7 Critical Flexibility Concepts

Because of the overwhelming response and feedback received to my flexibility survey (thanks if you responded), I’m going to treat this topic more seriously than I initially intended.

Why?

Because I want to hear about and SEE your results. I don’t want to spend hours putting something together only to have it disappear into the ether of the internet…

I’m definitely going to be putting a full-out premium course together including PDFs and videos like my other premium products because the confusion and mis-information needs to be eliminated and you need a simple and efficient program to follow to reach your flexibility goals. Unfortunately I won’t be able to get that together the for at least a month and a half.

But with your hunger for knowledge and desire to finally fix your flexibility problems, I want to do something for you now.

I’m not exactly sure what form this is going to take yet, but I’ve been thinking about it and you’ll be the first to know when I figure it out. I can tell you that I will have direct  involvement in ‘coaching’ you through this and if you want my guidance, this will be the time to get it…

To start, I want to share 7 Critical Flexibility Concepts that you must understand before starting a flexibility program.

Knowing these concepts will help you understand the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ that I’ll be showing you and help you achieve better and more long-term results.

Understanding the ‘why’ will also help keep you on track in the face of others trying to force feed their (mis)information on you.

These concepts are in no particular order and serve as the guiding principles behind the comprehensive flexibility training that you’ll be learning soon.

Now, I often go back to Master Bruce for quotes, because his philosophy is very powerful yet simple.

The quote I’m choosing today is this:

“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way round or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water…”

I’ve used this quote because some of the concepts that you may learn from me might fly in the face of things you’ve learned in the past…

Let go of the things you’ve learned in the past and flow with what I’m going to be teaching you. Empty your mind, be open to new ways of doing things and by doing so, you’ll increase your mental flexibility, which will ultimately manifest in increased physical flexibility.

Open?

Good.

Then here are the 7 Critical Flexibility Concepts:

  • There are 3 main types of stretching exercises: dynamic active, static active and static passive, each corresponding to that specific type of flexibility. These 3 types of stretches overlap, meaning that performing one type of exercise will improve flexibility in the others, but it won’t be to as great an extent as the specific type trained. A real world example of this specificity is being able to do the side splits (static passive), but being unable to execute a powerful side kick to the head (dynamic active).
  • Dynamic flexibility is more correlated to sport performance than static flexibility.
  • The difference between your active and static flexibility is called your flexibility deficit. Your active ROM is generally lower than your passive ROM. The bigger the difference between the two, the greater your chance of injury.
  • The goal of flexibility training is not to achieve maximal flexibility, but to achieve OPTIMAL flexibility for your sport or lifestyle. Optimal flexibility is achieved when you have the flexibility to execute your techniques or movements freely and with speed and power, and a little bit more for a flexibility reserve. As mixed martial artists, that makes one of our goals to have just a bit more flexibility than needed to execute a fast and powerful roundhouse kick to the head. Another example is that as mixed martial artists, we have no need to be able to bend over backwards and stick our heads between our legs [I said I was going to post pics like this, but I actually find this one grotesque, but if it turns you on, go to FreakyFlexibilityFetish.com for more... you sicko :)]
  • There are 3 main factors you can address that  determine your current and potential flexibility: soft tissue (including muscles, fascia and tendons), neuromuscular (including pain threshold, various reflexes and conscious ability to let go of limiting tension) and strength, which you need to enter and exit end range of motion (ROM). Don’t think of these as hard classifications, since strength affects neuromuscular and vice versa. But it is a convenient way to understand the factors affecting flexibility. Different types of exercises affect different factors and you need to use the specific exercises that will affect the factors currently limiting your flexibility. That’s why simple static stretching doesn’t always work – because it may not address the specific factor causing your flexibility problem.
  • Flexibility can be limited because of ligaments. Stretching the ligament can cause joint instability and result in injury. It takes years to elongate ligaments. There are various tests that you can perform to know whether or not a ligament is the cause of your inflexibility. So if this is the case for you, it is a matter of risk vs. reward to proceed. If you do decide to proceed and attempt to lengthen your ligaments, you must concurrently develop a high level of muscular strength and stability around that joint to keep it safe.
  • Flexibility  can also be limited by the structure of your bones and joint capsule. If this is the case, you will not be able to improve your flexibility beyond the mechanical limitations of the bones. Don’t worry – for most people this is not the case.

Phew!

That’s a lot of info to digest there. But these concepts form the basis of a flexibility program that will work for YOU.

Now I want to take the time here to address one thing that came up a few times in the responses to the survey.

In terms of low back flexibility, for the most part, it’s not something we want a great deal of and training it aggressively can lead to injury.

Training low back flexibility in either direction (flexion or extension) can cause damage to your intervertebral discs.

Instead, you want to focus on hip and thoracic spine flexibility, while minimizing the flexion and extension of your lumbar spine. Maximizing hip and T-spine flexibility will give you what you need for most techniques in MMA, strength training, other sports and daily living.

Low back flexion and extension isn’t something to avoid completely, however, since doing so will place stress on the ligaments and ligaments that experience stress respond just like muscles – they get stronger. But too much and under too great a load often results in disc injuries, so it’s not an area that I recommend you focus your stretching efforts on.

Unless of course you want to go through my Bulletproof Back program – then stretch your low back until the cow comes home. 🙂

And in MMA, the need to flex the low back to a great extent isn’t there. I can’t think of any techniques or positions where you’d need flexibility in your low back that you couldn’t get from your hips or T-spine.

That’s it for Part 1.

Let me know your thoughts and/or questions. Like I said even if I don’t always respond, I always read through them and it influences what I write about, create videos on and dream have nightmares about, like this Comment from GViera:

“Outside of my hips. I can go a gymnast split fine but getting to a full straddle seem to be impossible for me. I want to be able to put some balls on the ground.”

If I help you get this flexibility, make sure you pay attention when your balls are on the ground so nobody steps on ’em. Ouch!

– Eric

P.S. If you hit one of the magical buttons below, a unicorn will come out of your screen and give you a big hug.

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Sean
Sean

How Do I gain access to the Dojo?

Mindekon Paul
Mindekon Paul

What must I do for that?

Mindekon Paul
Mindekon Paul

I’m 37 now, but can I still get the lateral split at least Eric?

Marios
Marios

Thanks Eric. Interesting food for thought

Murdo
Murdo

Thanks Eric, much appreciated. My work load is horrific at the moment, so first chance i get i’ll get studying and to make good use of all your knowledge, just about to start your bullet proof back programme. Many Thanks , Murdo

Sahand
Sahand

Excellent .. cannot wait for part 2. thanks

Anders

Hi Eric, I really enjoy your inputs. I can tell you actually work with this, as it always seems to be subjects that are about to come to mind (= “I almost also thought of that”).
This is age-related. I am 59. My daughter (an M.D.) checked my flexibility and one thing made me feel vulnerable: I would like to regain my flexibility in the neck: tilting my head sideways and in that position I have limited ability turning my face upwards and downwards.

Dan
Dan

So I’m just finishing up on the Strength phase of your conditioning program…I’ve gone through the program THREE times and the 8 week muscle building program twice. I’ve gotta say, I haven’t stopped improving. The one thing I really am missing is my overall flexibility, so I’m super stoked and looking forward to your next installment. I’m eager to see what you have to say because I’ve been experiencing tightness around my hips, mainly hip flexors along with the lower back muscles, usually after fight training (muay thai). I don’t know if the tightness is related but hopefully some informed knowledge will get me on the right track!

All the best!

Eric
Eric

Thanks for stopping by Dan – glad to hear everything is still working out for ya!

Chris
Chris

Can’t wait for part 2 Eric. Thanks for taking the time to put this together. Oh ya nad thanks for the freaky flexibility fetish link!

Bruce
Bruce

Hi Eric

As a Karate and Mixed Martial Arts instructor I am always looking for ways to help both myself and students overcome difficulties with stretching, so many times in my training I have been told; you must be able to do box splits etc. thankfully this I never perfected or really engaged in, mainly because I always felt after static stretching lots of pain and loss of power, almost like an overstretched elastic band. Looking forward to your next installment, THANKS A BUNCH

JDB
JDB

Eric

Hurry with part 2

Dru
Dru

Going to acl surgery soon. So, WHEN ALL HEALED FROM THAT i will look more into this. Your training tips are A+. Thank you.

Joe
Joe

You’re so legit. Thanks! I’m looking forward to the full program.

Nindz
Nindz

Agree with Steve VB
In Eric we trust, am excited about the articles and program

Steve VB
Steve VB

Bring on part 2, and will be keen on the full course!

Patrick
Patrick

No Unicorn 🙁

Eager for part 2, though. Despite my disappointment.

Eric
Eric

Ahhhh shoot! Don’t ever buy unicorns from China. They always break.

Landon
Landon

That picture takes ATM to a whole new level haha!

Eric
Eric

For those of you under the legal age, ATM stands for “automated teller machine”.

Gary George
Gary George

I own every one of your programs, and must say with the knowledge/ awesome body I’ve gained from going through them. This flexibility course is something I look forward too as well! Once I take care of some lingering personal issues and get back into the cage I’ll make sure everyone that comes to see me knows why, and that’s from your amazing programs built for mixed martial artists. Thanks again!

Eric
Eric

Nice to hear Gary – get your stuff dealt with then throw down! Look forward to hearing about your return!

Ian

Awesome stuff eric, looking forward to the course already