Flexibility Experiment, Part 3: Method and Benchmarks

Published September 4, 2009 in Physical Performance - 1 Comments

(Total reading time: <3 minutes)

After illustrating my issues with common stretching exercises (they don’t work) in the first part of this series and introducing the new method I will experiment with (Resistance Stretching) in the second part, it is now time to lay out how I will test the new stretching method and how I will measure it’s effects (or lack thereof).


I will be doing the Resistance Stretching exercises as described in the book The Genius of Flexibility by Bob Cooley. I will do the exercises once a day, at least six days a week for the next 30 days. I’m allowing for one day off per week in case I feel like it might be too much to do the exercises daily, but I assume that won’t be the case. During these 30 days, I will continue with my usual training routines (weight-lifting and martial arts training) and I will not make any major changes to my diet, sleeping schedule or anything else that might affect the results. I also want to emphasize that I will be doing all of the exercises described in the book and only the ones described in the book. In other words, I will not do just the exercises that could improve the benchmark-results (see below).

Benchmark: Objective Measures

I want to be able to objectively measure changes that Resistance Stretching might cause. For this, I picked out a few easily measurable stretches as benchmarks. The stretches were performed after a very light warm up and were measured as seen on the pictures. I didn’t pre-stretch or do any heavy exercise before measuring.


Benchmark 1: Split

The split, classical representation of Kung Fu-flexibility, has to be a part of this, of course. It also happens to be a special weakness of mine. Even with the most intensive stretching I’ve ever done, I’ve never come close to a full split. To avoid underpants-related variations that might occur with a crotch-to-ground measurement, I measured from the inside of my hip joint to the ground. Result:  46 cm /  18.1”

Sideways Split

Benchmark 2: Sideways Split

The sideways split is a good measurement of leg and hip flexibility, as it involves many different muscle-groups. Here, my current flexibility isn’t quite as abysmal as with the central split. Measured from the inside of the hip joint to ground, I got the same result for the sideways split facing either way: 21 cm / 8.3”


Benchmark 3: Toe Touch

This is done with completely straight legs and as a benchmark, I measured the distance from the lowest point of my head, when it was hanging down in a relaxed way, to the ground. On the picture, I have my head lifted slightly, so it doesn’t exactly represent the position that was measured. Distance: 36 cm / 14.2”

Joining Hands Behind Back

Joining Hands

Here, I didn’t take any measurements. I simply tried to get my hands as close to each other as possible, without pulling on them. I particularly wonder if I can correct the apparent asymmetry visible here (my right hand can’t reach upward as far as my left hand).

Measurements (overview)
Centimetres Inches
Split 46 18.1
Sideways Split, left 21 8.3
Sideways Split, right 21 8.3
Toe-Touch 36 14.2

Subjective Impressions

Of course, not every effect of a stretching routine can be measured objectively. Not that I expect it to positively influence every aspect of my life, as Bob Cooley claims it should. But I will take note of and report on what the stretching routine feels like, whether it is easy to keep doing daily and any side-effects that I experience that might be caused by the stretching. Depending on how much happens during the experiment, I will publish one or more posts before the end of the 30 day period.

This post is part of the Flexibility Experiment series.

Part 1: The Problem with Stretching
Part 2: Introducing Resistance Stretching

Part 3: Method and Benchmarks (currently viewing)

Part 4: Q&A with Anne Tierney, Resistance Stretching Expert

Part 5: Update and Subjective Impressions
Part 6: Before and After