How to improve your mobility!

Image result for head to toe stretchHow many people do you know that stretch all the time and don’t see any gains or just take a LONG time to improve their mobility? I spent years trying to improve my splits so I could kick higher. I would stretch 2-3 times a day, following all the recommendations I had been given by PE teachers, gymnastics coaches, martial arts teachers, etc…. Here’s why it didn’t work. Muscle tightness wasn’t the problem. The problem was that my brain was causing the muscles to contract to KEEP ME IN WHAT IT PERCEIVED AS A SAFE RANGE OF MOTION.

So, here’s how to stretch in order to train the brain to allow the movement.

  1. Warm up. It doesn’t matter how, but get your core temperature up until you’re just starting to sweat. It helps if you do this with movements that use the muscles you want to stretch.

  2. Stay relaxed as much as you can. Even if it’s uncomfortable, don’t make a “pain face.”

  3. Don’t forget to breath. Deep, relaxed breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, lowering heart rate and blood pressure and generally relaxing your body, including the part you’re stretching. It will also tell your brain that this position is an ok place to be.

  4. Hang out. Spend some quality time in the position. This may be accumulated time from pulsing in and out of the end range of motion or it could just be simmering in the position. Either way, you want to be aware of everything you feel. Hot or cold, heavy or light, tight or relaxed? Maybe it gets harder when you rotate the joint one way and easier when you rotate it the other. The point of this step is to allow the brain to create its “map” of the position, so that it is more comfortable with it in the future.

  5. Exit strategy. If you suddenly jump out of the stretch, you are telling your subconscious mind that the stretch was painful and that it should avoid that movement in the future. This will completely erase any gains you have made so far. The key is to stay relaxed and come out of the stretch slowly, so the subconscious mind doesn’t get freaked out.

  6. After you’ve made improvements to your range of motion (ROM), practice several movements that go through that ROM from different angles and supporting different loads. This will help to train the brain that you can do work in that ROM and change that mental “map” into a functional one.

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