Theory & Practice: Flexibility vs Stretching

In general, people have the impression that flexibility = stretching. That flexibility is just as simple as stretching your muscles in order to lengthen them to get a bigger range of motion. People misconceive that after stretching, we can relax our muscles, and by doing this, prevent our injuries.

This is what we have been taught, educated by press, articles and books in the fitness field. There is a long-standing misunderstanding of what flexibility is all about.

FLEXIBILITY ≠ STRETCHING

Flexibility

Flexibility, (“flex” means “bend”, or ability to bend) as a bio-motor capacity, is the ability of your joints to bend during movement. This is provided by three elements: joint mobility, elasticity of tendons and ligaments, and ability of our muscles to relax, which allows us to increase their anatomical length.

Mobility of joints is something we mostly inherit, so development of joint mobility is a difficult task. The situation with ligaments and tendons is better, because of their ability to increase their length through elasticity. However, there is a limit to both elements because of their autonomy from the influence of our brain, which cannot regulate their state of flexibility.

Muscles, on the other hand, are directly connected with the brain and their most important function is to contract and relax. Knowing this, we can assume that we can directly and indirectly regulate muscle relaxation during movement.

Stretching

I could not track down the origin of the reason for association of this term with flexibility. Perhaps, it came from a visual image of flexibility exercises, where it looks like we are pulling our muscles to make them relax. I don’t think our muscles like any violent approach to making them relax. On the contrary, our muscles do not like any special efforts made to lengthen them and react to these attempts by becoming tense; the muscles contract in order to prevent hyperextension, as you can probably recall from your own experience. Nevertheless, millions of people exercise stretching, moving in the wrong direction of damaging their own muscle tissues.

Muscles contract and relax. When you stretch them – they actually lose a bit of elasticity for a brief period, so you intently and intentionally weakening your musculoskeletal system instead of strengthening it. Stretching your muscles on regular basis will have lasting effects, but not the ones you’re looking for.

Why don’t our muscles work this way? Because they obey your body’s movement as a whole, where muscle activity and relaxation is used to serve the desired movement. So our muscles contract or relax according to the body’s needs to make this or that movement, but not as an isolated function. When we just “ask” them to relax, by stretching them in a separate movement, they do not understand this action. Our brain does not allow the muscles to stretch independently without their involvement into the movement of the body. Pulling your own muscles is the straight way to injuries or to muscle soreness, at the least.

 

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How to Develop Flexibility

What would be the best way to develop our flexibility? First of all, do not stretch your muscles – ever. What I propose for this matter, I call, “Action Flexibility”. The essence of it is very simple, work with or through your mind.

Your ability to bend is achieved through your mind and muscles. It involves them into the movement you want to do. Muscles will contract & relax on their own. This will produce the movement, or relaxation in their reciprocal relationship, so that not to resist the movement being performed.

Therefore, our brain makes this precise regulation about which muscle is supposed to work and which is supposed to relax. Following this simple logic, we can see, that our ability to relax and flex depends on how much we can focus on production of the movement, without any consideration of muscle tension or relaxation.

Try This Exercise

Do a simple test by bending forward, keeping the knees straight, in order to touch the floor with your fingers or hands. First, what will cross your mind, will be a concern about the hamstring muscle tension, which gives you a signal that this movement is a dangerous activity. This is normally what your body’s and mind’s reaction is – a safety issue, a survival instinct.

But you have to be free from these precautionary reactions and keep your focus on the action (doing) of what you want to do, which is to bend forward and touch the floor with your fingers. To put simply, worry about touching the floor, not stretching your muscles. Certainly this action requires you to overcome your basic reflex – fear, but this the only true way to develop your flexibility. Do not stretch your muscles – do the action, touch the floor!

About the Author

Dr. Nicholas Romanov is the developer of the Pose Method®. A passionate proponent of higher level of education in athletics, Dr. Romanov dedicated his entire career to sports education, scientific research and coaching. An Olympic Coach and a bestselling author, Dr. Romanov has taught on all continents and visited almost every country in the world.
[ Click here to learn more ]

CONTINUING EDUCATION + LIVE SEMINARS + LOCAL CLASSES

Pose Method® 2-Day Educational Seminar is approved for 16 contact hours towards continuing education for Certified CrossFit Trainers and Physical Therapists. Athletes and parents of school age children are encouraged to attend.

The Pose Method® system is a combination of online learning, live seminars and local classes making it the most effective solution available to health and fitness professionals as well as anyone who enjoys an active lifestyle.

Theory & Practice: The Role and Importance of a ‘Standard’

We use the word ‘standard’ on daily basis, we’re all very familiar with its meaning. Here’s a quick sample of the meaning given in a dictionary just so we’re on the same page:

standard |ˈstandərd|
noun
1 a level of quality or attainment
2 an idea or thing used as a measure, norm, or model in comparative evaluations: the wages are low by today’s standards | the system had become an industry standard.
• (standards) principles of conduct informed by notions of honor and decency: a decline in moral standards.
• a form of language that is widely accepted as the correct form.
• the prescribed weight of fine metal in gold or silver coins: the sterling standard for silver.
• a system by which the value of a currency is defined in terms of gold or silver or both.

 

 

 

Standard Exists Everywhere

A ‘standard’ is, basically, an approved and generally accepted model of something, a rule or principle that is used as a basis for judgment, an average or normal requirement, quality, quantity, level, grade, etc. When Apple develops their gadgets – they have a standard they follow. When car makers build their creations – they follow standards in car manufacturing.

There are standards being taught and displayed in all sports. Not all are necessarily correct, according to my understanding of movement and in my humble opinion, but there are standards nonetheless. In running, however, we are all suddenly unique and all have different techniques and styles. Does that not sound a bit strange? It does. And it is. Of course we are all unique individuals, but let’s not confuse our personalities and styles with technical standard in movement.

Benefits of Having a Standard

What does having a ‘standard’ offer us when it comes to human movement in sports, and in general?

  • Precise model to learn. With a standard model to learn, a student avoids the potential pitfalls of a wandering mind. Experimenting on top of a learned standard is quite different from experimenting without the basic foundation. While the first is full of advantageous discoveries, the latter is full of confusion and easily avoidable mistakes.
  • Precise model to teach. If there was no standard, all teachings or attempts to teach would be disorganized, scattered, unfocused, etc. There would be no way to determine what’s a mistake and what is not. There would be no way to offer clarity of the subject to a student. Teaching would be an impossible task.
  • Ability to identify and correct errors. This is probably one of the most important attributes of any model of any ‘standard’. When there is a clearly identified and put forth model for a standard, any deviation from that standard is easily seen. That is precisely the definition of an ‘error’. In order for something to be labeled an error there has to be a clear standard according to which something is classified as an error. One does not exist without the other.

The claim that there is no correct running technique or any other correct sports technique is unfounded and is not supported by science. Moreover it does not make any sense. Unless we figure out how to defy gravity or it suddenly changes the way it works – we will abide by its current standard of operation that has not changed since our planet came into being.

The laws of operation of all natural forces with gravity at the helm consequently lead to a particular set of rules in movement of a human body. This standard branches out into standards in human movement when participating in various athletic activities or simply moving around. Movement related misuse injuries and pain are our signals that we’re deviating from the already existing standard of movement. Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, won’t change this standard. Plain and simple.

 

 

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About the Author

Dr. Nicholas Romanov is the developer of the Pose Method®. A passionate proponent of higher level of education in athletics, Dr. Romanov dedicated his entire career to sports education, scientific research and coaching. An Olympic Coach and a bestselling author, Dr. Romanov has taught on all continents and visited almost every country in the world.
[ Click here to learn more ]

CONTINUING EDUCATION + LIVE SEMINARS + LOCAL CLASSES

Pose Method® 2-Day Educational Seminar is approved for 16 contact hours towards continuing education for Certified CrossFit Trainers and Physical Therapists. Athletes and parents of school age children are encouraged to attend.

The Pose Method® system is a combination of online learning, live seminars and local classes making it the most effective solution available to health and fitness professionals as well as anyone who enjoys an active lifestyle.

Theory & Practice: Gravity + Movement

Gravity is mentioned everywhere – advertising, articles, news, etc. It is talked about in relation to what seems to be a random selection of things like treadmills and some other exercise equipment, shoes, even bras, and a few other curious products. All of that is great yet based on the information mentioned along with the popular word ‘gravity’ shows that gravity is still very much the elephant in the room and it is treated as something that “applies to this but not to that”, “it is here, but not over there”. Fact is – gravity is in the very matrix of our world, gravity is a silent dictator that rules it.

Gravity came before anything else. In order for our solar system to have come into existence, gravity had to have been already present. Here on Earth, gravity is in effect 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, never letting up for even a second. Gravity does vary across the surface of our planet but it is there nonetheless and the differences are not significant enough to affect the way you move. Gravity is everything and it is everywhere. “The most essential characteristics of all biological systems are defined by the Universal Law of Gravity”, wrote a Russian scientist and academic P. Anokhin.

Gravity is the most valuable factor of life on this planet because life as we know it, is impossible without gravity. Without it we couldn’t move the same way, we wouldn’t look the same way, we couldn’t breathe, and we wouldn’t have the air to begin with. The influence of gravity shapes and structures all living creatures including human anatomical and physiological structure, size and weight.

All human movement is gravity-dependent. Whether you’re running, swimming, walking to your car or reaching for milk in your refrigerator – you’re moving under the influence of gravity. Try this, stand straight, relax, feet slightly apart, knees relaxed (not locked, not bent), arms down, upright and relaxed posture. Now shift your body from one foot to another without breaking contact with the ground. Do you feel your bodyweight? That’s how we feel gravity. Wherever we go, whatever we do – it’s always there. But it doesn’t just pull us down like so many would insist. It does so much more.

Leonardo da Vinci was the first to recognize it as a propulsive force, “motion is created by the destruction of balance, that is, of equality of weight for nothing can move by itself which does not leave its state of balance and that thing moves most rapidly which is furthest from its balance”.

Four centuries later, Thomas Graham-Brown expanded on da Vinci’s thoughts, writing, “It seems to me that the act of progression itself – whether it be flight through the air or by such movements as running over the surface of the ground – consists essentially in a movement in which the centre of gravity of the body is allowed to fall forwards and downwards under the action of gravity, and in which the momentum thus gained is used in driving the centre of gravity again upwards and forwards; so that, from one point in the cycle to the corresponding point in the next, no work is done (theoretically), but the mass of the individual is, in effect, moved horizontally through the environment”.

Gravity should be considered as the dominant force on Earth, the strongest mechanical force among all the forces of nature and therefore any movement on Earth is both influenced by, and subordinate to, gravity. Before we can really improve our sports techniques and consequently beat personal bests or world records, we must first acknowledge the effect of gravity on human locomotion and then try to understand it and how it works.

About the Author

Dr. Nicholas Romanov is the developer of the Pose Method®. A passionate proponent of higher level of education in athletics, Dr. Romanov dedicated his entire career to sports education, scientific research and coaching. An Olympic Coach and a bestselling author, Dr. Romanov has taught on all continents and visited almost every country in the world.
[ Click here to learn more ]

CONTINUING EDUCATION + LIVE SEMINARS + LOCAL CLASSES

Pose Method® 2-Day Educational Seminar is approved for 16 contact hours towards continuing education for Certified CrossFit Trainers and Physical Therapists. Athletes and parents of school age children are encouraged to attend.

The Pose Method® system is a combination of online learning, live seminars and local classes making it the most effective solution available to health and fitness professionals as well as anyone who enjoys an active lifestyle.

Theory & Practice: The Pose – How It Works

As mentioned in another article, when moving, our body goes through an infinite number of poses in space and time. Among the multitude of those poses there are those that play an essential role in forming our movement as a whole. Those poses are referred to as ‘key poses’ (or simply poses now), as Dr. Romanov named them, because they are at the center, they connect the preceding pose with the pose that follows, while serving as a conductor of energy and all forces involved, and producing the most efficient movement.

In the Pose Method the understanding of the correct hierarchy of interaction of the forces involved, with gravity in the leading role, allowed to put human movement in a certain perspective where all movement became defined as pose to pose by change of support.

Movement cannot happen without support. If our body does not find support (if the foot doesn’t meet the ground, for example) there will be no movement in any direction. Our body will be in a continuous free fall under the effect of gravity. If there was no gravity or the force was slightly different, than our planet would have a different look to it, we’d have a different appearance and a different way of moving.

Under the dome of the current gravitational field, the most effective single support is the one that’s centered, the one that brings balance yet is ready to destroy that balance in a blink of an eye. Applies to inanimate or living, we are affected by gravity in the same manner. No matter your body type, size, weight or your skill level, it remains true for all. In running, this is what the recommendation “land under your hips, under your GCM (general center of mass), or as close as possible to it” is based on.

When on support a body, any body, can move in any direction. It will move, or it will fall, in whichever direction it is tilted. The quality of movement however will be the outcome of the quality of the body position on support. If you’ve ever slipped on ice you have a pretty good idea of all sorts of random poses that your body goes through when losing support in an unexpected and disorganized manner and trying to find balance while being pull down by gravity. The sequence of events is simple – you fell down not because your body went through random poses, instead you went through those random poses because you slipped, but why did you slip? Because your body pose on support was off and ice leaves tiny room for error in movement.

The Trajectory of Movement

Before attaining support any physical body goes through the motions. If movement happens from support to support, then the path leading to landing on support started at the previous support. And in turn, the current support will determine the quality of the following support.

This is also how the trajectory of your moving parts is determined. No need to copy someone else. Go from pose to pose, change support, and the trajectory of your movement takes care of itself. The better the pose, the quicker the movement from support to support, the better the trajectory…the more efficient you are.

In order for all of this to work properly, the pose assumed by your body on support must have certain characteristics. It must be a pose of balance that offers stability yet does not affect the momentum of movement. It has to be compact and focused.

Mechanically the pose and change of support are identical for everyone. Though we are all unique, gravity affects us all in the same manner and the effective way to deal with it applies to all. While Ferris wheels in different locations are painted in different colors and have different design of passenger cars, the mechanical work of the main unit remains the same.

So the pose of the body while on support is everything. If yours resembles a starfish, while very stable, you most likely won’t move too fast. But if you’re correctly posed and change support quickly you will be fast, efficient and injury free.

The Pose

  • harnesses the power of elements of previous movement, and defines the consequent movements
  • defines optimized interaction of all forces involved
  • helps integrate all forces during the support phase
  • provides for the best interaction with support, and support is an essential part of any movement
  • significantly optimizes muscular efforts
  • utilizes natural properties of the entire muscular skeletal system like muscles’ ability to contract and relax, and their elasticity, etc.
  • eliminates extra unnecessary movement so less energy is spent
  • allows to move with sharp precision
  • simplifies teaching and learning of any technique

In running, or any other athletic activity, using pose allows us to tap into the natural forces at play. Physics and biomechanics performing in harmony. Key position allows us to flow within the natural forces and use their power, instead of clashing with them and suffering the consequences.

You get better results with less effort and don’t traumatize your body in the process.

About the Author

Dr. Nicholas Romanov is the developer of the Pose Method®. A passionate proponent of higher level of education in athletics, Dr. Romanov dedicated his entire career to sports education, scientific research and coaching. An Olympic Coach and a bestselling author, Dr. Romanov has taught on all continents and visited almost every country in the world.
[ Click here to learn more ]

CONTINUING EDUCATION + LIVE SEMINARS + LOCAL CLASSES

Pose Method® 2-Day Educational Seminar is approved for 16 contact hours towards continuing education for Certified CrossFit Trainers and Physical Therapists. Athletes and parents of school age children are encouraged to attend.

The Pose Method® system is a combination of online learning, live seminars and local classes making it the most effective solution available to health and fitness professionals as well as anyone who enjoys an active lifestyle.

About My Book: The Pose Method® of Running

Despite the volume of scientific articles and books written about running technique, the problem of how to run, and how to teach running technique, has still not been satisfactorily addressed. This tremendous output of information and opinion remains a disjointed, even eclectic, amalgam of anecdotal observation and experience, devoid of any integral unifying concept.

As a result, the teaching process of running is something of a foster child, a process wholly dependent on the individual coach’s insights, preferences and competence. Without an underlying, developed and accepted school of thought as to what constitutes proper running technique, what is taught by any given coach or instructor is pretty much the subject of personal whim.

This book is my attempt to fill this gap and present an integrated and uniform approach to running technique that can be systematically taught by instructors and coaches around the world. The concepts that form the basis of the Pose Method of Running derive not only from scientific principles, but also from observation, intuition and more than 20 years of working with runners at all ability levels.

I proceeded from the simple assumption that running, like any other human movement, must have a “best way” to be done. To find that “best way”, I observed both humans and animals in their running and tried to identify the scientific principles at work in the matter of forward locomotion.

Having identified those principles, I then attempted to develop a system of human movement that would derive the maximum benefit from forces that exist in nature. It was my belief that this movement, while accomplishing essentially mechanical tasks, would be as artistic and refined as the movements that characterize ice-skating, ballet or gymnastics.

To my mind, this search for a “best way” to run was an urgent calling. If, in fact, I could design a curriculum that would allow individuals to run injury free, with better performance and, most importantly, more pleasure in their pursuit, I would have done a service to countless athletes.

Thus, I present this book as a system that will benefit both runners and their coaches. It is based on the combination of scientific reasoning and simple common sense. As such, the proof of the system will not come from strict scientific data, but the success of its repeated application over and over again.

As with other sports that one attempts to learn from a book, an individual’s success in acquiring the benefits of the Pose Method of Running will rest not only on his understanding of the principles and his dedication to learning the system, but also in his or her willingness and ability to seek outside support in the endeavor.

While it is possible to learn the Pose Method by studying this book on your own, it is always better to have outside assistance. Whether it is simply a training partner or a qualified coach, having a second set of eyes to observe your technique and help you along the way will prove an invaluable asset and greatly reduce the time it takes you to adopt this new style of running.

As with any other approach to perfecting sporting endeavors, the Pose Method of Running remains very much a work in progress. As a scientist, a coach, and an author, I am always anxious to hear from anyone concerning their experiences with the Pose Method.

By sharing our knowledge and further refining this technique, I believe we can build an ever-larger community of happy, healthy and satisfied runners around the world. Your thoughts and insights could well become invaluable components of the next edition of this book, to be shared with runners of all ages and nationalities.

About the Author

Dr. Nicholas Romanov is the developer of the Pose Method®. A passionate proponent of higher level of education in athletics, Dr. Romanov dedicated his entire career to sports education, scientific research and coaching. An Olympic Coach and a bestselling author, Dr. Romanov has taught on all continents and visited almost every country in the world.
[ Click here to learn more ]