Make no mistake, in the video below I exhibit poor examples of the exercises. I am TIGHT! My adductors and hamstrings are not terrible, but my hip flexor/quad/knees are stiff, my big toes are rigid, my spine is the equivalent of a steel rod, and my ankles seem to be glued in place.
I am motivated to keep working on these and as I move through them I can really feel my body opening up. I have had 3 minor knee surgeries (lateral meniscectomies) and several other injuries here and there from playing soccer, kickboxing, and being a general idiot.
Did I get hurt because I'm tight/weak in certain ranges of motion or am I tight/weak because of the injuries I have had? Probably both. Having mobile joints and muscles that are strong in a stretched position is very important for movement quality and injury prevention. If you don't have strength in a stretched position, the nervous system will "protect you" by limiting the length the muscles can achieve. That is why PNF stretching, otherwise known as "contract-relax", is so effective.
“Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) is common practice for increasing range of motion, though little research has been done to evaluate theories behind it. The purpose of this study was to review possible mechanisms, proposed theories, and physiological changes that occur due to proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation techniques. Four theoretical mechanisms were identified: autogenic inhibition, reciprocal inhibition, stress relaxation, and the gate control theory. The studies suggest that a combination of these four mechanisms enhance range of motion. When completed prior to exercise, proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation decreases performance in maximal effort exercises. When this stretching technique is performed consistently and post exercise, it increases athletic performance, along with range of motion. Little investigation has been done regarding the theoretical mechanisms of proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, though four mechanisms were identified from the literature. As stated, the main goal of proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation is to increase range of motion and performance. Studies found both of these to be true when completed under the correct conditions. These mechanisms were found to be plausible; however, further investigation needs to be conducted. All four mechanisms behind the stretching technique explain the reasoning behind the increase in range of motion, as well as in strength and athletic performance. Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation shows potential benefits if performed correctly and consistently.
A high inflammation diet that includes a lot of sugar, grains, and processed foods can also create stiffness, and growing up a carboholic didn't help.
Emotional stress and over-analyzing can also limit the way our body moves and create stiffness. Moving through these exercises and exposing my body to new ranges of motion seemed to impact my mind as well. Perhaps that is the allure of yoga to so many people.
In the video, I move through the exercises pretty fast to show you them without wasting your time. For training purposes I recommend 3 sets of 10 each with a 1-2 second hold in each position. If the exercise is unileral, make sure you do both sides. If you struggle more on one side, feel free to do some extra reps. If you are doing these at the end of training, finish off each set of 10 with a 30 second hold. Lastly, it should feel uncomfortable, but there should not be any sharp pains. If so, get it checked out. Ido Portal and Kelly Starrett deserve credit for these exercises and the ideas.
1. Hip Get Ups - (oblique symmetry and gluteus medius function, hip flexor stretch). If you struggle on one side, perform the pigeon stretch on that side throughout the day. For me, I would do pigeon more with my left leg in front.
2. Kneeling Arches- (knee mobility, quad flexiblity, spine flexiblity, anterior tibialis stretch)
3. Diagnal Stretch- (see http://www.allthingsgym.com/diagonal-... for details on this one)
4. Inverted Hamstring aka Single Leg RDL - (hamstring flexbility, ankle stablility and balance, glute firing on lifting leg back)
5. Side Lunge with and without Rotations- (ankle mobility, knee strength, adductor flexibility, and adding rotations helps with lats and trunk mobility)
6. Ankle Focused Squats - (ankle flexibility and mobility)
7. Knees and Toes Squats w/ Arch -( knee mobility and strength, toe flexibility and strength, arching back for hip flexor stretch)
8. Side Splits- (adductors and groin stretch and strength if taking hands off the ground which I did not do because I'm not Van Damme)
9. Front Splits - (hip flexor/quad stretch, hamstring stretch, pelvis symmetry)
10. Back Bridge- (shoulder mobility, lats stretch, spine mobility, glute firing, hip flexor stretch)