033: My Static Passive Stretching Personal Challenge

goals motivation passive stretching static stretching Sep 10, 2021

It's common for people to send messages calling me a "stretching zealot", and it's not surprising considering that a lot of my social media content promotes the use of static passive stretching to develop flexibility.

But contrary to appearances, my content doesn't reflect my personal training philosophy (i.e., how I like to design training for me, no one else) because I dislike static passive stretching.

I promote it on my platforms and in my educational courses because it works, sometimes even more so than other methods of stretching that are routinely touted as the most effective for improving range of motion.

Static passive stretching works for me too, but I don't like it because I find it incredibly dull.

I much prefer isometric and loaded stretching because I grew up with a bias towards strength-based flexibility training thanks to the influence of Thomas Kurz.

However, I'm at an age now when tissue stiffness is starting to become a significant barrier to accessing my ranges of motion, especially when cold.

The problem is compounded by some health issues over the past 5 to 10 years, including double hip replacements and severe chronic pain.

Before you judge, no, I didn't need hip replacements because of my years spent stretching and doing martial arts; I needed them because I was injured while serving in the military, and my chronic pain issues are linked to those injuries (I had a great conversation with Bill Wallace on the subject of hip replacements last year, which you can watch here).

While isometric and loaded stretching certainly helped me recover my splits less than nine months after surgery, it was undoubtedly the additional static passive stretching I did that reduced subjective sensations of stiffness and allowed me to access my ROM without needing to warm up.

However, between lockdowns caused by the global pandemic and spending 12+ hours a day in the office creating and administering work projects (including the Master Flexibility Trainer course), I admittedly have neglected my flexibility training to the point I can no longer access my splits.

The situation was made worse by the broken knee I've been recovering from for most of the past 12 months, which resulted from an impact after trying to catch an elderly lady after she lost her balance.

I'm not sharing this information to get sympathy (I don't want or need it), but I know there will be some people reading this thinking, "What kind of flexibility teacher can't do the splits?"

Well, the answer is, "This kind, because shit happens."

But I'm dealing with it, and that's what this blog post is about.

My flexibility training for the next six months is going to focus solely on static passive stretching for three reasons: (1) It's the best antidote for the incredible levels of stiffness I've been experiencing lately, (2) recent attempts to do isometric contractions at long muscle lengths have caused my CRPS to flare up sharply, and (3) to prove to the anti-stretchers that it works, and when done right, it works very well.

I'm using a modified version of a stretching routine from Bill's 1982 book Dynamic Stretching and Kicking (the same one I used to regain my splits after my hip replacements), and I'll be keeping a training journal that I'll occasionally share for those of you who might be interested in reading it.

My goal is to recover my splits (not necessarily cold) by the end of the six-month challenge, which I know is going to require a lot of time spent doing the type of stretching I dislike the most.

But it's usually the things we don't like doing that yield the greatest results, so wish me luck!