Frequently Asked Questions
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|Balancing||What is a balancing muscle group?|
|Opposing||What is an opposing (counter-balancing) muscle group?|
|Completing||What is a completing muscle group?|
In order to get a true gain in flexibility, you must continuously contract the target muscle group while elongating it. Many forms of traditional stretching involve contracting the muscle for a specific period of time at a certain point in the stretch. Other forms of stretching don't involve muscle contraction at all, which results in over-stretching and possibly injuring the target muscle group. With Resistance Stretching, you begin all stretches in a position where the muscle(s) are as short as possible and move into a position where the muscle(s) are as long as possible (while resisting continuously). Most of the stretch occurs during the movement and not at the end point of the stretch.
Resistance Flexibility Training provides immediate, cumulative, and over time permanent increases in flexibility. Most people are surprised at the feeling the stretch provides immediately after their first experience. It is truly a unique and powerful way to use your muscles that most people have not experienced throughout their entire lives. The results will be felt immediately, however it can take many repetitions of specific stretches as well as life changes to release chronic tension in certain areas of the body. Many people find that after they start Resistance Stretching, they find the "problem" areas of their body and gain a greater understanding of their pain and problems. As they begin to focus on these areas and stretch them out, they usually start making changes in their life situation as well. Switching to an organic diet is usually one of the first things to change.
The Principle of Optimal Stretch/Contraction Length: It is not well known that the ability of a muscle to shorten is directly proportional to its ability to lengthen. Therefore, limited flexibility translates into limited shortening capacity which is an obstacle to achieving excellence in performance.
Maximum Flexibility = Maximum Contraction
If the resting length of a muscle is this long:
And if maximal flexibility length can be achieved:
Then this contraction shortening length is possible:
If again, the resting length of a muscle is this long:
And sub-maximal flexibility is only 25% greater than resting length:
Then only 25% contraction shortening can occur:
Resistance Flexibility and Strength Training is perfect for those who are searching for a well rounded total body workout. Resistance Stretching can be used to take the tension out of the tight areas of the body, and the stretches can be reversed to provide Resistance Strength Training to the areas of the body that are weak.
RFST is also for those who already have a workout routine. Resistance Stretching will provide the muscles that are used for working out the balancing action of strength training, which is elongating the muscle while contracting simultaneously. This will not only relieve tension, stress, and pain, but will also prepare your muscles for future workouts thereby increasing your total performance.
Pain while stretching is generally caused by failing to contract the muscle while elongating it. Without the contraction, you may simply be over-extending and over-stretching the muscle, which is painful and may lead to injury.
Each of the 16 Resistance Stretches can be reversed to provide Resistance Strength Training. This is where you begin in a position where the muscle(s) are as long as possible and move into a position where the muscle(s) are as short as possible while resisting continuously.
You can also target a specific muscle group and do a back-to-back set of Resistance Flexibility Training and Resistance Strength Training to provide an aerobic workout for the muscle group. This is where you begin with your muscle elongated, contract and shorten your muscle to strength train, and then continue to contract your muscle while you elongate it going back to the beginning position for a Resistance Stretch, and repeat.
The Principle of Aerobic and Flexibility: Aerobic capacity has not only a very high correlation with recovery, but that it is also a prerequisite to being able to do the number of repeats and sets of resistance flexibility training necessary to upgrade muscles. The more aerobically healthy a muscle is, the more endurance a person has to continue to resistance flexibility train those muscles. The high oxidative state of aerobically healthy muscles results in the most rapid changes in flexibility and strength.
The Principle of Strength and Flexibility: Because muscles contract eccentrically while stretching and because the fascia is impregnated along muscles and not just around it, it is essential that the muscles be strong enough to contract while being stretched in order to engage the fascia during the movement. If the muscle isn't strong enough to contract maximally, both in generating tension and in shortening, the fascia cannot be renovated or reconstructed sufficiently to produce upgrades in flexibility.
It takes two to six times the force to stretch a muscle as it does to strengthen it. Surprisingly, the beginning of the strength phase results in increases in flexibility because the muscle is elongated while contracting.
What is an Energy Flow Series?
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), energy flows from one meridian muscle pathway to the next in a very specific order. In TCM this order is called the 'Energy Cycle'. This order is determined by the depth of the muscles in the body and begins with the muscles associated with the Gall Bladder, with the next always being its balancing muscle group, in this case Liver, and then on through all the rest. The cycle always includes two lower body, then two upper body meridian muscle groups, and then repeats two more of each. Ultimately all 16 have been completed.
When you Resistance Flexibility train, the Energy Flow Series takes you through all sixteen muscle groups in a specific order. This order brings energy from one meridian muscle group and its associated organ to the next.
Balancing muscle groups are referred to as the agonist and antagonist in western physical therapy. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, each meridian has a balancing meridian and the same applies in Resistance Flexibility Training. For example, the gall bladder meridian runs along the lateral muscle group in the lower body. The liver meridian is the balancing muscle group that is located directly through the leg and runs through the medial muscle group. If you find that your gall bladder meridian muscle group is tight, and you aren't getting results from stretching it, it is most likely because your balancing muscle group is too tight or weak. In order for your gall bladder meridian muscle group to fully elongate, the balancing muscle group must be flexible enough to be able to fully shorten. So you would want to stretch and strengthen your liver and then go back to the gall bladder and see if you have made progress. If you still are not making flexibility gains in the gall bladder, you will need to stretch and strengthen the opposing (counter-balancing) muscle groups.
The Principle of Balancing Muscles: Balancing muscles are located directly through the bone across from each other and have opposite directions of action. In Western anatomy, these same muscles are called agonist and antagonist of one another. Because the sixteen meridian muscle groups balance as eight pairs of muscle groups, they are called balancing meridian muscle groups. The balancing muscles are dependent on each other to make possible maximum shortening and lengthening movements, because as one side of the body shortens the other lengthens. But because both the strengthening and stretching of any muscle depends on the flexibility of its balancing muscle, the balancing muscle group is always the determining factor in developing the strength and flexibility of the muscle (assuming there is no unusual damage to the muscle group you are trying to strengthen or stretch).
The Principle of Opposing (Counter-Balancing) Muscle Groups: The muscles that are perpendicular to one another are called opposing muscle groups (to be distinguished from balancing muscle groups that are located directly through the bone across from each other and have opposite directions of action). The action of opposing muscle groups is surprising. Their level of strength and flexibility govern the proper rotation of the muscle group that you are stretching. For example, the muscles on the outside of your thighs determine the correct rotation of your thigh when you are using your hip flexors.
Stretch the superficial opposing MMG to troubleshoot the target muscle group. Stretch the true opposing MMG to develop the high personality traits necessary for optimal functioning and development of the target MMG.
Example of Opposing Muscle Groups
Completing muscle groups are the 'top' for lower body muscle groups and the 'bottom' for upper body muscle groups. For example, the gall bladder meridian runs through the lateral muscle group in the lower body and the thymus meridian runs through the lateral muscle group in the upper body. They are completing muscle groups.
Example of Completing Muscle Groups
Natural breathing is the best way to breathe when Resistance Stretching. Your body knows how to breathe, you simply have to let it show you. But most people think that they know best how to make themselves breathe, so they begin to control their breath in a myriad number of ways. Please consider this suggestion about your breathing: your body breathes you when you are asleep, so the only difference in your breathing when you are awake is that you are moving about considerably by comparison, and when awake you are of course more or less conscious of your breathing. When awake, sometimes you find you are holding you breath after you inhale, sometimes you are retaining your breath after you exhale, and sometimes you are just inhaling or exhaling.
This involuntary breathing mechanism is the foundation of how you breathe, but you can also facilitate better breathing. When you find yourself becoming aware of your breathing, trust that this awareness is what tells your brain how you are breathing, and then your brain will use this involuntary system to show you how to breathe better. Remember that your awareness of your body is what connects your body to your brain. Just because they are wired together does not mean the phone line is connected. The connection only happens through your awareness. Intentionally altering your breathing without allowing your body to show you first is a direct violation of how you were designed to breathe.
Trauma creates habitual ways of breathing poorly. Fascial damage is released from those parts of your body when you Resistance Flexibility Train. If you keep your attention on those parts of your body while you stretch, you will not reenact the way your body was breathing when the trauma occurred.
So when you are doing different types of Resistance Flexibility exercises, your body will breathe in very different ways that are inseparably linked to those specific parts of your body that you are stretching. Stretching certain muscles requires certain ways to breathe, while other muscles require breathing in other ways. Learn from you body how to breathe in sixteen different ways.
See New Ways of Breathing on page 45 of The Genius of Flexibility for more information.
The order that you do the stretches in depends on your goals for the stretching session. For example, if you are limited on time and want to clear your channels before you start your day, you could go through the energy flow series. Or, if you feel that your quads are really tight, you could do a set of stomach stretches.
We recommend that when you work on one muscle group, you follow up by stretching the balancing muscle group as well. You might sometimes feel like doing a set of stomach stretches followed by a set of pancreas stretches, and then repeating. Then perhaps you may feel like stretching the completing muscle groups by doing a set of lung and large intestine stretches.
As you progress in flexibility, you will become aware of your emotional, spiritual, and psychological health. For example, at some point in the day, you may feel like you have negative and depressing thoughts or you may have feelings of abandonment. This would cue you in to stretch your small intestine.
The 45 Degree Arch Principle of Muscle Action: Each muscle group generally moves your body about a 45 degree arch. So when you either strength train or flexibility train a muscle, you need to move that body part across that range. For example, when you stretch the lateral hamstring by flexing, adducting, and inwardly rotating the thigh, this will need to be done in many repeats throughout the 45 degree arch in order to stretch all the fibers of the muscle.
The Principle of the Path of Greatest Resistance: The path of greatest resistance is the direction that is the most difficult to move your muscle in.
While stretching, you will find that there are many different angles and directions to move your muscles while contracting and elongating them. For optimal gains in flexibility, resistance stretch the muscle at different angles and directions until you find the path where you resist the most. This is the tightest movement pattern of the muscle and the best area to target while stretching.
The Principle of the Path of Least Resistance: The path of least resistance is the direction that is the easiest for your muscle to move in.
While strengthening, you will find that there are many different angles and directions to move your muscles while contracting and shortening them. For optimal gains in strength, resistance strength train the muscle at different angles and directions until you find the path where you resist the least. This is the path that the muscles want to move in while strengthening and will insure that the weakest movement pattern of the muscle is strengthened in exactly the way that it needs to be strengthened.
The Principle of Action verses the Stretch of the Muscles: The action of any muscle can only be accurately defined by including one of each of the following: flexion or extension, abduction or adduction, and inward or outward rotation. For example, the stomach meridian muscle group's action is to flex, abduct and outwardly rotate the thigh. Therefore, you would need to extend, adduct, and inwardly rotate the thigh to stretch those meridian muscle groups.
Let your body be the authority. You may find that it is best to begin by starting slowly and gradually increasing speed and resistance or vice versa.
Resistance Flexibility Training differs from common stretching methods in that most of the stretch occurs during the movement of the muscle and not at the end point of the stretch. Consider how strength training works: you start with the muscle elongated and then you shorten and contract the muscle. If you want maximum strength gain, you wouldn't want to shorten and contract the muscle and then continue to hold the weight once your muscle is shortened. Instead, you would want to do a set of reps. The same applies for Resistance Flexibility Training. Elongate and contract, and if you wish, you can continue to contract isometrically at the end of the stretch, but it's best to do a set of reps.
For a great Resistance Stretch, start in a position where the target muscle group is a short as possible. Then begin contracting the muscle group and elongate at the same time. Keep elongating your muscle as long as you can continuoulsy resist and as long as the balancing muscle group is able to shorten. This is your true flexibility range. If you continue to elongate your muscle when you can no longer resist or when your balancing muscle group is not flexible enough to fully shorten, you are in danger of over-stretching and injuring the muscle.
The Principle of True Flexibility: Most everyone thinks range of motion is a measure of flexibility, but it is not. Many bone rotational substitutions or muscle substitutions can occur that produce an apparent fabulous range of motion when the person is not truly flexible. What then is true flexibility? A muscle is only truly flexible to the point where it can continue to maximally resist while being lengthened. When a muscle can no longer contract maximally, it is being over-stretched and is subject to injury. Increased flexibility translates into increased biomechanical efficiency as well as increases in power, speed, and acceleration. Flexible muscles are much less likely to be injured and more likely to stay youthful longer. A muscle is not flexible if it cannot contract at any point while being elongated, regardless of range. True flexibility is the highest correlating factor for athletic and artistic success.
This depends on your goals for the stretching session. If you are going through an energy flow series, you may want to do anywhere from 6 - 10 reps of each stretch on each side. This allows you to get a decent stretch on all of your muscle groups in an efficient amount of time. If you are focusing on a certain muscle group, you may choose to do many more reps of Resistance Flexibility Training, and possibly Resistance Strength Training as well. Stop stretching when you feel that your muscles are becoming fatigued. It takes twice as long for your muscles to recover when you stretch them to the point of fatigue.
This also depends on your goals for the stretching session. You may prefer to do a quick 15 - 20 minute energy flow series or a two and a half hour intense stretching session. Or, you may choose to do a quick arm stretch or two as you are waiting in line at the grocery store. Remember to stop stretching before your muscles become fatigued and let your body be the authority. Stretch whenever you feel tension in your body, whenever you feel emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually burdened. Eventually, you will know exactly what stretches you need to do and when.
You must resist maximally for optimal gains in flexibility. This can normally only be done by having another person assist you because it takes two to six times the force to stretch a muscle as it does to strengthen it. However, take it easy, and let your body gauge how much resistance to use. Start off resisting to where the stretch feels good, and then gradually increase resistance as your body sees fit. It is important to remember to not overdo yourself and not to resist to the point where you fatigue your muscles. If you can't breathe when resisting, then you are resisting too hard.
You should always place yourself in a position where you have the greatest leverage while stretching and you generally want to apply pressure to the bone as opposed to the muscle if possible. For example, to do the bent leg central hamstring stretch, you can place both hands on your lower calf or both hands on your heel, or maybe just one hand on your heel. You could also grab the middle of your foot from the side, or cup your hand around your toes to grab the bottom of your foot. Always search for the position where you can resist the most and have the greatest amount of leverage.
The Principle of Origin and Insertion: Because the insertion bone is the lever that characteristically moves when a muscle contracts and shortens, you would likewise move this insertion bone while keeping the origin bone(s) relatively stable while stretching.
There are four aspects to stretching: position, resistance, breathing, and the psychological effects. While all of these are important, it is best to keep your focus on whatever 'comes up' while stretching. Each stretch will cause you to experience different sensations. Most people find that focusing on the sensations that arise while stretching provides the best results. Learning how to follow your attention is one of the most valuable lessons that can be gained from resistance stretching.
Many people find that warming up before stretching allows them to have greater gains in flexibility. You could do an energy flow series to warm up before focusing in on a certain muscle group. Or, you could skip the warm up, and begin focusing on a certain muscle group and gradually increase resistance as your muscle warms up. Once you have done enough repetitions to warm up the muscle group, you could then begin resisting maximally for optimal gains in flexibility. It is best to make sure your muscles are warmed up before resisting maximally. We highly recommend infrared saunas.
As you advance in your stretching, you will find that your eating habits will dramatically improve. Your sweet cravings will become less frequent, over eating will occur less often, and the quality and type of food you purchase and consume will improve. We recommend supporting and consuming certified organic food. It's also important to be sure you are getting omega-3 fatty acids. Consider taking a high quality, purified, antioxidant protected fish oil from a reputable company that screens the fish oil for mercury and contaminants. Ensuring your diet is organic, nutrient packed, low-glycemic, and high in antioxidants as well healthy fats is the surest way to become more healthy and more flexible. Many people 'hit a wall' with their flexibility gains simply because their bodies are too toxic.
The Principle of Nutrient Rich Food and Flexibility: What you eat is what you body is made of, including the water your drink and the freshness of the air you breathe. The longer a person has had a nutrient dense organic/biodynamic food diet, the greater their flexibility. How they are capable of digesting that food is another enormous factor and is determined by the flexibility and strength of the meridian muscle groups associated with digestion, including the stomach, small intestine, gall bladder, liver, spleen/pancreas, and large intestine. Other organs can also have significant effects on digestion including the sexual organs, thymus, and appendix.
You probably need help. Find a certified Elite Trainer and sign up for private sessions. If the injured area is in too much pain for Resistance Strength Training or Resistance Flexibility Training, stretch and strengthen the muscles surrounding the injured area, especially the balancing and opposing muscle groups. Once your injured area is healthy enough to be worked on directly, you will need to perform many repetitions of Resistance Strength Training and Resistance Flexibility Training on the problem area. Focus on these muscles until you feel that they have had a good workout, then move onto other areas of the body. Then go back to the injured muscles and repeat. Focus on the injured muscles until they 'catch up' with the rest of your body. Eventually, the many repetitions to the injured areas of your body will eliminate the scar tissue and additional layers of tough connective tissue. You may also want to do many repetitions of stomach stretches because the stomach is physiologically associated with the muscular system.
Continuously contract the target muscle group while elongating it and ensure that the balancing muscle group is able to simultaneously shorten. The contraction keeps the muscle "in check" and as long as you are contracting, you are preventing the muscle from being over-stretched, provided the balancing muscle group is also shortening.
If you have had a really good stretching workout, you should feel a 'good' soreness later that day or perhaps even two days afterward. If you feel uncomfortably sore after stretching, you probably overdid yourself or did something wrong that needs to be identified and corrected. Many people are sore after they are first introduced to stretching, but as time moves on, their body is more capable of recovering faster and the soreness decreases. To keep soreness at a minimum, make sure that you are training just enough but not too much, have sufficient vitamin (food based) and mineral intake, great organic food and hydration, as well as healthy emotional, spiritual, and psychological health.