I have been doing Resistance Stretching exercises regularly for 20 days now, so I’m just over half way through my 30-day experiment with this technique. The book I use as a guide (Genius of Flexibility, Bob Cooley), describes four series of flexibility exercises. The first series is for beginners, the second one for intermediates, the fourth one contains advanced stretches and the third one contains stretches to be done with a partner. I have tried all of the stretching exercises except the ones that require a partner. Here is what I have experienced so far:
The first few times I did the Resistance Stretches, it felt very strange, I tensed up everywhere and had difficulties breathing properly when doing the exercises. Just as it was starting to get frustrating though, I noticed the exercises becoming gradually easier to do. Soon, I could breathe easily and deeply and after the first week, the stretches felt natural to me. It was interesting to experience this adaptation, especially because it came about almost by itself. When I had trouble breathing, I didn’t know what to do about it, but the problems subsided by themselves after a while.
Another thing I notice is a progression for each of the individual stretching exercises. Sometimes I get into a stretch that I’ve done many times before, but this time, something goes “click” and suddenly, everything feels right. Or rather: Everything feels “righter” than before. I can stretch farther and my body feels more in line with itself as I’m doing the exercise. I haven’t had this “click”-experience with all of the stretches yet.
So far, it seems like it might take quite a long time before you can get the most out of Resistance Stretching. Before accommodating to the style of the exercises and to the individual stretches, the benefits are probably not that great.
The beginner exercises are a good way to get a feel for Resistance Stretching, but as I already mentioned in one of my questions for Anne Tierney, some of them will not really stretch your muscles. At least not if you are somewhat flexible to begin with. I recommend moving on to the intermediate and advanced stretches as soon as you no longer have any difficulties with the beginner stretches. I definitely feel like I’m getting more out of the advanced stretches and besides, they are more fun to do.
A big difference between Resistance Stretching and static stretching is that the former is much more exhausting. Part of your musculature is always working to resist the stretches and this will get your heart going. I’d love to tell you by how much my heart-rate increases when I do the exercises, but unfortunately, my heart-monitor broke just recently (either that, or my resting heart-rate really is 199bpm). What I can say is that it feels like doing light cardio. The feeling I get in the muscles I’m stretching is neither more nor less pleasant than when I used to do static stretches. The feeling I get after a session is much better, though. I feel warm and relaxed all over and the feeling stays with me for about an hour. It’s really very pleasant and makes the whole thing that much more rewarding.
An important question is, of course: Does it actually make me more flexible? Well, I haven’t re-measured the benchmark-stretches yet. I’ll wait until the end of the experiment before doing that. What I can say is that I haven’t felt any dramatic progress in how far I can stretch, but my high kicks do feel a bit more comfortable. I feel more relaxed and mobile in my hip-joints when practicing kicks and that’s already a welcome advantage.
On a side-note, I mildly hurt my left knee during sparring practice and decided not to do the stretching exercises for three days afterward. My knee was reacting with pain to any kind of tension or any twisting motions and I wanted to play it safe. I will extend the experiment by three days, so that I can get a solid 30 days of stretching before re-measuring the benchmarks.
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
Part 4: Q&A with Anne Tierney, Resistance Stretching Expert
Part 5: Update and Subjective Impressions (currently viewing)
Part 6: Before and After