Richtig Dehnen-Qigong Sibao in der Wushu Taichi Akademie

Have you always wanted to be flexible or to learn more about stretching? Have you always wondered how you can finally become flexible? Here you can find out everything you need to know about stretching and flexibility.

Almost everyone would like to have a flexible body so that they can move freely and carefree. Especially in Wushu as a competitive sport, we always need sufficient flexibility to be able to perform certain movements nicely. So it's no wonder that sooner or later almost everyone deals with the topic of stretching. However, you will quickly find that there are flexibility videos and aids a dime a dozen. Perhaps you have already had one or the other experience by following a stretching program. Today, however, we would like to explain our point of view on the subject of stretching and flexibility to you and offer you a central theme in the whole stretching craze and confusion. You can now find out whether stretching really helps to make you more flexible and what you should be aware of. 🙂

What is stretching?

In order to better understand the subject of stretching, let's make a small digression into the subject. Let's take a closer look at what stretching is.

The term “stretching” means the pulling apart or lengthening of a muscle. Even here there are many different scientific approaches. Some claim that the muscle is being pulled apart, others say that it is not possible at all. As a result of stretching, however, one can usually say that after a certain amount of time one becomes more flexible and gains greater flexibility. To achieve this, so-called stretching gymnastics is practiced. This is a sequence of specific exercises in which muscles are put under tension or compression. A distinction is made here between different types of stretching, which we will discuss in more detail in a moment.

What exactly am I stretching?

First and foremost, the connective tissue-like muscle structures are influenced. The tension at the beginning of the stretching is still very high and slowly decreases with increasing time and then remains constant. The connective tissue fibers adapt after a long time by increasing their effective length. That is why the term "muscular shortening" is often used, as it is primarily the elastic connective tissue structures that are shortened. We are talking about the parallel elastic and serial elastic connective tissue structures.

Dehnen
The different types of muscles in the human body. A distinction is largely made here between the muscles of the heart (A), the soft muscles (B) (intestinal muscles) and the skeletal muscles (C).

MOBILITY LIMIT

As soon as a stretching position is taken, the practitioner feels the muscles tense. At that moment, the mechanoreceptors in the tendons and muscles react and indicate the end position of the range. The physiological limit of mobility can be shifted upwards by repeated stretching, as the tolerance of the receptors to the stretching stimuli increases. However, this limit can also decrease again if the range of motion is not repeatedly exhausted. Then there is a reduction in mobility. Everyone knows the phenomenon here, if you stretch continuously, you become more flexible / stretchable in the long run. However, as soon as a break of 1 - 2 weeks is taken, the elasticity decreases rapidly and you feel stiff again.

STRETCH THRESHOLD

First there is a restriction of the physiological limits of mobility and later of the structural limits of mobility. It can therefore be said that stretching is primarily about stimulating the mechanoreceptors, which signal the end of the movement, with constant movement in the maximum range in order to maintain mobility. A distinction is made between the elastic limit and the elastic threshold.

The stretching threshold is the first point of tension perception. Up to this point you should stretch regularly in order to maintain the stretch that has already been obtained. You should still be able to relax and not grimace. Nor should your breath be held. Then you are more in the area of the elastic limit.

STRENGTH LIMIT

The elastic limit is the moment of maximum mobility. However, the intensity should not be exaggerated here. If the tension does not decrease after 10–30 seconds, the yield point has been exceeded.

Stretching methods

Below is a list of some of the most popular stretching methods today.

Static stretching

With static stretching (also called static stretching), the stretching position is taken up with a slow movement and then kept motionless for a long time (several seconds to minutes).

Here one also often speaks of passive static stretching, since one holds the position in relaxation (passive) without movement (static).

The PNF methods (CR – AC stretching) listed below always include a static stretching of the targeted muscle (target muscle).

BENEFITS OF PASSIVE STATIC STRETCHING

  • The risk of injury is minimal due to the controlled movements and is especially suitable for beginners.
  • The stretch reflex is not triggered.

 

DISADVANTAGES OF PASSIVE STATIC STRETCHING

  • By remaining in the extreme stretched position for a long time, the capsular ligament apparatus is not physiologically stressed.
  • Because of the isolated stretching of the muscle, the coordination of the internal muscles (intermuscular coordination) is neglected. This is also neglected when training on a device in the gym. As a result, the practitioner usually feels weaker or more unstable for 1–3 hours afterwards. Almost a bit "wobbly" on the legs.
  • There is only a slight local increase in blood flow and therefore there are no warming effects. The body cools down rather than warming up.
  • If there are trigger points in the area to be stretched, there is usually a decrease in stretchability.

Dynamic stretching

Dynamic stretching (DD) is characterized by the fact that the stretching position is taken up with one quick movement, left again immediately and then taken up repeatedly with short backward movements (also called intermittent stretching). If this sequence of movements resembles a spring or seesaw, this can be described as rhythmic, swinging or ballistic stretching.

ADVANTAGES

  • The inter- and intramuscular coordination is trained; the complex movements require a corresponding neuromuscular control, which is paved anew every time through the numerous repetitions of movements. (Due to the controlled stretching in motion, the muscles can be trained in a more diverse way than with weights on a device)
  • Due to the dynamic load, an increased local blood flow to the muscles and thus an increased warm-up effect can be recorded.

 

DISADVANTAGES

  • The triggering of the stretch reflex. If the length of the musculature changes too much, the stretched muscle contracts, controlled by reflex. It is assumed that the theoretically possible end position of the joint is not even reached. Since the extent of the reflex contraction depends strongly on the speed of stretching, fast movements should be avoided as far as possible (e.g. vigorous swinging).
  • The short duration of the stimulus and the resulting low stimulus range The joint end position is only assumed for a very short time, so that the necessary stimulus duration is too short for the connective tissue-like structures that are responsible for length adaptation.

AC–Stretching

AC stretching (AC = antagonist contract) differs from SD only in that the antagonist (opponent) of the target muscle contracts to the maximum during the stretching, thereby deepening the stretching position. When stretching the hamstring muscles, you should tense the hip flexors, especially the straight thigh muscle (rectus femoris muscle). Since this is difficult in the one-legged kneeling position, one usually takes a different body position, such as the supine position. The isometric contraction of the antagonist is intended to trigger a reciprocal forward inhibition of the target muscle during static stretching, so that it does not hinder the assumption of a deep stretching position by an involuntary or reflex contraction.

CR–Stretching

CR-Stretching (CR = Contract-Relax, also tension-relaxation-stretching) begins even before the actual stretching procedure is carried out with a maximum constant contraction of the target muscle (isometric contraction *). Here only one muscle changes the tension, but no change in length. Only then does a static stretching of the target muscle usually follow after a short relaxation phase.

* Isometric contraction: isometric from the Greek means equal measure, equal length. Contraction, here: tension

For example, the stretching person places the lower leg on a partner's shoulder with the knee bent and tries to push it down by maximally tensing the back thigh muscles (hamstring muscles, also known as knee flexors or hip joint extensors) before the stretching of these muscles is connected. This sequence should lead to an inhibiting effect of the tendon spindle * on the stretch reflex (autogenic inhibition) of the target muscle, so that it does not reflexively oppose the stretch.

* Tendon spindles are tendons in the transition area between muscle and tendon fibers. They serve to perceive deep sensitivity.

CR–AC–Stretching

CR – AC stretching is nothing more than a combination of CR stretching and AC stretching. It is hoped that the mechanisms of autogenic inhibition and reciprocal forward inhibition will work together.

Here, for example, the target muscle is first tensed and then brought into maximum stretching (CR stretching). Then the opponent is tensed by the target muscle.

Effectiveness of the stretching methods

In order to improve mobility and elasticity in the long term, the question often arises which of the presented methods is the right or the most effective. There are enough essays and theses on the results of stretching experiments and the most effective stretching methods in the specialist literature. The statements, however, are very different. For example, one method proved better than the other after exercise. On the other hand, it did much worse in the regeneration phase. What that means exactly can be briefly summarized. All methods are effective and powerful when used at the right time. A distinction should be made here between what you want to achieve and when with the respective stretching method. Which method you use best when, I describe below in the article.

What you should or can achieve with stretching.

Below I list a few examples of what you can achieve with the right stretch.

STRETCHING AS A PROPHYLAXIS OF INJURY

In order to prevent injuries, you should achieve sufficient basic mobility, which is necessary for the respective sport. By this I mean, for example, good shoulder mobility for javelin throwers or very good hip mobility for martial artists. This can prevent practitioners from moving into a range of motion that they have not used before and thus inadvertently causing a strain or injury. By mobility, I mean the range of the joints that can be improved through stretching, strength and active use. This does not mean static stretching in warm-up training. So far, there are insufficient scientific studies to show that stretching before exercise prevents injuries. You can find out more about warm-up training and whether you need it before your training session hier. Im Artikel „Unser Wushu Kungfu Aufwärmtraining“ beschreiben wir unsere Übungen und warum sie in unserem Training enthalten ein sollten.

STRETCHING AS A PERFORMANCE IMPROVEMENT

The same applies to performance enhancement as to injury prevention. The performance in the respective area can be increased if the respective exercises are performed correctly. A lack of flexibility or mobility makes it difficult to increase performance. Here, too, the effect of pre-stretching is very controversial.

Note that, for example, you reduce the muscle's ability to gain strength as soon as you stretch statically. The muscle's ability to contract is restricted and its performance is reduced. The stretching only makes sense in the warm-up if the subsequent movement has to be carried out with the maximum joint radius. (Example gymnasts, ballet dancers or martial artists). Here, however, you should make sure that it is a dynamic stretch, because the muscles and tissues are really well supplied with blood and you can feel your way to the desired range of motion by slowly dynamic stretching. Under the following article you will learn specifically how you can can integrate individual types of stretching into your kungfu training.

WARM UP BEFORE EXERCISES

Proper warm-up before exercise has many advantages, as long as it is done correctly. Dynamic warming up of muscles, joints and tissues prepares the body mainly for the upcoming performance. This allows athletes to concentrate better on their movements for their upcoming training. You can increase your range of motion through the right warm-up and reduce the risk of injury. For this you can, for example, check out our Wushu Kungfu warm-up program look.

STRETCHING AS COOLDOWN

In the so-called cooldown, it is also beneficial to stretch. Again, however, you should pay attention to which method you use. You have already put a lot of strain on your muscles through the training (depending on the training intensity) and should not strain them further for the cool down. A good cool down has a lowering effect on muscle tone and should also be seen as a mental conclusion that the training is now over. You can find more about cooldown, how you use it and what you need it for in the following article . If you would like to find out more about how we use the cooldown in Wushu Kungfu lessons, you will find it here: Our Kungfu cooldown program .

STRETCHING TO PREVENT AND AVOID MUSCULAR DYSBALANCES

If knee pain, back pain, hip pain or other pain occur, these usually result from muscular imbalances. This means bad posture that results from one-sided stress. The muscle adjusts to the new target length and pain is the result. In order to prevent these imbalances, one can stretch the frequently stressed muscle and strengthen the usually weaker opponent. This stretch can either be done statically with a small strength exercise or even with the CR-AC method. A partner is helpful for this.

STRETCHING TO IMPROVE RANGE OF MOVEMENT

Yes, stretching can improve your range of motion. However, it is only one factor among many that plays a role in the overall flexibility. To do this, all practitioners should know when to use which method of stretching. Anyone who has stretched for a few months knows how the body behaves when you take a week or two off. Flexibility has decreased and we cannot continue where we left off. In short, stretching improves range of motion. The duration and effectiveness, on the other hand, are completely different topics that need to be dealt with in another blog article.

STRETCHING FOR Awareness, BODY AWARENESS AND GENERAL RELAXATION

As mentioned above, one of the main reasons for stretching at the end of the workout is the psychoregulative effect. This means the mental relaxation effect, which also sensitizes the body perception through exercise. The mere fact that someone takes 5–10 minutes a day to stretch their body, concentrate on their breathing and just switch off or relax, make a big plus for daily stretching.

Mobility or flexibility through stretching

Yes, you can become flexible and agile through stretching. However, this is the same as with a rented DVD. You have to bring it back even if you don't continue to use it. As soon as you neglect the daily stretching program, the progress made in mobility and flexibility suffers again. Stretching is an important and essential component to optimally prepare the body for an upcoming performance, for physiotherapeutic purposes and to mentally complete a training session. There is still the component of the fascia stretching, which is beyond the scope of this article. You can find out more about this in our Flexinar .

MOBILITY

Mobility doesn't just depend on stretching. Stretching is a small part of this. A distinction must be made between flexibility and flexibility.

ARTICULARITY

Flexibility is determined by the structure of the joint (joints, cartilage, intervertebral discs). To train the range of motion of the joints, good mobility training is recommended. You can find more about this in our Flexinar .

EXTENSIBILITY

The ability to stretch is influenced by tendons, ligaments, capsules and muscles. However, it should be noted here that tendons, ligaments and joint capsules have a stabilizing function and instead of wanting to stretch them, one should make sure that they are properly used and resilient. The training of the ability to stretch only relates to the muscles, whereby the nerves play an essential role.

Is stretching a panacea?

Stretching is by no means a panacea for painful movement restrictions, but merely a tool that is used to maintain or acquire functional mobility. As already mentioned several times, it is important to decide which method to use when and to use a combination of mobilization exercises and stretching exercises.

TRIGGER POINTS

Shortened muscles, sore muscles or minor injuries such as torn muscles cannot be stretched away. A necessary knowledge of mobility, performance, physical strengths and your own deficits are an absolute must here. This also includes the knowledge of the targeted application of stretching stimuli and intensities so that negative effects can be avoided. The well-known trigger point is an example here. If someone has a trigger point in the lower leg, for example, and tries to stretch it, flexibility deteriorates after a short time, as the trigger point can be viewed like a knot in a rope. In order to untie the knot, no one would continue to pull and stretch the rope, but rather concentrate on untying the knot first.

Dehnen
The human skeleton with its muscles from the front (A) and back (B). The individual black points represent exemplary trigger points that lead to feelings of stiffness, pain or restrictions in movement.
Dehnen
A closer look at the muscle fibers of a trigger point. The red "knots" in the enlarged circle represent the tense muscle strands that can no longer relax on their own. These spread over the surrounding strands over the long term. If around 15 to 30 such "nodes" have formed, one speaks of a trigger point.

Conclusion

In summary, we can say that daily stretching trains the muscles' ability to stretch. The more elastic the muscle, the greater the range. The duration of the elasticity also depends on the technique that is used to become flexible. It is therefore important that you are aware in advance of what you need the flexibility and flexibility for, so that you know which technique is the best for you. If you practice Wushu Kungfu and would like to know how you can train your flexibility, we recommend the following Article .

In our opinion, several points play a large role in the desired flexibility and elasticity:

  1. Stretchability of muscles
  2. Mobility and health of the fascia
  3. Mobility of the joints
  4. Mobility of the nerves
  5. Release of certain trigger points
  6. Mental work

I was also very stiff when I started wushu. I would rather count myself to the Wickinger people than to the contrasting contortionists who can move freely in any direction. Stretching alone didn't get me too far to achieve my desired goal, the balancing act. It wasn't until I started dealing with the other issues of flexibility that I reached my goal in just a few weeks.

MY RESULT

The best part, however, is that I don't have to stretch every day to keep my flexibility. A few points that you press from time to time and regularly go through the joints are enough. No stretching pains and no eternal persistence in the positions! If you want to find out more about it, I recommend my flexibility seminar (Flexinar). There is one for beginners , where we Go through and explain all 5 techniques individually, with which you will reach your goal of flexibility. If you want to know how you can maintain the flexibility you have gained without having to stretch every day, I recommend our Flexinar for advanced learners .

If you should have any questions, please feel free to write us in the comment bar at the end of this blog post!

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