He noted that a master carpenter must thoroughly understand the nature of the tools he uses, the materials that are the best suited for the purpose, the size and the shape of the things he builds, how they are to be used, and so on. Musashi’s point was that learning how to fight and win was not a simple task with only a few elements, but incorporated a whole world of factors and possibilities that took years to master. — Samurai Strategies.
I’m confident with my style and the stuff that I dig – writing, coffee, philosophy, etc. — that I’m going to be a cool and content old dude, not a grumpy and bitter one. Shit, I already start falling asleep at 9pm, pop up at 5am, and seek out Happy Hour specials in between, so I’m well on my way…
But that is only if I can still lift weights and stay in shape like Serge Nubret did well into his 70’s. Because the one thing I love the most in life is training – those precious few hours a week where it is you vs. the weights, you can lose yourself in the process of improving yourself both physically and mentally, and nothing else matters.
Is that childish, a bit off, slightly pathetic? Perhaps. But dude, you can’t deny who you are if you have any shot at building a lifestyle that you dig.
And who knows? Maybe with a decent physique and a happy disposition, I’ll be able to get away with the old-timer technique of pinching booties on beauties. Isn’t that what life’s really all about?
That perverted dream is why I take preventative measures with some pre-habilitation-style strategies. I introduced you to a few of those techniques in my last post. If you missed it, you can check it out here:
With this post, I thought I’d dive a little deeper into the reasons behind my recommendation that bodybuilders and physique peeps add some focused flexibility training into their overall program.
Arnold stretched. Zane stretched. Corey Everson stretched. Bruce Lee, Van Damme, etc. I believe you should too. If you think you are too “hardcore” for stretching than (a) you are frickin’ delusional (b) you should skip this post.
Reason #1 – Reduce Nagging Injuries and Chronic Aches & Pain
Are your knees creaky? Does your shoulder flare up from time-to-time? Does joint pain limit you in your training more than muscular fatigue/overload?
Traumatic sports injuries aside, often times, nagging pain is not necessarily caused by a degenerative condition to the joint itself. It is caused by muscle imbalances (tightness and/or weakness) above or below that particular joint. This can lead to unnatural sheering forces, or a higher than normal weight bearing load on that joint.
In other words, localized pain is the symptom, but the root cause may have more to do with your body’s alignment and posture in general. Believe it or not, something going on at the hip can affect your shoulder. Our bodies don’t move or function in isolation. They are a complex, integrated, an interrelated system of parts.
A targeted stretch and strength training protocol can be used to combat computer posture and bring the body back into proper alignment. When this happens, many cases of chronic joint or muscular pain disappear. The sheering forces are removed. Optimum range of motion and functional strength is restored, and the body can move naturally with no restrictions.
A common example of this is lower back pain. The seated computer posture can lead to what some alignment specialists refer to as “lower-crossed syndrome”. Tight hip flexors combined with weak glutes and core muscles cause the pelvis to tilt forward (anterior tilt).
This can cause an exaggerated curve in the lumbar region of the spine to compensate, which leads to compressive forces in the lower back. What is the primary symptom? It is general low back pain and stiffness. Its no coincidence that over 2/3 of Americans will experience lower back pain at some point in their lives.
Now don’t misunderstand me. If you suffer from lower back pain, you should see a medical professional to get properly assessed and diagnosed, and rule out more complex conditions.
But in working jointly with some of my PT colleagues, I can tell you that for a large percentage of cases, it is the alignment of the pelvis that is the root problem, not necessarily a degenerative condition to the spine. Stretches for the tight hip flexors combined with exercises for the weak abdominals and glutes can help pull the pelvis back into optimal alignment. This removes the compressive forces on the lower back, allows the spine to return to its natural curve, and helps alleviate pain.
Most of us meatheads and fitness divas have the lifting side of that equation taken care of. But we avoid the stretching side because it is boring, or just for yoga people or housewives or old people in Tai Chi classes or whatever.
Do what you gotta do, but perhaps dropping your ego will help you stop having to pop pain killers like Pez Candy just to get out of bed, or get through your weekly workouts..
Reason to Stretch #2 – Avoid Avoidable Injuries
Have you ever heard of the person, sometimes an extremely fit person, that threw out their back just bending over to pick up something light? Chances are it was a muscular imbalance or poor alignment that finally caught up with them. The muscles of the back became short and tight over time, and were basically rubber bands waiting to snap.
Now think of how that injury risk increases with more athletic activities and dynamic movements.
The chance of a traumatic injury from a collision or rapid change of motion is much less in controlled daily activities, general fitness, and physique-style training than in other, more dynamic sports. The risk of injury is even less with proper exercise execution and good form.
However, injuries can still occur, and more often than not it is because accumulated muscle imbalances leave the regular exerciser at a heightened risk of injury. You don’t necessarily know this until its too late, because these imbalances slowly creep up and develop over longer periods of time (years).
A good example of this is pec tears, shoulder injuries, and rotator cuff strains.
Tightness in the chest, lats, shoulders, and internal rotators can pull the shoulder forward and cause exaggerated internal rotation. This is exacerbated by computer posture and an overemphasis on chest training in relation to back training. Are you a mirror muscle guy/girl?
When you go to bench press with this unnatural position, the shoulder and rotator cuff muscles are highly susceptible to strains and tears. Maybe it’s a wise idea to skip your 25th set of chest exercises and spend that time doing some stretches for the chest, shoulders, and lats, and strengthening exercises for the mid-back and rotator cuff.
Reason to Stretch #3 – Ensure Optimum Aesthetic Development & Symmetry
Tight muscles limit working a muscle through its full range of motion, which limits complete muscular development. An unbalanced training protocol consisting of mirror muscle obsession can pull us further out of alignment, predispose us to injury, and lead to chronic pain. Who cares right?
Well, it can also prevent optimum aesthetic development, and that is just plain unacceptable to me.
For example, if your natural alignment leaves you too rounded forward and internally rotated while executing a push-up or most other presses, your shoulders and triceps will end up performing the majority of the work. This means your chest muscles will be left unengaged and under-stimulated.
Recently, some of my weaker body parts improved, not by adding more exercises and sets for that body part (which failed me in the past), but rather by improving imbalances around that body part, thus allowing me to better activate and engage the weak body part when directly training it.
Hey ladies!!!! Forward tilted hips can lead to the quadriceps or back taking over lower body exercises, preventing glute/ass activation and bodacious booty development.
Keep Your Flexibility Training Focused
Hopefully I’ve sold you on the value of stretching. But how should you stretch? What muscles and movements should you target?
Well my first, and most important piece of advice, is to learn from experts. That’s definitely NOT me. I know just enough about this stuff to know I don’t know shit.
But I have been learning a ton from a few friends and colleagues of mine over at Gold Medal Bodies – Ryan Hurst, Jarlo Llano, and Andy Fossett. These 3 amigos ARE experts in this area, combining their decades of experience in gymnastics, martial arts, and Jarlo’s work as a Physical Therapist and Orthopedic Clinical Specialist.
The Focused Flexibility program they created from that experience is simply phenomenal. I highly suggest you check it out, and incorporate some of the techniques and strategies into your overall routine. Here are a few reasons why:
1. Program Efficiency – There are a ton of great programs out there with an infinite number of movements you can try to learn. But you could also get lost in these options, or at least end up with a laundry list of random exercises.
I’d rather narrow that sea of content down into a few focused movements that compliment my strength training protocol vs. having to hammer through a bunch of stuff that ultimately takes over my entire training program.
Never forget that basic strength training should be the foundation of your physique transformation program. In order to fit those workouts plus some additional supplemental work into your busy schedule, you need to be efficient with your flexibility training.
What’s cool about The Focused Flexibility program is that it includes some assessment tools you can use to identify where you need the most work, and gives you the highest priority movements you can use for each specific situation — not a hundred, not even ten. More like one or two.
The name is fitting – it’s a highly focused approach vs. the random “I need to stretch more” shotgun strategy.
2. Specific Considerations for Athletes — One of the problems with static stretching alone is that if you gain a bunch of new range of motion across a joint, you can lose neuromuscular control and strength throughout that new range of motion.
Being hypermobile and at the opposite end of the flexibility spectrum can be equally problematic for optimal performance and develop, as well as for joint pain and injury risk.
GMB’s movement-based approach to stretching ensures you develop both flexibility and functional strength around your joints.
3. Personal Customization & Proper Progressions – Like any good program, there are modifications and guidelines based on your current level and/or limitations. And there are proper progressions as you become more advanced. That means regardless of where you are currently at, you will start making improvements right away. And you will continue progressing at the appropriate rate.
Initially for me, the movements really helped alleviate some joint pain from muscle imbalances and mobility limitations.
Now, I’m moving into a little more of the intermediate and advanced work. My next goal is to turn into Nate Van Damme, and be able to re-enact the scene from the cinematic classic Double Impact:
“Because of my big legs (and small ‘sac), and karate (capoeira), I can do the splits no problem”.
The Short & Tight Summary
In summary, GMB’s Focused Flexibility program is the shit, and was exactly the type of program I was looking for to compliment the physique-based training programs I use.
Most importantly, it does it all without the inefficiency, fluff, or mystical guru bullshit of other movement and mobility approaches. Jarlo and the crew use science and practical experience to get straight down to what works. That’s my style.
You can check out their program, or read more about it here:
I’ll also be adding it to my recommended training courses page here: