Thanks to Kelly Starrett for sharing much of this great info with us at his Movement & Mobility Seminar!
If you missed our previous article on how to easily get 10% more performance and destroy your limitations, check it out here. In this article, we'll go into some more specifics.
We have found that the most efficient way to make positive changes in muscles/joints/tissues is through Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF). While regular stretching may feel good, it will take a long time to make any real change in your muscles, and most of us don't have an hour or more each day to dedicate to stretching. Nope, stretching is dead.
Why is stretching dead? Our muscles don't respond as effectively to static stretching. Think about this: you can deadlift 300 lbs...or even 100 lbs...or even 50 lbs; your hamstrings and tendons are loaded up with that much weight; how could 5-10 lbs of pressure from "stretching" have a big effect on those muscles? You need something more powerful for your powerful muscles! That's where PNF comes in. PNF is an effective solution for creating length around a joint. It sort of tricks your nueromuscular system into resetting the length of your muscles. Warning: this isn't Yoga class; it's more like a dog fight. You need to be ready to fight for this!
In a nutshell, PNF is a series of contract-relax:
- Mobilize a position of restriction (hamstrings, external hip rotation, overhead position, etc.)
- Build peak tension in the muscles limiting that position; hold for 5 seconds
- Release tension and find a new static range; hold for 10 seconds
Repeat steps 2 and 3 for 5-6 cycles or until you stop making gains in a new range. This equates to about 90 seconds for each position.
When you build up peak tension in a muscle near it's end range and then let it go, your body knows big tension just went through that muscle and realizes it needs to let it go a little longer. Right then, you have a window of opportunity to move into a new range.
Midline Stabilization is essential to PNF. When you are doing any PNF, make sure that you maintain midline stabilization! This means keep your core tight! Just like during a deadlift or overhead lift, you want to make sure that your your entire torso is rigid. Take a big breath, and as you exhale, think about pulling your belly button in towards your spine. And keep it this way the entire time! There is no use is mobilizing a position without a tight core because it's not a position that will translate to anything else you do.
Check out this video: PNF Stretching Demo - in about 90 seconds, this is a huge change in hamstring flexibility!
Here are a few good "stretches" you can do PNF with; just hold for 10 seconds, generate peak tension for 5 seconds, then move into a new range!
UPDATE: Kelly Starrett now has an incredibly useful Mobility Blog. This will solve 90% of your problems!
If you are still having trouble with a specific issue after working on it on your own, find someone who specializes in Active Release Technique. We have used Dr. Landan Webster frequently and it has worked wonders. You can easily set up an appointment on his website if you are interested.