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Mar 23

Is it such a Stretch to become Flexible??? Flexibility and its Function in Injury Prevention:

Flexibility and stretching seem to be one of the crosses to bear among athletes as well as the general population.

This became evident recently with the newest Los Angeles Galaxy sensation David Beckham. The reports were clear that Beckham twisted his ankle and was unsure if he would be able to play. “Galaxy waiting on Beckham fitness” was the headline from Reuters.

LBN-SPORTS INSIDER: David Beckham, struggling to recover from a left ankle injury, was left out of the Los Angeles Galaxy lineup here Tuesday in the US club’s 2-1 Superliga victory over Mexico’s Pachuca. Beckham made his debut for the Galaxy here last Saturday, playing 12 minutes as a substitute in a 1-0 friendly loss to English side Chelsea. The midfielder who signed a contract worth a potential 250 million dollars to leave Real Madrid is trying to boost football interest by Americans but he was only a spectator as he continues to have treatment upon his sore ankle.”

This is the extreme of what poor stretching, no stretching, and NORMAL stretching can cause. We have all seen the struggles of Kobe Bryant and others who have serious injuries that take them OUT OF THE GAME and could have been avoided if only they had the techniques and training to become powerfully flexible.

According to Dictionary.com, Stretch has several meanings. The one I am speaking about is this: “to stretch oneself by extending the limbs and lengthening the muscles to the utmost:”

There are many forms of stretching that can be utilized together. Some techniques have been found to be much more effective than others.

Some of the kinds of stretching are:
Passive stretching – an external force exerts upon the limb to move it into the new position.
Active stretching – eliminates force and its adverse effects from stretching procedures
Static stretching – used to stretch muscles while the body is at rest
Dynamic stretching – utilizing momentum from form, static-active stretching strength, and the momentum from static-active stretching strength
Ballistic stretching – NEVER DO THIS TECHNIQUE
Resistance Stretching – form of stretching in which a muscle simultaneously contracts and elongates

My definition of the way MOST people normally stretch looks like this:

a single directional movement that takes a joint or muscle to the extreme of its range of motion, opening the muscle fibers and creating space in your body

Normal Stretching: This kind of stretching is most common among the few who actually take time out to stretch. It is a basic set of techniques that open up space allowing for a greater range of motion and less likely chance for injury.

Poor Stretching: We have all seen people out on a field or in a class doing the “Ballistic Stretching.” The best literal illustration I can give for this is someone standing straight and trying to touch his/her toes, bouncing up and down. This uses bouncing motion to stretch muscles past their range of motion before they are ready to do so. This is not only poor stretching, but can cause injury and should not be utilized.

No Stretching: As seen by the couch potato (illustration of couch potato soon to follow). I play with an adult baseball league, and I watch maybe 90% of the players come out to the field and not stretch. They simply start throwing and warming up, but with no preliminary stretching. This lack of proper stretching is prevalent in most of our culture. It is a direct cause of almost all strain/sprain injuries as well as tears and dislocations.

There is a technique of stretching that to date in my field has been considered the MOST EFFECTIVE. That technique is called PNF, proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, and is oftentimes a combination of passive stretching and isometrics contractions

So, as I began studying PNF and getting deeper into the nature of a body and the mechanisms of stretching, I began to get a really powerful feel as to the body’s true stretching capabilities and how much it was necessary for Injury Prevention.

There is another way!!!

Throughout my years as a gymnast and martial artist, as well as training with athletes and going through studies in performance, I have found a way to increase your flexibility as well as create more power in the extremes of that flexibility. This technique has proven to me and to my patients to be the crème de la crème of stretching modalities.

Utilizing many of the principles of PNF, I create resistance and contraction at the extremes of the Range of Motion. This is a very effective start to creating power. One of the additions I have made is a technique I call:

Multi-Directional Resistance Stretching©

Let’s say you are stretching someone’s shoulder. When you hit the extent of that person’s range of motion, you can start out with Direct Resistance which is resistance that is directly counter to the motion that got you in that stretch – basic Antagonist Agonist stretching. What I like to add into this is freeform resistance coming from different angles that the person being stretched may not know about. In this way the person getting stretched is holding a tight contraction at the extent of Range of Motion fatiguing muscle fibers and holding off my resistance at different angles causing those balancers to react quickly. This works a greater area of muscle fiber as well as multiple groups of muscles to allow for a simultaneous stretching as well as a powerful contraction within the muscle. What ends up happening is that a person not only becomes more flexible with a greater range of motion, but they also build power in the extremes of flexibility allowing for a highly advanced form of personal injury prevention.

This kind of Power Flexibility is seen perfectly in MMA (mixed martial arts). Someone is in a submission hold and is being flexed well beyond what would be considered most people’s Range of Motion, yet they not only can maneuver out of the hold, but have enough strength in that extreme position to withstand and resist the hold which can cause serious damage such as broken bones and dislocated joints.

Simply being flexible is helpful, but when you add power to that flexibility, you have the greatest likelihood for being injury free…

Let me give you an example of how the power of Multi-Directional Resistance Stretching© can aid in Injury Prevention…

About 4 years ago, I was riding my motorcycle in Oakland, CA. I came around a bend and was blinded by the sun. As I went through the red light, I was T-Boned by a car. I was traveling at approximately 45 MPH and came to a sudden stop. At the time, I was wearing sandals and shorts rather than protective ankle boots and long pants. I am not a small man and this kind of impact for someone my size, more so than most people that are of average size, could be a life altering severe injury. Upon impact, I was hurled over the car into a double flip. If only someone was videotaping this, it would have made for a tremendous stunt on Real TV. I landed on my feet with my left ankle turned out, rolled forward, and stopped directly on my butt facing the wrong direction. Due to the lack of proper clothing, I suffered a fairly bad road rash on my right leg from when I rolled forward. However, because I have spent so much of my focus with creating powerful flexibility, I had absolutely no torn or ripped ligaments in my ankles and absolutely no broken bones. I had a sprained ankle, a few cuts, and other than that was fine. It took me about 2-2 months for the road rash to heal up, but I was back on my feet walking around within 2 weeks.

This result was a testament to really one kind of powerful flexibility.

Multi-Directional Resistance Stretching©

written by Ari Gronich
Owner and Founder and Developer of
The Academy for Performance Therapy

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