Stretching Smarter
Stretching Healthier

Better Mobility Through Healthier Real Life Movement

 

© Jolie Bookspan. MEd, PhD, FAWM

 

 


 

WELCOME to Smarter Healthier Stretching on my large no-charge web site DrBookspan.com. I am a research scientist and clinician in physiology and medicine in extremes of heat, cold, injury states, altitude, underwater, nutritional states, and more. I do studies to find why rehab treatments and top training techniques don't work as hoped, and what works better. I hope you will enjoy using my work for healthier life and training to go higher, faster, deeper, stronger, braver, and sometimes funnier.

THIS PAGE shows how to quickly stop common sources of pain and tightness that come from common stretches and habits. Just as there are junk foods, there are junk stretches. Junk stretches are common and packaged to sell, but not healthy - it's not health care if it's not healthy. Start fixing your own pain and tightness yourself, now, today using this summary and others on my web site. Use these techniques to get your life back - healthy, mobile, and happy. Be Prepared To Stretch Your Brain.

For more, get my BOOKS, come for CLASSES, or online private consult to answer questions over e-mail, or maybe a rare Private Appointment. More about me in Adventures.

 

SITE MAP. At the bottom of this page (and every page) are main navigation links to all the other articles, plus buttons to SHARE, TWEET, and LIKE. Have fun.

 

To keep this quick and easy, use this summary to get better now, and get the books to fill in the rest:

ALT =[“Stretching Smarter Stretching Healthier by Dr. Jolie Bookspan. Effective quick methods for healthier range of motion during daily life, sports, exercise, and at home. Available from author web site http://drbookspan.com/books”]

Stretching Smarter Stretching Healthier in print edition, eBook and Kindle.

 


 

 

Why Apply Healthy Movement To Real Life

 

 

My Students of the Black Belt Hall of Fame Class of 2014




A Letter From Master Hiron John, President of INTERNATIONAL LINKED TAEKWON-DO, 7th Degree Black Belt:

"Thank you for your kind words of wisdom in at the Black Belt Hall of Fame event, I have been applying the stretching methods you taught and have felt the release in my back to the extent I am able to train again.

"We have started implementing your stretches in our classes and are noticing the effects in our students, particularly with regards to their improved posture and movement ability.

"Your books are great; an excellent reference tool. They also exercise the mind by making me think."
Regards, Hiron


 

Do Stretches Fix Injuries?

 

 

Stretches That Perpetuate The Same Painful Posture and Movement Habits You Started With

After rounding forward all day over the computer, desk, steering wheel, handlebars, and backpack, more forward rounding for stretches and exercise is not healthful or needed.

A habit at the root of much pain and tightness is that many people do most or all of their stretches by bending forward:

They stretch hamstrings by bending over forward or by sitting bent forward

Bring knee to chest

Hang forward at the waist or hips for "hinges"

Bring the arm forward across the body

Lunge bent forward, instead up upright

Most Pilates, fitness class, and yoga moves emphasize forward bending. The several back pain articles on this web site describe problems that this much forward bending causes to the muscles, bones, and discs of your back.

There are many more examples.

Forward stretching does stretch your back, but back muscles are usually already too long and overstretched from a lifestyle of bending forward. The muscles in front - the chest and the front of the shoulder - get shorter and tighter. You would get a nice stretch for the lower back that is not hard on discs, each time you did good bending instead of bending forward. See the Fix Back Pain pages for good bending examples.

After bending forward over a computer all day,
you don't need more bending forward and rounding your back as a stretch

 

 

 

Do You Need To Warm Up Before All Stretching and Hold Every Stretch 30 Seconds?

You need a good range of motion for normal daily life. You need to crouch to retrieve things, step up a doorway, reach in cabinets, and do  a variety of ranges and movements all day every day for normal healthy lifestyle. You need to have built-in range already and be able to stretch to these ranges without elaborate preparation. If you are so tight that you would strain or tear without warming up first, every time you moved in real life, you are not healthy and changes are indicated so that you can move spontaneously in healthy ways.

I have also been finding over years of collecting patient results and in actual studies that "moving stretches" are highly effective as a stretch, as a movement re-trainer, and to help quicken the body's normal repair of damaged areas. In many cases, the "moving stretches" that I have developed are better than "holdIng" static stretches. Moving in needed ranges (small quick excursions up and down, side to side, diagonals and so on) while maintaining healthy specific stretch positioning makes effective stretch, loosens tight areas, and helps rehab damaged areas, as long as stretch range is less than any pain or "yanking" feeling on the damaged area.

In some cases, "holding" stretches at maximum range, popular in yoga, restricts circulation. Moving stretches, so far, seem good for circulation.

 

 

The Results Are Common

  1. People spend much time doing stretches that add to the problems they started with.

  2. They lose the flexibility needed to simply stand up straight.

  3. This often results in chronic low-grade aches, injury, and wear and tear from habitual unhealthy positioning.

 


 

What To Do

The first thing is to remember that stretching (range of motion) is most important during all you do in your daily real life. You need stretches that teach and practice the same healthy positioning you need when you bend for things, reach, pick things up, dress yourself, do fun activities. All your range of motion for these things needs to be healthy positioning - not bent over, or with one segment twisted, or slouching under body weight, as practiced in most conventional stretches.

You need to know how to move one part while the REST of your body is in healthy comfortable relaxed position. It is so very common to forget that during conventional stretches, the rest of you is often in the silliest positions that don't benefit health, and that practice and reinforce unhealthy, tight, contorted  posture, that don't transfer to real life when you need to stand, and balance, and stabilize the supporting limbs, while you do what you like to do.

 

Dr. Bookspan's SIX QUICK STRETCHES

To address the above two problems and others, I developed a set of SIX QUICK STRETCHES that incorporate balance, knee, ankle, and hip stabilization for healthy standing, teach healthier upper body positioning, and work muscles in the way you need for more range of movement, balance, joint health, spine positioning, and movement.

 

Six Quick Stretches

1.

1. Standing Hamstring Stretch

 

For the leg you are stretching:


Lift one leg straight in front of you until you get desired stretch on the hamstring of that leg. Don't round your back or hunch your shoulders. Pay attention to hold relaxed but upright healthful body position.

Pull the leg higher with your hands if desired, eventually training flexibility plus strength and ability to raise leg high without hands.

For the REST of your body, do the following:

Position your foot of the leg you are standing on, to face straight ahead, not turned out. In general, whichever direction your foot faces, keep the foot and knee facing in the SAME DIRECTION so that you are not twisting at the knee joint. Use your sense of body position, or watch in a mirror to see and feel if you are slouching at the knee to cause your knee to rotate inward or angles inward. Both these slouches contribute to knee pain and excess wear.

Notice your foot and arch. If you slouch so that your foot flattens toward the floor, use foot and ankle muscles to raise your arch to neutral. Make sure you do not flatten your arch and foot against the floor to help balance. Maintain your arch, and increase balance sense with healthy foot placement.

Keep your body weight on the entire foot, pushing more back to the heel for more stretch.

Keep your hip vertical, not curling under you. Allow the front of your pelvis and hip of the standing leg to get a needed stretch. If you curl the hip under, you are not really stretching the hamstring of the lifted leg as much as you think. and you lose a valuable stretch of the front of the hip and thigh of the standing leg.

Breathe in and out easily and normally while you adjust to healthy position and learn it.

Hold a few seconds then without touching your foot to the floor, go right to Stretch Two, next

 

2.

2. Standing Side Stretch - leg abductors, groin

 

For the areas you are stretching:

Lift the same leg straight out to the side.

Don't round your back or hunch your shoulders. Pay attention to hold relaxed but upright healthful body position.

 

As always, for the rest of your body use the following:

Keep the standing foot and kneecap facing in the SAME DIRECTION so that you are not twisting the knee joint. Watch in a mirror or use your sense of body position to feel if you are slouching at the knee that that your your knee turns inward.

Notice your foot and arch. Use foot and ankle muscles to lift your arch to neutral. Make sure you do not flatten your arch and foot against the floor to help balance. Keep your arch and increase your real balance using your muscles.

Breathe in and out normally while you adjust to healthy position and learn it.

Hold a few seconds then without touching your foot to the floor, go right to Stretch Three, next

 

3.

3. Standing Side Stretch - Hip, leg abductors, groin, upper body, shoulder stretch - adding strength and balance

 

For the areas you are stretching:

Keeping the same leg lifted straight out to the side. tilt your entire body to HORIZONTAL

LIft your lower arm UP to horizontal. Put the top arm flat down to your body.

Keep lifting the leg higher to HORIZONTAL

Notice your upper body. Make sure you hold straight, not rounding forward. Don't bend the leg at the hip. EXTEND at the hip to straight from body to leg.

 

As always, for the rest of your body use the following:

Keep the standing foot and kneecap facing in the SAME DIRECTION so that you are not twisting the knee joint.

Use foot and ankle muscles to lift your arch to neutral. Make sure you do not flatten your arch and foot against the floor to help balance. Keep your arch and increase your real balance using your muscles.

Breathe in and out while you adjust to healthy position and use your brain to know that you are learning it.

Hold a few seconds then without touching your foot to the floor, go right to Stretch Four, next

 

4.

4. Standing "Shoe" Stretch - Posterior Hip, Achilles, Balance

 

For the areas you are stretching:

Standing on the same leg, cross the other one as if tying your shoe.

Keep your upper body as upright as you can, not rounding or leaning forward.

Keep your body weight on the entire foot, pushing more back to the heel for more stretch.

Bend your knee to go lower. Eventually to touch the floor with your hands. However the point is to get useful stretch, not to touch the floor. The position you use is what you need, not to check off a "rule."

USE this every day for real to put on and take off your shoes and socks, trousers, and to tie your shoes.

 

As always, for your entire body keep healthy positioning:

Keep the standing foot and kneecap facing in the SAME DIRECTION so that you are not twisting the knee joint.

Use foot and ankle muscles to lift your arch to neutral. Make sure you do not flatten your arch and foot against the floor to help balance. Keep your arch and increase your real balance using your muscles.

Breathe in and out while you adjust to healthy position and use your brain to know that you are learning it.

Hold a few seconds then without touching your foot to the floor, go right to Stretch Five, next

 

 

5.

5. Standing Neutral Spine Quadriceps (entire front thigh) and Anterior Hip Stretch

 

For the areas you are stretching:

Standing on the same leg, lift the other one in back to your hold in hand.

Keep your upper body as upright as you can, not rounding or leaning forward.

TUCK the pelvis to neutral spine so that it does not tilt, but is vertical. Pushing the hips forward is not tucking. Changing from a tilted pelvis to vertical is the action needed. It reduces a large inward lumbar curve to a smaller one. Pushing the hips forward is the opposite and increases the angle of the lower spine. If it causes pain, you are doing it wrong. Check in a mirror what you are doing compared to what you think you are doing. Use the photos and videos on the neutral spine/ fixing swayback page for reference.

If you do not use neutral spine, you will miss the majority of this stretch and also use usefulness of it to teach you healthful spine positioning for life. If you do not know about neutral spine or are not sure how to do it, use my web page on Fixing Swayback.

 

As always, for the rest of your body use the following:

Keep the standing foot and kneecap facing in the SAME DIRECTION so that you are not twisting the knee joint.

Use foot and ankle muscles to lift your arch to neutral. Make sure you do not flatten your arch and foot against the floor to help balance. Keep your arch and increase your real balance using your muscles.

Breathe in and out while you adjust to healthy position and use your brain to know that you are learning it.

Hold a few seconds then without touching your foot to the floor, go right to Stretch Six, next

 

 

6.

 

6. Standing Posterior Hip Stretch, Back and Leg EXTENSORS, Upper Back, and Anterior Hip Stretch

 

For the areas you are stretching:

Standing on the same leg, let go of the foot in your hand, and continue to hold it up while straightening the leg.

Come to completely horizontal position from head to foot.

Keep your upper body uplifted, not rounding downward.

Put both arms out to the side at horizontal position. Feel how the shoulders stay relaxed, and in healthful neutral position, not lifted or rounded.

Use this knowledge to be able to raise both arms overhead while keeping shoulders in position - not hunching upward or rounding.

DON'T lift arms overhead without learning healthy shoulder position first.

 

NOTE: The muscles that EXTEND the leg and body are important but usually neglected muscles. In most conventional stretches, bending forward, or keeping the hip bent is emphasized. You will know if you stretched and used your back and leg extensors well by doing this, if your backside is pleasantly sore from exertion the next day after learning this.

 

One of many real life applications of Stretch 6

 

Thank you to John Harwood for baseball photo http://farm1.static.flickr.com/68/208081960_82cf8837bd_m.jpg

 

As always:

Keep the standing foot and kneecap facing in the SAME DIRECTION so that you are not twisting the knee joint.

Use foot and ankle muscles to lift your arch to neutral. Make sure you do not flatten your arch and foot against the floor to help balance. Keep your arch and increase your real balance using your muscles.

Breathe in and out while you adjust to healthy position and use your brain to know that you are learning it.

Hold a few seconds then stand with both feet on the floor, and go back to Stretch ONE, above, to repeat the sequence on the other leg. Repeat as needed.

 

My Black Belt Hall of Fame Class of 2016 practicing Stretch 3. Standing Side Stretch.

 

 

My Black Belt Hall of Fame Class of 2016 practicing Stretch 4 Standing "Shoe" Stretch - Posterior Hip, Achilles, Balance.

 


 

Students of Stretching Healthier, April 2016

 

Cathy Sander (third from left in above class photo) writes:

"I had years of Physical Therapy, chiropractic and massage. They were all helpful, but I was a slave to them. Plus, I still hurt. Dr. Bookspan got to the root of the problems in one class. She showed me how to move and use my body to stretch and strengthen WHILE I participate in everyday activities. I can now spend more time moving AND sitting (reading, art, paperwork, etc.) without fear of debilitating neck and back pain. I now know WHY I was having the pain and WHAT TO DO to correct the problems. Priceless."

"Dr. Bookspan responded to our feedback and tailored the class to suit our needs. She worked with individuals and the group. She did all that while making the class FUN! She also sent a follow-up email summarizing everything we learned in class with page numbers corresponding to the book. So helpful.

 


 

Summary For Healthier Smarter Stretching

  1. Understanding the greater picture of why a stretch is functional or not, tells you more than just a list of where the stretch "targets."
  2. Check your list of exercises and stretches. The majority of conventional stretches bend forward - sitting, lying, and standing bent over. Doing a few extension stretches the "other way" does not cancel the great majority of the time that people spent training a bent forward position in daily life. Many people sit at work for many hours a day, then stretch with many bent forward positions. More forward bending is not needed. Stretching needs to use your brain.

  3. Stretching just to make joints go to greater range does not in itself, translate to better use of the joint during real life movement.

  4. For many people, good flexibility means bending forward to touch the toes. Many of these same people don't have the flexibility to stand up straight. Their body and movement patterns are trained and tightened to a bent forward position. They cannot straighten out enough to comfortably lie flat without a pillow under head or knees, or stand with their back against a wall with the back of their head touching the wall without craning their neck or lower back. Their back and shoulders are too rounded and lengthened. They stand, walk, and do all activities at joint angles that impinge, grind, rub, and stress. This is functional tightness. It is a common consequence of modern exercises even posture exercises.

  5. The idea of stretching needs to be reframed as specific retraining to so you know what is healthy and  unhealthy movement, and that you no longer stand, sit, and move with strained unhealthful positioning. it doesn't happen by itself or through posture exercises.

  6. Stretching needs reform.
  7. When you stretch one area, don't wreck the others.
  8. Bad body ergonomics of rounding forward is a common cause of upper back and neck pain, often mistaken for "stress" or arthritis or whatever else is on the x-ray but not the main or even related cause of pain. Watch people at the gym and in life. Notice how often fitness publications ask you to practice being bent over. Instead, get functional stretching.

 

Use good healthy movement retraining (Functional Stretching), described in Stretching Smarter Stretching Healthier, to regain needed muscle length for healthy positioning for all you do, not just during your few moments of stretches. That is how stretching can benefit you in your daily life.

 

Use these easy principles when you move in real life and when you stretch  -  instead of merely "doing" reps of stretches.

Feel better starting now.

 


 

Simple and Different -
Don't Change These Concepts and Methods - These Methods Work Only As Written and Intended

It's been said, "Any man who afflicts the human race with ideas must be prepared to see them misunderstood"  Even so, please don't change my work back into "what you know." This is different and works differently than fad stretches that have become ingrained in fitness.

To paraphrase Bertrand Russell, "An untrained man's report of what a knowledgeable man says is never accurate because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand." My work is primary source, and often not what we learned in school and the gym. Remember, that is good.

 

 

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