Flexibility gives an athlete power through a range of motion that they don’t have otherwise. Without flexibility not just range of motion is lost, but it also requires a lot of effort for muscles when they are at the edge of that range of motion.
I was not born with natural flexibility. For the longest time I was convinced that stretching didn’t work. When it comes to the traditional methods of stretching, I still feel that way, but I’m going to share with you something new I discovered recently.
In Part I of this series, we discussed airway and its effects on sleep quality as the first of three things I wish I knew about when I was a competitive athlete. Any athlete wants to know that they have left their best on the table. They want to know they achieved as much as they could have.
This series of articles is about three things that could dramatically affect any athletes performance although it really could apply to anyone. Today, we’re going to talk about something I never had much of as an athlete: flexibility.
I have never been flexible. Even as a young child, I couldn’t bend forward and touch my toes. I hated stretching my legs. As soon as I would bend forward, even just a little, my hamstring muscles tensed up like steel rods and felt really uncomfortable. Much tighter than other muscle in my body that I would stretch.
For me stretching my hamstrings was incredibly unpleasant. I would prefer running several miles to bending forward and trying to touch my toes. I didn’t mind stretching other muscles as much, but stretching hamstrings was a horribly uncomfortable experience.
But it wasn’t just my hamstrings, if I tried to lift my leg straight out away form my body, I would always get a cramp on the outside of my hip and had to put it down. Even though I was an athlete, I injured my shoulder in college trying to do a full wheel pose. That motion was not possible for me back then.
I spent so much time stretching in different periods of my life, but never made much, if any, progress. I tried stretching, yoga, and other things. The little progress I did make would go away as soon as I stopped. This was something neither I nor anyone who had done body work on me had ever been able to solve.
But there is a way to release these muscles that I have discovered recently that works unlike anything I have tried before…
It’s called “Hyperbolic Stretching.”
(For full disclosure, the link is an affiliate link, which means that I may make a commission for those who purchase. This is a product I believe in and would not promote it if I didn’t.)
Why Is This Different?
I don’t recall how I stumbled onto this, but I’m guessing it was an ad making a claim that it was possible for just about anyone to be doing the splits in four weeks. I was naturally very skeptical. As an osteopathic physician, I’m always looking for different ways of releasing dysfunctional areas in the body so I try to maintain a level of open mindedness.
I was curious to learn more so I read on and it immediately caught my attention that they mentioned that traditional stretching doesn’t work for most people. “Ok,” I thought, “I agree, but how is this different?”
The piece I read that really made me decide to try out this program was when they started talking about using reflexes to improve flexibility. For me, this gave this program more credibility. Why? Because in my line of work, I have learned to use reflexes as a powerful therapeutic tool that makes changes down to level of the nervous system.
I have learned to use reflexes to shut off pain instantly in many cases. I suspected that my hamstrings and adductors feeling like “steel rods” was either because my muscles were inherently short (which I was skeptical about because I could feel their constant tension), or there was something going on where my nervous system was wired to not allow much range of motion in my hips and legs.
So the underlying principle with hyperbolic stretching involves two reflexes. The first is called the “myotatic reflex,” but I’ve also heard of it referred to as the “stretch reflex.” During a stretch, we’re taking a joint towards the end of a range of motion. After about five seconds of a stretch, the muscle contracts to prevent the joint and muscle from going too far and being damaged.
In certain cases, like mine and perhaps yours if you don’t have full flexibility, those muscles are wired by the nervous system to prevent motion while the joint is still well within its normal range.
The second reflex that hyperbolic stretching uses is called the “autogenic inhibition reflex.” In this reflex a muscle suddenly relaxes in response to excessive tension. An example of this would be when someone is trying to lift a weight that is too heavy. The longer they try to lift it without success, the weaker they become. If they cannot lift it, the muscle fibers start shutting off to prevent tearing.
Therefore this stretching is more effective if the muscle being stretched is fatigued before hand.
So hyperbolic stretching takes a muscle into a stretch where it reflexively tightens and then uses the autogenic inhibition reflex to override the protective myotatic reflex and increase range of motion.
The more this happens, the more the nervous system allows the muscle to relax because it realizes it is safe to progress through that range of motion.
In the case of this program, it has one stretch just three muscles: the hamstrings, adductors (inner thigh muscles), and hip flexors. This is because the goal is to do the splits, but also because it considers this the most important place to improve flexibility before moving trying to get flexibility in other parts of the body.
It’s okay if the above explanation does not make full sense, but that is a brief explanation of how this stretching is different for those who want a scientific explanation. This method of stretching was similar to others I have come across such as “muscle energy” in the osteopathic world and “contract/relax” in other fields, but is still different and produced results where those failed.
What Was My Experience With Hyperbolic Stretching?
So I decided to give it a try and evaluated if there really was validity to this type of stretching or if I would end up considering it “BS” like the other types of stretching I had tried before.
I ended up being surprised by how quickly I noticed things starting to change. At first my flexibility was not outwardly dramatically different, but there were powerful changes that took place very quickly that made me happy about the $27 investment. Even if I never manage to do a full split.
What did I feel that I was so happy about? The answer is relief. My muscles felt much more relaxed. It was the first time in my life I had felt relaxation in these muscles. When I stretched my hamstrings, they felt less like steel rods. Suddenly they felt more like the other muscles in my body when I stretched them and felt softer throughout the stretch. It was a much more pleasant experience.
It wasn’t all pleasant, my joints had to get used to the new range of motion that they had never experienced.
The best part was the other changes that took place once these muscles released. My pelvis and spine suddenly felt also more relaxed and less tension. I could tell there was changes in my knees and even my calves felt more relaxed. There was a sensation of better blood flow into my legs and less hypersensitivity with my nerves.
All these muscles were less sensitive to touch. This was only the beginning!
Since then, the changes after each time have not been as dramatic, but I have quickly been gaining more flexibility. I have plenty more flexibility to go before being able to do the splits, but I have made huge gains in my flexibility.
I’m now able to make motions that seemed impossible and were out of my realm of possibility. I use my sit/stand desk to help me with stretching and I cannot believe how much my flexibility has improved.
I’m about 4 weeks into the program and although I’m not about to drop into doing splits at this point, I have made more progress than ever and hopefully will be able to do the splits soon.
I’m looking to continue to improve so I can get to doing the splits. Not because doing the splits is a dream of mine, but because in my line of work I have come to appreciate how a flexible, supple body affects overall health and quality of life.
As an athlete, not having this kind of tension not only increases range of motion and strength, but I believe having the tension and resistance requires more energy to maintain, even when relaxed.
Now, I recommend this to many of my patients with low back pain, pelvic pain, and other issues that may seem appropriate to do at home.
So What Does The Program Entail?
I always warn my patients that when they go to the sales page that it’s a bit over the top, but I have found the program to be legit. I don’t promote things that I haven’t found valuable.
When you sign up for hyperbolic stretching $27 program, you get a PDF manual detailing the program. The first section covers in more depth the science behind the stretching program and the benefits of having a stronger, more flexible pelvic floor (As a doctor promoting the product for relief of low back pain and pelvic issues, I wish it would leave penis size out of it, but unfortunately it does talk about it).
The most important section is the section that describes the stretching program. It goes into stretching and exercises to do before the stretch, even exercises that can be done at home without any equipment.
After the exercises, it explains the actual stretching process in depth. This includes when to do the stretched, variations for different levels, and problems one might come up against.
Furthermore, there are some bonuses that you have access to with the program. You’ll get three manuals titled “Full Body Flexibility,” “The 8-Minute Strength & Fat Loss (HIIT to FIT),” and “Mind Power Unleashed.”
Although similar, there is a program geared towards men and one for women.
Why Should I Consider Trying This?
If you’re an athlete and are not naturally flexible, you’re not going to be able to reach your peak performance. It’s harder to be inflexible and requires more energy. What if you could have full flexibility and strength?
When I was a swimmer, I was envious of those who were flexible. I could see how it was easier for them to move. I would have liked to have a stretching program that actually worked to help give me a similar advantage.
I believe that increased flexibility would have significantly improved my athletic performance and any athlete who struggles with flexibility should consider trying out this program. I realize the sales page looks like a scam, but this does work unlike anything else I’ve tried before.
Lastly, be sure to keep an eye out for part III of this series. In it, I will share the last piece of information I wish I had when I was an athlete that I think would have legally given me a huge advantage.