Increasing flexibility without stretching???

by Trevor Aung Than on July 5, 2012

I posted this Youtube video yesterday of my colleague Myan and her forward bend:

Pretty amazing right?

Go try it yourself, if you don’t have a spiky ball a baseball, cricket ball or softball will do. Even a tennis ball. Go on…I’ll wait for you…

So how does this actually work? Voodoo magic aside, as my friend Ian O’Dwyer succinctly puts it:

..it is allowing the ankle complex to communicate to the rest of the complexes to mitigate stress…

Translation – by releasing the ankle region (in this case via the spiky ball at the sole of the foot i.e. the plantar fascia) it allows the rest of the body to move more efficiently as there is no longer a restriction (in this case for Myan, her restriction being in her ankle complex).

Make sense?

This kind of bodywork actually hydrates and renews the fascial tissues. We know that fascia and other tissues in our bodies respond to mechanical load but by what mechanism? With any therapy producing mechanical stress on the tissues (i.e. deep-tissue massage, foam rolling, spiky ball, baseball bat, etc) this induces a ‘sponge-like’ effect causing temporary tissue dehydration with resultant tissue rehydration. This sponge effect helps to hydrate areas in the body that may lack adequate hydration which are usually areas of pain or that are linked with dysfunction (Müller and Schleip, 2011).

You’re probably wondering how long will this change last?

The benefit of these immediate changes will probably decline after a few hours as these newly hydrated areas lose their hydration. The key is to repeat this type of therapy often (every other day, or at least twice weekly) and to be consistent and persistant in approach. For collagen remodelling to take place, this will take anywhere between 6-24 months. Remember, your body took a long time to get like it is so it will take a long time to change! Be patient.

What else can you do?

Exercises are essential to also provide mechanical stress to the tissues. What kind of exercise? Well, you should know the answer to that!

Whole-body integration (WBI) meaning whole-body movement, NOT single-jointed, machine-based exercises.

Dynamic stretches – both slow and fast – are now known to be better for the fascial tissues (Müller and Schleip, 2011). Yes, yes, I know we were all told never to bounce in a stretch but specific controlled, rhythmical ‘pulses’ at the end of joint range when the body is warm is actually better than static stretches.

Interval training – having rest periods between short bursts of whole-body exercise allows the tissues in the body to hydrate adequately (remember the ‘sponge’ effect in the tissues).

Incorporating some or all of the above will help you and your body on the path to feeling and moving better.  And you’ll be smarter as well! Hmmm…pretty good deal all around don’t you think?

NB//

  • Sorry, I’ve been meaning to video some actual exercise examples.  Will do it soon!
  • I got a mention on my brother’s awesome Zen Pencils site!

Further reading:

Fascial Fitness: Fascia oriented training for bodywork and movement therapies

Anatomy Trains PDF overview – awesome reference

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Deanna July 5, 2012 at 1:26 pm

Oh my goodness, I did this while the video was playing. INCREDIBLE!! I had tightness in my lower back, which was relieved, and my movement was immediately improved. I went from tips of my fingers touching my toes to being able to place my entire palm facedown on the floor with no effort, which I can usually only do after a bit of a warm up. YAY!! Thanks so much for posting this, I’m going to share it on my fb page. :) xox

Reply

Trevor Aung Than July 5, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Hi Deanna,

Awesome! That’s great to hear – yes, the fascial lines are pretty amazing. Thanks for your support and stay tuned for more!

All the best,
Trev

Reply

Simone July 7, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Hey Trev,
Always a good post. I’ve had tight plantar fascia for the last week and just happened to have my spiky ball on the desk while I watched it so did it in real time with you as well. Not just release of the hamstring tightness and plantar fascia, but I feel really quite relaxed now too!
Thanks :D

Reply

Trevor Aung Than July 7, 2012 at 4:44 pm

Hey Simone,

Thanks for following! Yes, it works well for a lot of people. Sometimes I surprise myself with how much it can help!

Hope all is well in Cairns!

Trev

Reply

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