Living Better: Starting at the Core with Flexibility

by June 24, 2013 06/24/13
FlexibilityMain
2 of 5 in the series Living Better

Our bodies were designed to move, not sit in a chair or on a couch all day. I feel like American ailments are becoming worse these days and in my opinion, are directly related to atrophy.

I strongly believe in the use it or lose it philosophy and if you don’t take movement seriously, you’re going to lose it; plain and simple. Everyone, no matter what shape you’re in, has the ability to benefit from stretching.

Continuing our Living Better series today, I’ll be discussing flexibility through stretching, the use of foam rollers and even demonstrating my personal routines in a few videos. I’m a big advocate of stretching and even the days that I can’t get a workout in, I at least try to stretch.

Flexibility

I’ve had to work hard at being flexible for a good part of my life. I never took it very seriously until I started playing Ice Hockey when I was younger and wanted to be a great goalie like the pros I idolized.

In my mind, that included being able to do the splits in goalie pads and make those killer glove saves you only see in the highlight reels. Looking back, that was a bit ambitious, but it did get me to start taking stretching seriously. Eventually I was able to accomplish the splits, but was never able to pull off an amazing ESPN worthy save.

Staying flexible has always stayed with me though and I attribute that flexibility to staying injury free for the most part. I did have a hip flexor tear during my time in the Navy and also a hamstring injury due to my own negligence, but those aside, stretching is very important to me.

I sit in a desk quite a bit during the day writing and editing articles, like I am right now, but there’s not a day that goes by I don’t take breaks to stretch or move around.

Why Stretch?

My personal beliefs aside, stretching helps. It can increase athletic performance, improve circulation through increased blood flow, improve stress and most of all help you avoid injuries.

Here’s my stretching routine, just remember, this is what I do and it’s A way not THE way.

The books I recommended in the stretching video are Relax into Stretch by Pavel Tsatsouline and The 12 Weeks to BUD/s by Stew Smith.

Posture

I’d like to mention posture here for a bit. Something I’ve found that stretching has helped with, is my overall posture. That and being cognizant of what my posture looks like when I’m walking or sitting.

When I find myself slouching or rounding my back, I pull my shoulders back, stick my chest out and imagine a plumb line running from the top of my head down to my feet. This helps me to visualize the alignment of my spine. Taking these steps yourself will help you more than you realize!

Flexibility01

Foam Rollers

Since about 2004, I’ve been benefitting from the use of foam rollers. The premise behind these is self-myofascial release, akin to a deep tissue massage. It works by relaxing the muscle and allowing the activation of the antagonist muscle to aid in recovery. Foam rollers can also be described as a way to work out knots in major muscle groups.

There’s a school of thought out there that because foam rollers work through SMR on muscle groups, they’re ineffective on the iliotibial band, which is not a muscle. I’m here to tell you that for me personally, they’re extremely effective on ITB issues.

The ITB, or iliotibial band is a thick band running from the outside of the pelvis, over the hip and knee and terminating just below the knee. The continual rubbing of the band over the femur, due to the flexion and extension of the knee during running, can cause the ITB to become inflamed.

While I was at BUD/s, ITB injuries were rampant due to the amount of running we did every day. While we had a few people that wound up washing out due to running related injuries, ITB was commonly known as “I Tried BUD/s.”

Foam Rollers are very inexpensive and as noted in the video, I picked up the rollers I have at Amazon online for about $20 each. Here’s a link to the softer white foam roller and also the stiffer black foam roller.

Notes

To restate my goal with the Living Better series this year, I’m personally sharing what’s helped me over the years to stay healthy, happy and motivated.

If you’ve been looking for a way to start living a better and healthier life, give stretching a shot. It’s easy to do and only takes a few minutes each day. I guarantee you that you’ll notice an improvement to your life by adding stretching into your daily routine.

I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have too, so ask away in the comments below! Also, I’d love to hear what your stretching routine is.


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bryanpblack
bryanpblack

@AE Do you have a link to the findings? I'd be interested in reading that. I'm confused at how you don't see a benefit in stretching, yet talk about it helping to relieve your aching back? Not trying to stir anything up, just honestly interested in learning more on your perspective from that. Thanks!

AE
AE

Stretching has been shown to be of negligible value. In most cases it actually introduces tension into the muscle that is being stretched. There was a paper published just this year on these findings. As a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioner I personally stretch hamstrings only to help my aching back. My back is thrashed from 20+ yrs in the gym. BJJ is all core all the time, and we just don't stretch much.

Allwet
Allwet

Roger the stretching ,and end the work outs with some light core stuff....you will be amazed.

Allwet
Allwet

Roger the stretching ,and end the work outs with some light core stuff....you will be amazed.


Turbo
Turbo

At 51 year old, I can tell you if you don't use it, you WILL lose it.  Think how often you can through a day's activities and not bend you knees enough to really use them I started looking in to yoga and came across the ddp yoga, formally known as yrg yoga.  It has helped me tremendously.  I am sure there are other programs out there and if you know of any, please share.

Turbo
Turbo

At 51 year old, I can tell you if you don't use it, you WILL lose it.  Think how often you can through a day's activities and not bend you knees enough to really use them

I started looking in to yoga and came across the ddp yoga, formally known as yrg yoga.  It has helped me tremendously.  I am sure there are other programs out there and if you know of any, please share.

Matt B
Matt B

Thank for your insight and the overview of what you do in the way of stretches. I will incorporate some of this things into my daily routine. 

Matt B
Matt B

Thank for your insight and the overview of what you do in the way of stretches. I will incorporate some of this things into my daily routine.

Randy
Randy

Lacrosse balls are great for applying SMR to smaller muscle groups, especially the hip rotators, neck, spine, and around the shoulder blades and biceps tendon. Tennis balls are ok too, but I find that they aren't quite firm enough. A cheap and highly durable roller can be made from PVC pipe, camping mat and duct tape. They won't break down like some if the foam type will, and being hollow, you can store a lacrosse ball or resistance tube inside for transport.

martino
martino

You can also use a pool noodle for WAY less (if you want a smaller diameter for smaller people for multi-purpose (2-5/8" instead of 6") - i.e. wall rocking that my wife is instructed to do with a rolled towel that always loses shape - this is MUCH better :)

Nick
Nick

Great article as usual!

Josiah
Josiah

Suggestions for elbow inflammation? I don't per say over use them. I train daily while on deployment, all "functional" movements. Mainly sandbag, ruck sack, and body weighted movements...however, I for sure notice my elbows feel for a lack of a better term "cashed" on a daily basis.

Martin
Martin

Back in 20120 I carried about 12 units of books on my back for a semester. By doing that it jacked it up so much that I had to go to the doctor for about 3 times a week for 45 minutes to have someone work on my back. It was not until I was about %80 done with my sessions with my massage therapist that I realized that he was not the only one that could solve my back problems and I had to find a way to solve the problem in my own life.

I went to a place here in town that specializes in massage therapy and sending you home with homework, that home work was stretching for me. I now doing 7 stretches once a day and have an inversion table. After watching this video I plan on doing more research into what stretches I should add to my routine. Thanks Bryan for the wonderful insight on how to help all of us live a healthy life.

Martin

Martin
Martin

Back in 20120 I carried about 12 units of books on my back for a semester. By doing that it jacked it up so much that I had to go to the doctor for about 3 times a week for 45 minutes to have someone work on my back. It was not until I was about %80 done with my sessions with my massage therapist that I realized that he was not the only one that could solve my back problems and I had to find a way to solve the problem in my own life. I went to a place here in town that specializes in massage therapy and sending you home with homework, that home work was stretching for me. I now doing 7 stretches once a day and have an inversion table. After watching this video I plan on doing more research into what stretches I should add to my routine. Thanks Bryan for the wonderful insight on how to help all of us live a healthy life. Martin

Brian Wanhala
Brian Wanhala

Becoming a Supple Leopard is a great book to reference for stretching and mobility.

MRI HULK
MRI HULK

Another great article. informative and helpful. Thanks

Shaun
Shaun

Where can I get a kettle bell like that?

bryanpblack
bryanpblack moderator

@AE Do you have a link to the findings? I'd be interested in reading that. I'm confused at how you don't see a benefit in stretching, yet talk about it helping to relieve your aching back? Not trying to stir anything up, just honestly interested in learning more on your perspective from that. Thanks!

artrain
artrain

@Turbo at 50, I agree. I actually used bands on a device you hook to the door. I get stretching, weight resistance (bands are 25, 35 & 40 lbs that you can combine) cardio and lots of body weight (push up pull ups). Thanks for the yoga suggestion.

artrain
artrain

@Turbo at 50, I agree. I actually used bands on a device you hook to the door. I get stretching, weight resistance (bands are 25, 35 & 40 lbs that you can combine) cardio and lots of body weight (push up pull ups). Thanks for the yoga suggestion.

martino
martino

er, sorry, that should "MUCH better than a rolled towel" (I got the idea while looking for a smaller diameter foam roller for my wife to replace her towel that always loses shape and has to be re-rolled constantly)

Bryan Black
Bryan Black

Josiah, are you having tennis elbow symptoms?

Bryan Black
Bryan Black

Hey Martin, thanks for sharing your story and I do hope that the stretches I showed helped you out. You might want to try out some foam rolling on your back and see if that helps too. The inversion table sounds great and I'm glad to hear that's helping for you.

Appreciate the kind words and your continued support!

Bryan Black
Bryan Black

Hey Martin, thanks for sharing your story and I do hope that the stretches I showed helped you out. You might want to try out some foam rolling on your back and see if that helps too. The inversion table sounds great and I'm glad to hear that's helping for you. Appreciate the kind words and your continued support!

Bryan Black
Bryan Black

I definitely recommend the Demon Bells, not just because they look awesome, but they have more surface area than a traditional rounded Kettle Bell. Thanks for the comment and I'm glad you liked the info on the foam rollers!

Bryan Black
Bryan Black

Hey Shaun, there's a couple of links here in the comments. Those are Demon Bells.

Bryan Black
Bryan Black

Yep, that's the one I have. It's just an earlier model and from the photos it looks like they're no longer including a "glossy" coating on them.

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