008: Reflections and Answering Questions

ballistic stretching feedback mindset strength training Aug 16, 2021

Today marks the start of the second week in my two-year daily blogging challenge. If you want to know more about why I'm writing a blog post every day for 730 days and what the benefits might be, you can read my very first post here. My biggest fear was that I'd quickly run out of things to write about, but I'm pleasantly surprised at how easy it has been to come up with ideas for posts.

Of course, I can't promise I'll always have something insightful to discuss - in fact, I fully anticipate there will be days when all I write will be "I have nothing to write about today." And I'm okay with that.

Although I started this project mainly for my development, I appreciate all of you who liked, commented and messaged in response to the blog. I was expecting a small amount of engagement. But I've been overwhelmed by just how much interest so many of you have shown. And for that, I'm genuinely grateful. Thank you.

I figured this would be a good place to respond to some of the popular questions that I received, which were posted in the comments on Instagram and Facebook, and sent to me via private message and email. I'm aware some of you have been having difficulty using the messaging form on the Contact page, but please know I'm working on getting that fixed. In the meantime, if you want to get in touch you can send me an email to dan(at)flexibilityresearch(dot)com.

Q: I used ballistic stretching to good effect and never really got sore from it. Is it possible that some people can use it to improve flexibility and not get sore every time? (To clarify, I'd describe my ballistic stretching as a controlled bobbing at the end of ROM.)

It is possible to improve flexibility without getting routinely sore by using the method of stretching you described. But it's important to understand that "controlled bobbing" implies some level of restraint over the velocity of stretch, which will reduce the amount of strain placed on the tissues. In turn, it will lower the chance of stretch-induced DOMS, injury, and overexcitation of the stretch reflex. However, it isn't necessarily the words describing the movement that determine if a stretch is ballistic (e.g., "bobbing, bouncing, pulsing"); it is the rate of motion or cadence, measured in beats-per-minute (BPM), which defines the type of stretching. The ballistic stretching I described in blog #002 referred to traditional, forceful movements performed at a cadence at or in excess of 100 BPM (most studies on dynamic stretching use cadences at around 60 BM). It sounds like you were doing dynamic stretching rather than ballistic stretching. I believe ballistic stretching has its place in a training programme if a person first possesses the required range of motion, mechanical strength, and muscular strength. People who don't have these prerequisites often report intense muscular soreness and stiffness that indicate mechanical and chemical damage to the tissues. One study claimed that no scientific evidence supports suggestions that ballistic stretching is more harmful than other stretching techniques (Weerapong, Hume, & Kolt, 2004). The authors cited a study that showed static passive stretching can produce greater muscular soreness than ballistic stretching, but the cited study utilised stretches with a cadence of 60 BPM, which falls into the realm of dynamic stretching (Smith et al., 1993).

Q: I was told ballistic stretching is the best way to get the head-to-toe, but it always leaves me sore. What are your thoughts? Is there a better way to get my H2T? I feel like it's making my flexibility worse.

I can't comment on the rationale for including certain exercises in training programmes that I haven't participated in, but I think the head-to-toe is one of those positions that is included more for tradition than for functional utility - unless your chosen sport/activity requires you to be able to bend over and place your forehead on your toes while pulling on your foot! I could be wrong though. And just because H2T is included doesn't mean your training programme is a bad one. So, my first piece of advice would be to question why you are trying to achieve such a position in the first place. ("Just because" is a perfectly valid reason - it's your body, train it however you want!) Second, your training should be informed by your own experience as much as by your coach's instructions. If a particular method is making you constantly sore, then something needs to change, or you're just going to keep getting sore. Third, as I stated in post #002, static passive, static active, and dynamic active stretching tend to increase flexibility more and faster than ballistic stretching. If you want to achieve your head-to-toe, utilise those methods and compare the results to your current training.

Q: Do you think strength training can be as effective as stretching for improving flexibility? Or do you think we don't yet know which one is most effective?

I think strength training will be the most effective method for some people in some situations, and stretching will be the most effective method for other people in other cases. The factors that dictate which way is most effective are so varied that I don't believe a systematic review and meta-analysis will ever successfully settle the argument. In addition, a lot of studies neglect the psychological aspect of training. If a person doesn't enjoy stretching or doesn't have a lot of time to dedicate to training, they're less likely to use stretching, and so they'll end up saying, "Stretching didn't work for me." And if they enjoy strength training, and that's all they have time to work on, they are likely to say, "Strength training improved my flexibility best." Coaches need to be aware of the psychological aspect, too. Just because a particular study says, "Stretching is the fastest way to get flexible", doesn't mean they should prescribe stretching for clients who hate stretching.

Q: When is the next intake of the Master Flexibility Trainer course starting?

September 26th. Registration is open now. Head to the Education page to find out more.

Q: I keep seeing a lot of posts criticising people saying we should only train to 90°. It kinda makes sense in my head what those people are saying, so why is staying within 90° a bad idea?

The most obvious answer is that life happens outside 90°. If you're only strong in a such a narrow range of motion, you have little to no strength to call upon in the event that circumstances push you beyond 90°. Also, suppose you engage in any sport at any level, either recreational or professional. In that case, the chances are high that you need to move your joints beyond 90°. Therefore, it's an excellent idea to have strength (both mechanical and voluntary) in the positions you need to get into for your sport. There are other reasons, which you can read more about in an Instagram post I made about the subject by clicking here.

References

Weerapong, P., Hume, P. A., & Kolt, G. S. (2004) Stretching: Mechanisms and Benefits for Sport Performance and Injury Prevention. Physical Therapy Reviews vol. 9, no. 4, pp. 189-206.

Smith, L., Brunetz, M., Chenier, T., McCammon, M., Houmard, J., Franklin, M., et al. (1993) The Effects of Static and Ballistic Stretching on Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport vol. 64, no. 1, pp. 103-107.