Relax into Stretch

Phil12

Level 7 Valued Member
Finally got around to exploring Relax into Stretch. I have a few questions. Am I right that this is supposed to be downright unpleasant? I don't consider myself to be a wimp but just doing the basic constrast stretching has been trying. What is a "set" of stretches? So far I have been doing what the book recommends. I pick 3 different stretches to explore and do them in a circuit, repeating that three times. I am getting better at the stretches but have yet to notice any other benefits. Any advice would be appreciated?
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
Phil, I bought the book, followed the instructions - unpleasantness and all - and went from not being able to touch my ankles to doing splits in the space of six months.  It works.

IMHO, as with any exercise, understanding why you're dong what you're doing is key, and perhaps more so with stretching.  You are trying to get your muscles to relax - that is the purpose of the techniques and why the book's title's first word is "Relax."  Keep in mind how it works as you practice and I think you'll find your practice both less unpleasant and more productive.

And if it's any consolation to you, know that maintaining your new-found flexibility, once you truly own it, is much less work and much less unpleasant than is the process of acquiring it for the first time.

Although this isn't the perfect analogy, another way to think of it might be like writing a computer program for yourself to use for a task that needs automating - writing the program is a lot of work, but the purpose in writing it is to be able to use it.   Going through your first six months (or so) of RIS is like writing a new program for your body, changing fundamental assumptions about what you can and cannot do safely, changing the capabilities of the machine, if you will.  Once you've completed the programming, you get to use it.  With a little regular maintenance, you'll never have to rewrite it again.

-S-
 

crash123

Level 3 Valued Member
Steve, your comment:

went from not being able to touch my ankles to doing splits in the space of six months.

is exactly what I needed to take another look at Relax Into Stretch.  It's the little nudges like these which make this forum so powerful to me.

thanks.

 
 

Phil12

Level 7 Valued Member
Pavel, Steve — thanks. Definitely not trying to grouch about the difficulty or unpleasantness. Just wanted to make sure I’m not doing something wrong.

Any advice on the programming? While I’ve gotten better at stretching I haven't found any stretches that really seem to help me out elsewhere, yet.
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
Phil, if it wasn't a little unpleasant, you wouldn't be changing anything in this case.  When you're changing your limits, it doesn't feel familiar at all.
 

MikeMoran

Level 5 Valued Member
@ Steve Freides

 

I would love to know how you programmed the stretches to get to that point? Time/days/duration?
 

JediMind

Level 5 Valued Member
something about stretches i read is not to stretch more than you need for any body parts and to do them on off days. but i've condensed RIS and SJ into 10 mins each and they are part of my staple diet.
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
Mike, I quite literally followed the instructions. Pavel mentions that the end of your day is a good time to stretch, and 2-3 times per week, so that's what I did.

At the time, my children were young, so after they'd gone to sleep around 10 PM, 2-3 times per week, I'd work on my stretches on an exercise mat either in front of the television or reading. I'd do a few split switches (martial arts split, switching from side to side), then get myself into whatever side split I could manage, do a few tension/relaxations cycles, rest a little, and repeat the split switches followed by the tension/relaxation cycles of the side split. Sometimes I'd practice tension/relaxation cycles for the split switches, sometimes not. After my last side split, I waited out the tension - I just hung out in whatever my best side split was for a while, and I mean a good while, probably 15 minutes.

And the devil is in the details - if you don't practice prying, lengthening your spine, lifting up out of your hips, pulling your thighs out of the sockets, and other techniques and visualizations taught in RIS, then you aren't maximizing your stretching time.

My maintenance isn't usually tension/relaxation work, just going through a comfortable range of motion on the Cossack Sequence from Super Joints most mornings. If you look at your groin and the angle of your thighs, and if you do your Cossacks properly, you'll see that you're not far from a side split already.

-S-
 

Kyrinov

Level 5 Valued Member
Steve (and others,)

In order to keep "the goal the goal" and not try to juggle too many things at once I initially kinda put RIS aside when I first read it, following this group's instruction to focus on strength first.  I have found it to be good advice.  Do you have a recommendation for when in an individual's training cycle this kind of focused flexibility work is best done?  As background I'm 29, pretty busy (and physically drained) from paramedic school, martial arts training (taiji and systema) and my strength training which consists of 4-6 x wk of S&S with a 32k (getting close to the Simple but still a ways to go.)  My "biggest" deadlift was a sort-of-max 2x315.  My flexibility and mobility are well above average but not at that kind of top-of-average level where I can do splits and really fold myself up good.  I've always wanted that kind of flexibility but just wasn't sure about the right time and place for it.  I did a lot of static and dynamic stretching back in my early 20's but the lack of good mobility and strength really hampered my progress at that time.  Thanks to more experience and the wisdom of this group I am much more deliberate in picking the right time and place for training qualities.  Right now my focus remains on getting strong until I can hit those "baseline" standards that run throughout the writings of Pavel and Dan John.  Is this a recommended approach?  At what point should I start seriously thinking of putting my focus on flexibility?  Just curious since it has been on my mind frequently - though is not feasible at the moment since just getting my S&S time in at the edges of the day is a challenge - and your post reawakened it.  Thoughts?
 

NJBill

Level 1 Valued Member
This is very timely for me as well. I recently worked through Jon Engum's four week untying the four knots program, and was planning to go back through RIS and Flexible Steel to continue.

I currently am in a 5x5 barbell program on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday. Would the RIS practices best be on the same days, or on the off days (M, T, F)?
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
I hope Pavel and/or Jon Engum will also reply, but IMHO, the days of the week don't really matter and are up to you.  You need to have some energy and focus to do this, but the risk is not in overtraining, rather the risk is in not being mentally fresh enough to follow the instructions and then ending up over-stretching and perhaps injuring yourself.

You may also find that you don't like doing any flexibility work before heavy strength training but it never bothered me.  You can even get away with doing a little contrast breathing as part of your warmups, just don't go nuts with intense contract-relax work and then expect to be at full strength right afterwards.  But a good night's sleep after flexibility training shoulda be all that anyone needs.

-S-
 

MikeMoran

Level 5 Valued Member
@Steve

 

Thanks! I am pretty close to a full side split and have folowed both Tom Kurz Scientifically Stretching and Pavel's Relax into stretch to get there. I will be more mindful on some evening relaxed stretching to see if I can get to the final stage.

7 years ago when I started Karate I could not get anywhere near that and weighed almost 300# @6' .

Now at 190# and still reducing.
 

Michael Scott

Level 7 Valued Member
Well, this is an interesting thread. I have been working on stretching more, because I can barely get past my knees any more, and my toes are a long way off in the mornings. It is amazing to me all the topics covered on this board.....

I now have another book to buy & read....:confused: :eek: :D
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
@Michael Scott, the program started by Master SFG Jon Engum offers a one-day workshop. I teach in this program and lead those workshops, as does Jon, as do a handful of Jon's chosen instructors. It's a great way to learn the principles of strength and flexibility, see Flexible Steel Home

-S-
 

offwidth

Level 9 Valued Member
@Michael Scott...I haven't had the pleasure of taking a FS course but if flexibility is a need for you then @Steve Freides advice is spot on. Also consider getting the book, but there is nothing like hands on coaching.
Additionally Relax Into Stretch, and Super Joints are almost compulsory reading in the flexibility game. Yes... More books to buy and read, but more importantly to put into practice.
 

Michael Scott

Level 7 Valued Member
@Michael Scott...I haven't had the pleasure of taking a FS course but if flexibility is a need for you then @Steve Freides advice is spot on. Also consider getting the book, but there is nothing like hands on coaching.
Additionally Relax Into Stretch, and Super Joints are almost compulsory reading in the flexibility game. Yes... More books to buy and read, but more importantly to put into practice.
@offwidth thank you.
 
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