When I was young and learning PE (physical education) in school we had a pretty basic education of how to make the body do stuff and then generally try to make it do more stuff, move faster, lift more etc. There was no talk of body awareness, working with your body, pre-conditioning and only a very rudimentary approach to warming up, stretching and cooling down. It was a bit more like mechanics; rather than being body-centred – it was very much mind-forcing-the-body.
I hated sport in pretty much all forms therefore until I was in my 20s, when I had the leisure to do it in a way that made sense to me.
When stretching, why force the body to go to its farthest point, when it is telling us to stop and then push further? Why make our muscles relax and while they are relaxed and vulnerable, strain them? Animals don’t do that, babies and young children don’t do that. So why would we think that was what good stretching was? Because of our education.
When an animal stretches he/she engages their muscles across a large area of their body and move in a natural, instinctive way. It feels completely satisfying and strong. It does not come from the mind down, it comes from the body and instincts outwards. You never saw a cheetah trying to isolate and stretch a quad muscle (do cheetahs even have quad muscles?).
This kind of stretching can be called pandiculation in animals, resistance stretching, or we can call it yawning and stretching – as that is the only time most of us do it (maybe before our minds are awake enough to take over again!). If we were in the gym and we used resistance machines to stretch us while we maintained tension in our muscles (i.e. lowering a weight slowly) we could call it negative training or eccentric strength training.
The theory is that if we keep tension in our muscles then our fascia will also be engaged and we can work on it while we stretch, which is great for improving our body shape and posture. When I say shape here the emphasis is on functional improvements, but it does also generally make you look healthier and better. Yay!
How can you do resistance stretching?
You can either do your own stretching or be fancy and have someone else stretch you, or both which is great. The only problem is you may not live near a stretching trainer, but it is worth a google. Moving Stretch is one of several types of resistance stretching, so if one of our trainers is not nearby, you can try searching for your town + “resistance stretching trainer” for someone from another school. We call getting stretched Assisted Stretching. It gets really great and personalised results.
Of course it is also brilliant to stretch yourself – Self Stretching. If you fancy doing that, there are some free videos on this site, which is the fastest way to get involved. I’ve also written a book which has way more stretches in it and you can use it even when away from the internet (here is an Amazon.co.uk link and Amazon.com link). And some of our trainers do classes also, which you can find out about by contacting them directly (find them on our find a trainer page).
I hope this has been useful! The key thing to remember when you are stretching is that your body is clever, it doesn’t need to be forced, but worked with. Also have fun and enjoy it – it’s much harder to overstretch when you are working with your body and having fun, maybe because both are instinctive.
Enjoy your Moving Stretch!!