thu Jul 20, 2006 7:24 am

I am also very inflexible in the upper and lower body areas.

I did not stop trying squats! Although I lift very light, using dumbbells rather than a bar, I find that the squats and lunges are increasing my flexibility. If you can't go down all the way, then go down as far as you can; this will increase with time.

The same is true for my back. I finally incorporated deadlifts and straight-leg deadlifts into my routine, and that has been the best thing I could do- again no heavy weights, but working on depth. The other thing that helped was hyperextensions on the hyperextension bench.

I stretch after every workout, whether I have used that muscle group or not. After cardio, I do a longer stretch, about 20 minutes.

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Post by jwcalla » Thu Jul 20, 2006 5:47 pm

Let's say I do these ungodly stretches every other day... How long does one think it'd take to be flexible enough for a full, proper-formed squat?

John

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Post by TimD » Thu Jul 20, 2006 9:03 pm

There is really no telling. Now stretches are good, and I'd never tell anyone not to stretch, but if you are doing it for quats, I don't think thats good enough. It's been my personal experience that if you need flexibility for a certain movement, well stretches can certainly help, but the best approach is to do the movement. Start with an empty bar, do several sets of a couple of reps (no need for volume here) and try to go deeper each time out. It can be done every day, several times a day, because there is no significant loading involved. If you need some weight for stability, then add a ten lb plate or so on each side. I've known people who really couldn't get a true feel for it without adding a bit of weight to the empty O bar. When teaching O lifting, we took the 3 major moves that give you the most flexibility needed for that sport, front and overhead squats, and RDL's, gave the kids empty bars and had them do them every session until they got the positioning correct. Once there, then we started putting weight on the bar and bringing them up slowly. Most were on there way within 2-3 weeks. Again, stretches are great, but to learn a particular move,use the move and use stretches as assistance.
Tim

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Post by George G » Fri Jul 21, 2006 8:56 am

TimD wrote:There is really no telling. Now stretches are good, and I'd never tell anyone not to stretch, but if you are doing it for quats, I don't think thats good enough. It's been my personal experience that if you need flexibility for a certain movement, well stretches can certainly help, but the best approach is to do the movement. Start with an empty bar, do several sets of a couple of reps (no need for volume here) and try to go deeper each time out. It can be done every day, several times a day, because there is no significant loading involved. If you need some weight for stability, then add a ten lb plate or so on each side. I've known people who really couldn't get a true feel for it without adding a bit of weight to the empty O bar. When teaching O lifting, we took the 3 major moves that give you the most flexibility needed for that sport, front and overhead squats, and RDL's, gave the kids empty bars and had them do them every session until they got the positioning correct. Once there, then we started putting weight on the bar and bringing them up slowly. Most were on there way within 2-3 weeks. Again, stretches are great, but to learn a particular move,use the move and use stretches as assistance.
Tim
Do what Tim says. I have done exactly that with overhead squats and improved my ROM.

I would also like to suggest that you stretch BEFORE you perform the movement. Stretch your hip flexors, calfs and any other problem areas. before each set of squats.

Current trends are not use static stretching BEFORE lifting, but in a situation like yours it only makes sense.

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Post by TimD » Fri Jul 21, 2006 9:56 am

Hi George. Actually, a bit of stretching before the moves isn't really all that out of the mainstream these days. Staley, King and Poliquin just say that prior to the stretching, get a little moderate aerobic style warm up in (light jog, stepper, treadmill, whatever) of around 5 mins or so to get the body warm and the blood flowing. My approach is just that, then some light stretches, then the moves with a bar focusing on ROM.
Tim

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Post by jwcalla » Fri Jul 21, 2006 11:42 am

Cool. I'll try all of that. I was just concerned about learning bad form. E.g. if the ankles are the culprit it's easy for something else (like the lower back) to compensate and therefore prevent the flexibility in the ankles from progressing. But I think if I just do them over and over again with the bar eventually everything in the lower limbs will loosen up.

I wonder if taking up a sport would help? Maybe develop more of an "athleticism", so to speak.

John

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Post by TimD » Fri Jul 21, 2006 12:35 pm

As to taking up a sport, it surely wouldn't hurt, especially anything in the wrestling/MMA field.
(Martial Arts).
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Technique the issue

Post by Otama » Sat Jul 22, 2006 11:09 pm

Going by your post I would say flexibility isn't your limiting factor but technique. In particular you mention inflexibility about the ankles, knee pain and the need for dorsiflexion. Ankle flexibility plays little role in squatting unless your technique is on the bad side of ugly. The same can be said for glutes, hamstrings etc. I have taught 100's of people with extremely poor hamstring, glute and psoas flexibility (back injuries) to squat with no problem. The only limitation hamstrings will place on you is rotation about the hips but not enough to prevent a squat if good technique is used. The usual cause of ankle/knee discomfort in squatting is a lack of rotation about the hips normally because the person is trying to keep their back vertically straight which is incorrect. This causes biomechanical pain/pressure about the ankles and or knees. I would re-evaluate your technique.

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Post by Ryan A » Sun Jul 23, 2006 1:32 am

I would have to agree that completely vertical is incorrect but disagree that inflexible ankles can prevent a proper squat. The knees almost always need to move past the tows to get a good balanced position without having your back below a 45 degree angle, as in say, a powerlifting squat. An olympic back squat as shown on this site requires a good amount of ankle flexibility depending on your limb lengths.

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Post by PeterP » Mon Jul 24, 2006 4:02 pm

This is the most interesting thing I've read about flexibility lately. I haven't tried it to know if it works. It is just a different way to think about it that made a lot of sense to me.

http://home.comcast.net/~joandbryce/flexo.html
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Post by Otama » Tue Jul 25, 2006 7:20 am

Well I would have to disagree on the need for your knees to move beyond your toes even with less than a 45 degree rotation of the hips. I have never been confronted with that need in performing or teaching a flat foot squat. The rotation about the hips and subsequent anterior movement of the upper body provides a perfect balanced platform. Perhaps you are talking about a different type of squat? I admit my knowledge is limited to the standard flat footed squat and I have no interest or knowledge of power lifting or O lifting. With this proper technique there is no need for ankle flexibility above normal limitations and no need to stress the knees with any forward movement.
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Post by PeterP » Tue Jul 25, 2006 9:24 am

I don't have any credentials ... but if my knees don't move past my toes, and I get low enough that my quads are parallel with the floor, I fall flat on my backside.

My knees have to move forward of my toes in order for me to balance. Am I doing something wrong?

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