Is stretching optimal? I haven’t been a huge fan of stretching for a long time. I think it makes sense in very particular use cases, but I believe there are better alternatives to improve movement. This is why I wanted to bring on my good friend and fellow Rebel Performance coach, Lance Goyke, to help answer a question we are both quite passionate about – is stretching dead?
We start the episode off by sharing why we have such strong opinions on this topic. As a former athlete, I was always told to stretch when I was feeling “tight”; however, it never made a difference. And sure enough, as soon as I stopped stretching and we stopped stretching our clients, injuries subsided, movement got better, and we alleviated more problems overall.
Lance and I unpack specific cases where we believe stretching does make sense, particularly when you are trying to reclaim your range of motion. We then do a deep dive into other approaches we can use to create meaningful movement change through exercise selection and periodization. Listen in as Lance and I lay out different tactics strategies that we use instead of stretching to improve joint range of motion.
What You’ll Learn in This Episode:
- [05:38] Background on stretching
- [09:16] The main goal of stretching
- [12:20] What’s happening when your muscles feel “tight”
- [15:02] The problem with the sleeper stretch
- [16:20] Negative effects of stretching tight muscles
- [23:00] Optimal coverage of a joint
- [24:41] Where stretching makes sense
- [29:58] Posterior hip capsule stretching
- [33:01] Improving movement and range of motion through exercise selection and periodization
- [39:15] The need for dissociation of various joints in your body
James Cerbie: Lance, how are you, my friend? Thank you for coming back on.
Lance Goyke: How are you?
James Cerbie: We’re good. We are on the back end of an illness, so I literally told Kelsey yesterday I said, I don’t care how I feel when I wake up. I’m over this. I’m going to work out. I’m going to have a full day at work. I’m tired of just feeling like poop and napping and not doing anything, so I am just going to force my body into being healthy again.
Lance Goyke: It’s a very jockey-willing kind of mindset.
James Cerbie: There I know we’ll see how it goes because it could backfire.
Lance Goyke: But take life by the horns.
James Cerbie: We’re good. Today is the first day of feeling not like a human zombie, so I’ll take it and then hopefully actually get some productive things done today, maybe get a lift in it’ll be a nice change of pace, not feel like a total sludge. How was your Thanksgiving?
Lance Goyke: It was good. Other than a little bit of sickness after Thanksgiving, I’m not sure if it was the dinner meal or the breakfast before and then the five and a half hour direct flight from New Jersey to Phoenix that we sat on the runway for another half hour. I thought 4 hours was my Max, and now I’m sure of it.
James Cerbie: Because we drove. And I told Kelsey on our drive back that I’m instituting a hard four hour limit. If we’re going someplace that is farther than a four hour drive away, we fly. I hate driving. I can’t stand it. It is just such a waste of time. It takes forever. You always end up in traffic because they’re idiots that get in wrecks, and I’m just sitting there being like, if I sat on a plane, I could be doing something with my time, I could be reading.
I could be working. I could literally be doing anything other than just sitting here driving.
Lance Goyke: Yeah, that’s really what is the thing that gets me about that? I’m OK with driving a little bit because I like listening to books, but for whatever reason, I haven’t slept. It’s like my maximum amount of hours. I get so tired just battling the daily fatigue. And when you’re driving at 05:00 p.m. And you’re sensitive to caffeine, you have to have some caffeine to not die. But that means you’re not going to sleep that night, and it’s just going to make the problem worse. So I totally feel you there.
James Cerbie: Yeah, that’s the trade-off. It’s like, okay, a night of zero sleep or no sleep ever again, which do I choose? Yeah, it’s just an efficiency conversation. I just want to make sure I’m using the time appropriately. We’re not here to talk about my driving woes and how much I dislike doing it because it feels like it’s a massive waste of my time. Today we’re going to chat about a very interesting topic that hopefully you the listener find interesting, which is the question is stretching debt? And we talked about this a little bit off air.
Background on Stretching
It’s something I think we’re both quite passionate about. And so again, sometimes I think we just get stuck in our little bubbles and we forget what the vast majority of people are still believing in doing, right. But I have not been a fan of the stretching camp for a very long time. And I wrote a blog post when I was interning at Eric Creste about this actually way back in the day because when I came up in the system. It was still very much. All right.
You squat, power clean, bench. If something’s tight, you stretch it right. So I always had air, quote, tight hamstrings. And people were just stretching me all the time, and I was always injured. And like, all these tactics and strategies people were using were not helping. I was not getting any better.
You go to physical therapy and like, what? You need to stretch more because you’re so tight. None of that works at all. It was an enormous waste of time. And so when I was in College, I started to be like, this doesn’t feel like the most optimal way to approach this problem. I don’t feel like this whole stretching thing is working. I know all of you are telling me I need to stretch, but I’m stretching my nuts off, and this is just not making a difference. So from that point on, I just basically blaze a path to figure out.
Okay, I think this is dumb. So what is a better alternative and a better option since then, I have not been a Humongous fan or proponent of stretching unless it is very sniper, detail focused. I think it makes sense in very particular use cases, and we’re going to dive into this way more. That’s just a quick back story. I have been anti stretching for probably about eight to ten years of my life and fun fact, when I stopped stretching and we stopped stretching all our fucking clients, funny thing is, they started feeling better.
They started moving better, and we started alleviating more problems. But I will hand this over to you. Maybe you have a back story of stretching, and then we can just dive in and talk about this from a less dogmatic standpoint and try to approach it from as evidence based as we can, because there’s not really tons of literature in this realm. Unfortunately, yeah.
Lance Goyke: My experience with stretching growing up was like PE class or ice hockey practice. It was like if we’re going to warm up, we got to do our stretches so we would all sit center ice and we would all just go through the same stretches and I would actually do them. I could feel the stretch, and I thought it was preparing me. Coincidentally, that led to something like that. And really heavy lifting led to the least healthy my body has ever been. I’m not going to totally blame it on the stretching.
Some of it was the heavy lifting that my body just wasn’t made for or ready for. And some of it was probably the food I was eating back then, so we live and we grow. But at this point, I don’t think stretching is always bad. I think it’s really intense. Stretching is almost always bad. But I think that there’s almost always a better alternative. And like, we were talking about you driving and trying to be efficient with your time. Stretching just doesn’t fit into my busy schedule unless it’s sitting and thinking time. But at that point, I don’t know, I don’t really like doing the stretches. It’s just suboptimal.
James Cerbie: Let’s say, I think maybe if we start with what is the goal outcome we are chasing like, what is it that stretching is trying to do for us? Let’s start with that. And then we can backtrack our way to say, maybe this isn’t the best strategy for us to use.
The Main Goal of Stretching
Lance Goyke: Yeah. So I would say that when people are stretching generally, they’re trying to increase their range of motion. In some realm, the biggest hang up that I have with that is we got to look at various types of ranges of motion, right? There are three planes of motion. You got the sagittal, you got the frontal and you’ve got the transverse. In general, people are most limited in the frontal and transverse, but we don’t have a lot of stretches for them. We’ve got a lot of sagittal stretches.
Specifically, the hamstrings are kind of like the biggest target here. And in my experience, even when somebody will say hamstrings are limited, they’re not really limited. They just can’t access it, right? If I don’t have the strength in my quad to pull my leg up and I’m testing my hamstring flexibility, then I can’t access it. My hamstring might be long, but if I don’t have another force to overcome it, then I can’t. Then that is way more important. And we would call that test an active straight leg race. If you’re going to try to Google it.
James Cerbie: And then I’m just going to jump in super quick there, because the hamstring is another great example of maybe just not asking the right questions. I think that’s an important example that you just mentioned, but we also have to consider the positioning of the underlying skeleton. What is the position of your pelvis? Because this is one that always blew my mind. And I’m like, I don’t understand how people don’t think about this, because it’s actually very basic and straightforward, right. If you just take a pelvis and it rolls forward into your pelvic tilt, if you want to use that language, your hamstring attaches on the back of this structure on the SQL two veracity.
If that thing rolls forward, the distal attachment site is not changing. It’s on the back of the knee. That’s not going anywhere. It’s proximal attachment site is moving farther up. It’s more superior. So your air, quote, short, tight hamstrings are actually perpetually lengthened. It’s like taking a rubber band, holding it and then holding it on stretch all the time. So your hamstrings aren’t short. They’re actually long. And then when you go to test them on a table, you’re starting, however many degrees behind the starting line, so they’re going to look short.
I don’t understand why that’s such a large, logical jump for people to make. If it’s just we don’t want to ask that question because it’s an easier answer just to say, oh, look, this is short. Go stretch it.
Lance Goyke: It’s an added layer of complexity. So I’ve been thinking about this more. So I’ve been writing these way too long articles on my website, hoping to do a real deep dive into a couple I think popular but misinterpreted topics. And the one I’m about to finish is on Buttwink, which is essentially 20,000 words on hip mobility, and the last one that I did, maybe a little more pertinent. Well, maybe equally pertinent. It’s about quad stretches. And I’ve thought through this so oftentimes when someone comes to me, they say, X or Y feels tight.
What’s Happening When Your Muscles Feel “Tight”
But tight is a vague, descriptor and totally unhelpful. If you want to diagnose something because muscles can be tight for multiple reasons, right. And that’s that extra layer of complexity that I think people aren’t understanding. Like you’re saying, a muscle can be tight passively because there is tension within it, think like a rubber band. The ends are being pulled, and that makes something tight. But muscles can also be tight because they are unrelenting because they have a descending motor drive that tells it to stay tight.
It’s essentially a contraction, a low level amount of contraction that increases the stiffness in a tissue. It’s not a passive stiffness, and it can be overcome. And that’s why you have somebody who comes and sees you for an evaluation, James. And they say, My hamstrings are tight, and you say, Just bend over and touch your toes, like, 40 times, and now they can touch their toes. Right? Those things can change really quickly because the motor system, the brain and the rest of the motor system, that stuff can change in an instant.
James Cerbie: But this is a really important point here. That again, something that doesn’t ever come into the conversation that really drives me bananas. A muscle cannot carry tone without the influence of the nervous system, period. So if we have these really tight toned up muscles, we should maybe look someplace else other than the muscle in question, because I think the two examples you just gave are okay. This muscle either feels tight because, hey, the two attachment sites are getting pulled away from each other like a stretching rubber band.
So therefore, it’s not necessarily the muscle. It’s where that muscle is attaching or part two is if we do have this more toned up, low level contraction, that is a nervous system related influence. You are not going to stretch that out of the muscle. I’m sorry, you just are not right. The extreme example in this realm is, if you ever get your hands on a cadaver, I’ve never touched a cadaver that is missing range of motion. Right. Because there’s no influence coming from the brain. The muscle carries no tone, so it flops all over the place.
And when you start playing with this realm and you start saying, Well, what happens if I give maybe some more external compression someplace and you start getting back range of motion, or I give you some more side abs and I get back range of motion. Or maybe I teach you how to take a good breath
and we get back some range of motion. We start to realize that this is a much more complex world than just hey, if it’s a tight stretch, it probably causes more problems than not. Probably.
The Problem with the Sleeper Stretch
I think that does cause more problems because I’m just going to try to perpetually stretch an already stretched, already toned up muscle. That’s where we potentially create issues down the road that can make things harder for us in the long run, because now I’ve got another layer of complexity have to overcome if I create air quotes, some form of, like, a pathology at a joint or a tissue because I overstretch this thing, right? If you can think back to the sleeper stretch realm in baseball, and that was so popular, oh, you’re missing, right.
IR in your shoulder. Let’s just sleep or stretch that thing until we get it back, which hopefully no one is doing anymore. If someone is telling you to do a sleeper stretch, please slap them in the face and walk away because you’re just going to fuck up your shoulder. That’s not the reason you don’t have internal rotation. I’m sorry if that bothers you people, but just some tough love sometimes. Yeah. Please continue.
Negative Effects of Stretching a Tight Muscle
Lance Goyke: There’s a bunch of directions where we can go here. And when I’m on a call like this, my working memory just goes in the toilet. So I got to write these notes down, and then maybe we can talk about them all. Who knows if I spelled that right. So I was planning on moving on. But you have a really good point here where if I’m stretching something that’s already tight, what are the negative effects of that? So I don’t know. I think to fully understand this problem, you need a very broad and deep understanding of the anatomy.
More so broad. You don’t have to get too specific about this. I think a shoulder is the best example here. So let’s say I’ve got tight shoulders because I’m a human and I listen to Rebel Performance Radio, and that means that I bench press. So I have tight shoulders.
James Cerbie: That is all of you.
Lance Goyke: That is me. That is James, that is all of you.
James Cerbie: I’m going to break it apart for a second here. I’m going to be willing to bet that there’s not a male, not a male listening to this episode right now that has full shoulder flexion. There are probably some women out there, some females in the crowd listening that will have full shoulder flexion just because you are maybe on that laxity side of the world and a little bit more loosey goosey, and you just go forever, right. But for the males in the crowd, sorry to break it to you.
I’d be blamed that none of you have full shoulder flexion. I’ll tell you exactly what it is. You’re going to have limited shoulder flexion. You’re going to have limited IR at every joint in your body. You’re not going to have hip extension, and your hip flexion is going to be limited as well. I’m willing to bet 95% of you fall into that bucket right there.
Lance Goyke: I think that’s probably true. Yes. Based on the clients from Rebel that I’ve worked with, I can confirm your probabilities.
James Cerbie: It’s probably more than 95%. I haven’t assessed somebody that doesn’t fit that bucket in years.
Lance Goyke: Yeah, I think that’s probably true, but we’re pretty stringent about what kind of mobility you have access to.
James Cerbie: Sorry. Continue.
Lance Goyke: I did want to play Devil’s advocate for a second here, so I trained this kid who is like, I don’t know. He’s maybe like five, eight, almost £300. He was half the size of five. I’ve seen some more petite women have calves that size or have thighs that size. It was crazy. I was like this and I laid him down. I tested his shoulder flexion and he had full shoulder flexion. He was super pathological. He should not have had full shoulder flexion, though. And the reason I can say that is because he didn’t have the other things that would say, hey, this is a body that moves really loosely.
This is a body that can demonstrate all of its flexibility. If I asked him to stand up and show me full shoulder flexion, there ain’t no way he would do that or he would have pain. And that’s where we have to think about if I have this active or this resting tension, like we were talking about this descending motor drive that is just unrelenting. Then I take that and I try to stretch those muscles. But I don’t do anything about that nervous system. So I still have that nervous system input.
What happens is that a piece of the muscle does not let go. Let’s say, for example, I have a late drive, right. And it won’t let go. And I try to stretch the lat. So then all I do is I don’t create any more space where the lat crosses. But what I do instead is the next thing that is supposed to stop. Movement starts to give way, and that tends to be the passive restraints of the joint capsule in the context of the shoulder.
I get this multidirectional instability because the joint’s not even that deep, right? Most of my stability is coming from moving things at the right time, like the SCAP and the humorous. They have to move together, and it’s coming from the passive restraints of the capsule. So if I let go of the Castle, then it doesn’t shake around this much. But it’s like you’re shaking around a golf ball on a tee, and I have the golf ball start to leave the joint. And so that’s how I can demonstrate full shoulder reflection, even though I don’t really have, I wouldn’t want to load in that position.
James Cerbie: Do you feel it is safe to say that a muscle will perpetually carry this tone because of perceived threat by the brain and nervous system, right? Yeah. I’m incapable of finding references and feeling safe and stable in the world around me. And so an easy way for me to find joint stability. Air quotes for people not watching is to just fucking turn on every muscle around that joint. And now I’m going to get some semblance of joint stability, right? Because all the muscles are on. But when I start seeing those things, my mind immediately goes to threat.
This person cannot Orient in space. They don’t really know where they are. And so we’re turning on all the muscles as a protective mechanism just to try to keep the joint safe. Do you feel like that’s a fair assessment of this?
Lance Goyke: Yeah, absolutely. When you think about the place that my head goes to. So I did a podcast yesterday, too, and we talked about this on that one.
James Cerbie: But who are you with?
Lance Goyke: It was more train, less paint with Michelle Bowen and Timber Sharp.
James Cerbie: All right. Nice.
Lance Goyke: It was a good one. It was actually a lot of fun. So we can listen to that one later when we’re done with this one, a concept that I come back to often. So I try not to remember specific rules, but more so principles. Right? I don’t want to go to somebody’s course and then say, okay, this is how they do it. I want to say, given what I know about the world and physics and chemistry, these are the decisions. This is likely what’s going to happen again.
We’re playing probabilities here. Think about it. And I’m going to use myself as an example. So my hips are super mobile, like more mobile than most people that I know. And it’s because my hip joint is super shallow. So my hip joint kind of looks like a shoulder joint. And what that means is that I have less coverage of the ball going into the socket, which means there’s less area to disperse forces through, which also means there’s less coverage and less keeping it in the joints and less stability.
So I tend to do really well with low force activities like yoga or even for me, it’s not really yoga because I don’t really like it, but it’s more like a conditioning type workout where I’m using submaximal loads, not trying to get very strong. And if I try to do those higher course activities, what I need for more stability to take my joint through these ranges of motion is I need more compression, and I get that by more muscle activity around the joint. And that since I don’t have a lot of area in the joint increases the pressure per unit area right.
Optimal Coverage of a Joint
I get more degeneration in my head. So lifting heavy is not something my body is very good at. It’s something that I’ve always wanted, and I really like doing. But it’s a long road to say. I don’t know if we’re talking about stretching, but what we’re really talking about is the sensation of an optimal coverage of a joint, because that then leads to having full mobility. It’s not that my muscle needs to be longer.
James Cerbie: So we are pooping stretching right now. And maybe I think two things we should talk about. Next thing. Number one, what are specific use cases where stretching makes sense potentially. And two, if we’re sitting here saying, hey, stretching is not the option that we’re going to use, but people still want to be improving range of motion and movement. What are potentially better options to actually create meaningful movement change? Right. So let’s start with the point. Number one of maybe. Let’s say what are some specific use cases where stretching still can make sense?
Where Stretching Makes Sense
I’ll lead with an example, a personal example after certain types of surgery, when you need to reclaim range of motion at a joint like UCL surgery on the elbow, Tommy John or ACL surgery at the knee. The only way to really get that back because we’re talking tendon, right? Like you’re essentially taking and creating a new ligament. You’ve got to get some range of motion back in that ligament. And that is very prolonged stretching. Right after Tommy John surgery, for example, you spend a preposterous amount of time just sitting on a table with somebody just pulling on it and just kind of like, massaging in that elbow region.
And we’re just slowly, like we’re talking 20 to 30 minutes at a time to slowly reclaim full range of motion at that joint. That’s the R1 example that comes to mind for me where I’m like, okay, stretching still does make sense in that room, because that’s the only way that you’re going to get that back. Right. And then a quick note here that I meant to bring up earlier, but forgot when we start thinking about more muscular things like muscle belly things. Another big bugaboo for me in stretching is you’re not adding sarcomeres to the muscle.
Right. So again, it all comes back to either what is that muscle attaching to or what is the tone being sent to that muscle from the nervous system? Because if you were adding sarcomeres in series via stretching, then, hey, maybe stretching does make sense because then you’re actually literally physically making the muscle longer. But knowing that we don’t do that, that does not happen. Then what are you trying to accomplish? Well, I’m either going to do something that influences where the muscle attaches, or I’m trying to influence the tone coming from the nervous system to that muscle.
That’s another important point I wanted to bring up here, because a lot of times I think that’s not talked about either. But I’ll pass the ball to you.
Lance Goyke: Sure. So postsurgery is a good example of stretching that makes a lot of sense, especially those passive tissues. I’ve used it on clients, too. Like, sometimes a sleeper stretch is actually appropriate. Sometimes the shoulder. I’ve seen a shoulder capsule that’s actually tight after repositioning a joint and ensuring that you should have full mobility, but you still don’t. So then what was limiting you? Well, it’s the capsule, and at that point, the only thing you can do is maybe a little bit of soft tissue work and some low load, long duration kind of stretching.
And you could even do the moderate duration kinds of 32nd holds or whatever. The other main benefit or the need for stretching is just when you really do need more mobility. So this was actually another topic that I wanted to come up with or talk about. But what I think people do, especially with their hamstrings as they go and they stretch and it feels tight and they say that it’s tight and it’s limited and it needs to be increased when you’re at full tension, it should feel tight.
So regardless of that, though, what people are not usually doing is measuring, hey, what is a normal amount of movement for me? And so straight leg raise is the best way to test that. You just lay on your back, keep your leg totally straight knee totally knocked out, and you keep one leg down on the ground. I like to put a towel underneath the knee. I like to tell people to put a towel underneath the knee and the straight leg that’s down on the ground. And if you lose contact with that, you’ve cheated and you have to stop this test.
But you lay on your back. You put the straight leg towel underneath the knee, down on the ground, and then you have the other leg straight, bring it up in an arc and see how high you can get it. And what we want is not necessarily full flexibility where you have access to this movement. But we want full mobility where you can pull your leg up there without the assistance of gravity or someone else. And usually I’d say if it looks like 80 degrees, I’m pretty happy with that.
If you need more for whatever reason, maybe this is your particular body dysmorphia that you don’t want to feel restricted. If you go on Reddit R flexibility, you see a lot of this. People are really flexible, and they need more of it. If that is the goal. Like these positioning exercises aren’t going to get you to these extra normal, superhuman levels of flexibility. To do that, you’re going to actually have to stretch and you’re going to have to stretch a lot. It’s going to come with a lot of problems.
So I don’t have any of my clients do it that way. But if you need to get past that 80 degrees of straight leg raise. That’s the way to do it.
James Cerbie: I think another example here where stretching can work. And again, I think maybe hopefully people are picking up on the theme here when it’s more of this joint, joint capsule related realm and the passive structures in the joint. That’s where stretching can make a lot of sense versus muscular stretching does not make as much sense. Maybe that categorization can be helpful for people, because my other example in this realm is we’re thinking posterior hip capsule. I will still give somebody say, like a left posterior hip capsule stretch and just say, you’re going to hang out here for a while because that motherfucker is just like running into a brick wall, and we need to loosen that sucker up so we can get something into that joint, buy back a little bit of internal rotation on that left side so we can actually maybe, like, squat and lunge and do these things right. That’s the only other thing I was going to mention in the world of stretching makes sense.
Lance Goyke: That’s a great one. That’s probably the one that I use the most. Honestly, I use it so much that I made it like, man, it’s way too long. It’s like 16 minutes of walking through how to fix the pigeon stretch, to worry about where the bones are positioned and to still get that lengthening of that tissue, but not irrespective of all the other stuff that we had talked about earlier. That bony position that is so important.
Improving Movement and Range of Motion Using Exercise Selection and Periodization
James Cerbie: Yes, for sure. Okay. So that one was knocked out. Let’s maybe talk about if we’re not going to be stretching to try to improve range of motion. What do we actually like better, right? Because I think you don’t want to be those people who just sit here and poo poo something, but then never propose your own potentially superior solution. So this sucks. But I have nothing else to recommend to you. Talk to you later. Bye. I hate those people. So I know that in our realm, when we’re thinking about improving movement and we have a very good track record of doing this, we tend to just approach it in a very different way.
We’re thinking first and foremost about the position of a rib cage on a pelvis. And the simplest way I can think to approach that is, I have yet to not really be very successful getting somebody more hamstring, more side ABS and more seriousness and reaching when I get them those three to help deal with big stiff quads and big stiff laps almost unanimously across the board, I start seeing improvements in range of motion. Tightness feels like that subjective feedback you get, is movements feeling easier? I don’t feel as tight, I don’t feel as restricted.
And you can see the exercise videos that come back from people as well. Like, oh, that squat and lunge looks way better than it did six to eight weeks ago, that looks substantially easier. We’re actually getting in and out of our hips. Things are moving much better. And so another way to think about this is I still love and utilize half kneeling, tall, kneeling, split stance, these different stances and positions as much as I can, because a lot of times I’m just trying to think about creating tug of war situations, right?
Like I’m going to say, okay, if I put you in a half kneeling position, if we can actually get you in a good half kneeling position with ears over ribs, over pelvis, over down knee. That tells me that I’m getting a good side ab, having to control and manage that down length and quad. If we can get that position, I know that we’re doing something pretty positive at the pelvis in the rib cage, and then I want to move on top of that and not have it just fall to pieces like a half kneeling one arm landmine press.
It’s a phenomenal way to improve movement. And that’s where I think we’re different. I’m always thinking about, how do I take this and Bake it into the training? Because that’s where I’ve had more success. It’s just with the exercise selection, the coaching, the queueing and the set up, we get movement changes from training, not from having people just lay around for 30 minutes.
Lance Goyke: I would add that periodization is a big part of that as well. Let’s think about this, right? So we talked about my shallow hips not being very good at managing high force activity. Right. So if I want to do power lifting, which I did previously, what’s going to be the problem with that? So if I do a powerlifting program, I’m inherently doing reps of six or fewer, which means the weights are heavy. If I continuously do that and I never train endurance or whatever with something with lower force, then my joints don’t get time to recover.
They don’t get a break. So I need to one consider who is this body that I’m working on, and then two, I need to say, okay, well, if I categorize myself like that and I say I’m going to be a powerlifter as a coach, I might have to say, Well, you’re not going to be a very good one. And I don’t want to be the person that says, don’t do this. But I do want you to enjoy training. And if I was training myself like that, I would say, Well, we’re going to have to be very cautious about how we period eyes, and we’re going to have to just see how your body responds, because if we do three cycles back to back of, like, weight optimized, force optimized, and then power optimized stuff like that might be too much intensity, high intensity volume for you.
James Cerbie: Yeah. I think the periodization in terms of the exercise selection around that is super important as well. Right. And this is one that we see from a lot of people that come on board with us for the first time, coming, maybe more from that background where you look at what their training looks like. And this is why I always like to think of patterns and stances, like patterns and stances, I think solve a lot of problems in this movement realm for us. Right. And so we can basically say, okay, we have four major patterns, right?
I have an upper push and upper pull, lower push, lower pull. And then you have different stances in that I have bilateral. I have unilateral, half kneeling, tall, kneeling, split stance, hook line, et cetera. Right. And then on the upper push, upper pull, I obviously can move to an entire range there. I have declined horizontal incline, vertical. And so you can think about all the different possible combinations that we can create with this. And you get a pretty wide swath of human movement from that. And I think a key question to ask yourself is how limited is your exposure across that spectrum?
Because without fail, the people who we get that are like, I hurt. I don’t feel good. Blah, blah, blah. Their exposure is usually really narrow. It’s like I only do bilateral things. And from an upper body standpoint, it’s usually almost always just horizontal, maybe a little bit inclined. There’s no unilateral. There’s no alternating. None of that stuff has been brought into their world. And so they’re just like this really stiff fucking two by four that can’t do anything but just move in a straight line. And that’s again, another place where if we just increase your exposure, right.
Like, we can keep the big players at the front end of your workout. Like, let’s still squat, bench and deadlift. And maybe we just choose better options there. Maybe instead of a low bar squat, we safety bar you maybe we trap bar. Maybe we put your feet up on the bench and we bench press so we can help manage this whole rib cage thing going on. But I found that just doing a better job with your accessory exercise selection makes such an enormous difference. Right. If you’re getting a large exposure across these different patterns and stances, that’s going to help a lot in this movement range of motion realm, the more you limit that exposure, the more restricted you’re going to be.
And hey, to the periodisation concept, there are times where you may very intentionally limit that exposure because you are trying to pattern yourself to be as good as you can at this one thing on a set day and time. Right. And so this is where the art of exercise selection and programming over time comes in.
The Need for Dissociation of Various Joints in Your Body
Lance Goyke: And it is an art, but it’s pretty systematic. Like, if you have an event that you need to prepare for, well, okay. Like, eight weeks before I’m going to be very like that. I’m just going to do that stuff. That’s a lot of specificity. I totally agree with a lot of that. I would say a lot of people can manage doing a heavy bilateral thing, like really pushing themselves. And then as long as you have good accessory work, you can still get some training volumes, like muscle stimulus for muscle growth or the endurance to support the strength.
Because the main thing is where you’re getting your strength out of, the accessory work is to support the strength gains and the joints and the muscles that are going there. I would say that a lot of people that come to me tend to be broken, and for them, I like to get rid of the bilateral stuff altogether for a little bit, and I like to reintroduce it in a weird way, like month two, you’re not going to get back squats the bar on your back, but I’ll give you some kind of squat that you can load.
But for the most part, I think your main stuff needs to be unilateral type things so that could be asymmetrical Loading instead of bilateral Loading. That could be meaning like I’m doing a split squat, but I got one weight that’s heavier, one weight that’s lighter. Or I’ve only got one weight. Or I could do a single leg, single arm type of thing. You, the listener, who does Rebel Performance things. I can see the world where you take a unilateral movement and you make it a bilateral movement, right.
If you hold your breath hard enough, then you can mess things up. Still, you can still introduce more stiffness than the looseness that you’re introducing. So for something like that, the principle that I try to teach is that you need dissociation of various joints in your body. If I ask somebody to stand feet together and turn their body around as far as they can, there’s a bunch of different joints that will help you turn. If you’re really stiff through your rib cage, which is where most of the rotation should occur.
Hips and rib cage. If you’re really stiff through those areas, then you’re going to find another way. You’re probably going to roll your ankle a lot, which might mean that you’re prone to ankle sprains when you go and you finally do some ultimate Frisbee with your friends. Or if you have a history of knee problems, you’re probably going to rotate through your knee even though your knee is knocked out. It’s just because you have that laxity, you’re going to find it where you can get it.
And that’s why I think it’s important for these accessory exercises that you choose to create this dissociation. Let’s say your example is just to make this a little more concrete. Your example of half kneeling. I like chops and lifts. Easiest way you just grab a weight and you kneel down. Let’s say I’m on my right knee. I’m going to bring the weight down in both hands to my right hip, and then I’m going to bring it up to my left shoulder, and I create this diagonal.
When I do that, I want to make sure that I’m not rotating through my hips to get the weight up to my left shoulder. I want to keep my hips still and dissociate the things on top, make the rotation come from the joints above that.
James Cerbie: Yeah, I really like that. I think the dissociation concept is incredibly important, and I think being able to check your ego and know when it’s time to pull out certain movements is also really important, right? Because sometimes you need to pull out. If you’re trying to repattern and relearn, sometimes you need to take those things out for a set period of time, because if you keep doing them, you’re never going to change that habit, right? Because every time you see it, you’re just going to go right back to where you were.
We got to break that chain if you will, somehow, for certain people, right? If you will, that are maybe a little bit more broken than others. But this has been fantastic. If you wanted people to walk away from this with just one thing, what would that one thing be?
Lance Goyke: I’m trying to come up with a run on sentence to throw a bunch of things in, I would say, instead of chasing flexibility, chase joint dissociation, see if you can move joints independently of one another. And I think you’d be a lot better off. You’d get at least 80% of your progress for the 20% effort.
James Cerbie: Excellent. I love that we will leave it at that. All right fam, everybody. Thank you for listening. Have a fantastic week, and we will be back next Monday.
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