Emmet’s Blackboard

Loaded Stretching

This weeks mini lecture I clear up and explain loaded progressive stretching. For some examples of Loaded Stretches see my Facebook page for a pancake sequence.

Welcome back to another round of Emmet’s black board, my movers and shakers.  This week we are looking at loaded progressive stretching.

I know a lot of you have asked me about this.  It’s the main name Ido uses for this type of stretching, and a lot of people can find info by going to his seminars.  As a disclaimer, I actually haven’t attended one of his seminars, but I know some of the techniques and I understand their applications.  We’re going to blow the lid off of this.

First, let’s look at the name.  The name is the hint.  It gives you all you need to know about this technique.  Once you know this technique, there’s a lot of other stuff written out there about it.  Loaded progressive stretching.  It’s in the name.

Loaded, as in the application of load or resistance.  This could be either bodyweight, or if we need to progress it, we could move onto stretches that require an external resistance, ie a weight plate, barbell, partner, anything really.

Progressive, we are progressing in one of our training variables.  This may be sets, reps, time under tension, load, range of motion.  If we are improving in our stretch, we don’t need to change it.  If we are not improving, we need to look at one of our variables.  Once we change our variables, hopefully we’ll have new improvement.

Stretching, increasing range of motion.

First thing’s first, loaded progressive stretching is a type of resistance based stretching that is a type of contraction we term an eccentric quasi isometric.

What that means is basically the muscles are getting longer at a very slow pace.  It’s like an isometric, but not quite the same.  The application of this, we’re going to look at some of the main authors.

The first guy who came out with a product on this is a man called Thomas Kurz.  You can buy his stuff, it’s actually quite good.  He’s probably one of the most flexible old men you’ll ever see.  Not that he was old when he first came out with this, but he’s the kind of guy you’d want for a grand dad.  His technique or way of doing this was to basically apply a load, work up and down through your tight range of motion, and just going to keep doing sets and reps until you feel you have reached your limit for the day.  Once you’ve reached your limit for the day, you hold a 30s isometric in your new range to establish it, then repeat.

It’s not very effective in giving concrete variables, but as we know now, everyone is a unique special snowflake, so you need to experiment a bit with this.

Then we have another forerunner on putting it out there, Coach Sommer, in his Foundation programs.  He has an interesting way, and I like his way of doing this.  If we look at the progression, and we’ll use the hanging pike:

He establishes a new position for one training cycle.  If you look at the pike, he’s doing weighted pike stretches first.  For him, a training cycle lasts up to 12 weeks depending on your level with that progression.

Afterwards, he’ll start doing Jefferson Curl.  Establish a new position, then move in and out of that position to gain some new position, and allow you to move in and out comfortably from that position.  Quite a unique take on it, quite interesting, it works quite well.

Then we have a guy called Jerry Hatter, with Industrial Strength Flexibility.  He mainly learned splits from martial arts, so not the prettiest splits, but still splits nonetheless.

His technique is to move into your end range.  Just to give you some terminology, we have end range being as far as you go.  When you move into end range, you’re going to encounter two things: the soft stop and the hard stop.  As you get into it, the amount of tension increases to a certain point.  That’s your soft stop, your first stop.  You can normally push past that.

Get to your soft stop, push past it into your hard stop, where you stop based off your joint, tension, whatever it is that day.  You move into your hard stop, come back out, hit 20 reps, hold the last one for a normal stretching time of a minute to 90s.  Repeat that quite often.

Who else do we have?  We have Ido.  Ido is the mystery man of all this with his loaded progressive stretching system.  Basically, as far as we can tell, after talking to people and just seeing the videos of his students online, it is 10 reps, hold the last contraction for 10 seconds.  Seems to be the most common thing.

As for sets and reps, I’m sure he’s progressing that in different ways.  But, that’s the one that seems to be working quite well at the moment.  It’s the easiest to get into.

So – I’m going to give you my take on loaded progressive stretching, and how to actually apply it.  First thing’s first, we pick stretches that allow us effective leverage on the muscles we’re trying to improve.  We might do a front split, but suspended, things like that.

You’ve got to experiment and apply the techniques.  I’m going to start posting videos as well.  There’s already some on my Facebook so check that out.

You apply either bodyweight, or once you get to a certain level, we apply some external resistance.  When applying the resistance, where a lot of people fail in this type of stretching is they use too much.  You want to use the minimum amount of weight to help lower you into a new range of motion.  For example, in my seated straddle, I have 100º of motion.  If I used a 60kg weight, I’m probably not going to go anywhere other than just collapsing under the weight.  Whereas if I use a 10kg weight, that’s going to give me a nice extra 10º that I can move in and out of, and focus on getting stronger in that end range of motion.

Basically, if you know your stretching, getting stronger in your end range of motion is what makes you more flexible.  We’re not increasing muscle length that greatly in adults.

Next, progress in sets first.  That’s how we progress with my clients, and what I found to be ore effective.  We have to remember, novelty in and of itself is a stressor.  When we apply stress to the body it will adapt, hopefully positively, sometimes negatively.  So we add sets first before adding reps or weight.  That’s what I find more effective.

The sweet spot from my experimentation seems to be 5 sets.  5 sets seems to be where everyone reaches their rough max.  Any sets after that on the day seem to be superfluous.  You get a small bit, but 5 sets seems to be it.  Depending on the day, sometimes we’ve gone up as high as 8 or 9 sets, and I have increased.  But the next day, the pain, the DOMS has been quite intense and not allowed me to continually stretch for another few days.  It makes us go back a step.

So 5 seems to be a nice thing.

We’re going to start with 5 reps, and progress to 10, and then we want to hold the last position, the deepest position we achieve in each set, for 10-30s.  Start with 10; you want to be squeezing hard on this.  It’s not relaxing.

I’m finding with some people, and myself in particular, once you finish that last bit and start relaxing, I’ll go into a deep stretch on it.  Just relax, take it out, go farther.  Seems to work well.

We want to increase weight once we’ve progressed all our variables; we’re doing 5 sets of 10 reps with 30s hold.  If we’re still not increasing, you don’t need to increase the weight.  I’ve been using 15kg in my straddle for months now.  It’s working fine and I’m slowly gaining range of motion.  I have grade 2 adductor tears from some shit coaching back in the day, so getting range of motion in the straddle has always been a bit of a battle, but I’m happy with my progress.

We’re going to increase the weight 2.5-5kg in the stretch, once you have stopped gaining range of motion over 2-3 sessions.

You’ll notice there’s always an up and down in gain of flexibility.  There is never a clear linear process.  We’ll be going backwards and forwards, but once you’re not gaining over 2-3 sessions, up the weight a bit.  See how that goes.

Upping the weight is always a thing, because if you put too much weight on, you cause your muscles too much tension and they won’t be able to actively elongate into the stretch.

Basically that is the rundown of what loaded progressive stretching is.  That’s my way of applying it.  If you understand this, you can pick pretty much any stretch.  Not every stretch, but you’ll be able to apply it.  Some stretches are easier than others.

Other things to look at – isometric stretching is a great one.  It’s a different category of stretching in my mind.  It’s fantastic for middle splits, and we’ll go through that next week.  I hope you enjoy it.  If you have problems applying it, just ask me questions.  That’s what the comments are there for.  If you like my videos, please like and subscribe.

If you want to see more loaded progressive stretching, there’s a pancake sequence already on my Facebook.  Please find that in the links below.

I’ll catch you guys next week.