The Brain's Flexibility Paradox
Beat the Flexibility Paradox with Strategic Posture Strength
When people work with me at Ranks Academy the most common frustration I hear is, "No matter how much I stretch, I still feel tight, what's the use?"
How do we beat this Paradox?
When stretching is not getting you looser, it's not because flexibility is a futile pursuit, rather, you are triggering a defensive reaction to stretching because your brain does NOT want you to be "stretchy".
The reason for this reaction is simple, as the following demonstration shows:
I am propping up a model skeleton with my hands, as soon as I remove my hands, the skeleton collapses in a heap! Stripped of muscles and ligaments, our skeleton has no capacity to remain upright or even hold together!
We need tissue tightness to stand, move and most importantly prevent spontaneous dislocations. However, as unpleasant as being tight is, having our skeleton fall apart is worse - the brain guards against this by always keeping us sufficiently tense. This bodily demand leaves us with a flexibility paradox, flexibility is critical to be pain-free, have good balance and stay muscularly young. Yet the brain reflexively halts us when we try to stretch.
The answer is STRENGTH. You see, when we set out to become flexible we don't need a stretching process, we need a strengthening process. And not just any strength, we need strategic strength. Six groupings of muscles (shown below) provides the baseline forces holding us together and allowing us to move without breaking apart.
In the posture image below, I must account for each crossroad. My focus is on strengthening. The flexibility I pick up is a side effect of that strengthening process. Just trying to "stretch" without being mindful of the brain's demand for stability violates thisFlexibility/Strength Rule. Our flexibility will not budge.
Muscles and connective tissues have innate capacity to lengthen and compress. To gain flexibility the key is developing enough strength to allow innate flexibility to be safely realized.
When practicing flexibility, the objective is not being "stretchy" enough, rather it is generating enough force to be STABLE in a lengthened shape.