Monday, August 11, 2008

Resistance Stretching: This is what Dara Torres does!

Last Monday I took out a couple of stretching books that I bought a couple of years ago to flip through again to see if I could learn something new or helpful to help with my misaligned hips and legs. I first checked out "Stretch to Win" by Ann and Chris Frederick. It is a book that presents stretching in a well-thought out way with some interesting moves but I remembered doing these before with the the results that I needed to fix my biomechanics. I would recommend it however to someone with good biomechanics that needs to work on their whole body flexibility.

I then took out "The Genius of Flexibility" by Bob Cooley. I am not sure I had delved much into this book before because after buying it I noticed it didn't really tell you which muscles were being stretched, however it did list all sorts of psychological and emotional benefits you would get from each stretch and it seemed a bit far-fetched to precisely claim all these benefits from doing stretching exercises. Reading the stretching parts carefully I noticed that there is a difference in how you perform the stretched compared to what you would think when looking at the pictures (where they may look like traditional stretching).

I read that this is something new called "resistance stretching". To stretch a muscle this way you contract the muscle you are stretching as you stretch it out. "To stretch muscles, you start in a position where the muscles are as short as possible and then CONTRACT the muscles while elongating the muscle as far as possible until the muscles can no longer contract." I decided to try two stretches on Tuesday night. I did the hamstring stretch and the quadriceps stretch. I have found an example of both stretches here:

While doing the quadriceps stretch I heard a little pop from around my left hip capsule and a lot of the tightness in there disappeared. I felt real good after both stretches and did them again Wednesday before the track workout. I had a real good workout and my stride felt better than it had in a long time. I did 4 X mile in 6:09, 6:07, 5:59, 6:02. I was pretty happy with those results and the feeling of a somewhat better stride. I then headed down to Falmouth for the Road Race on Sunday. I went out for runs on Thursday and Friday but felt extremely tight. I was still doing the stretches and a few others. I notice that I feel better without the tightness in my hips when sitting, walking, or sleeping, but my running stride was still very tight and awkward. I didn't stretch much Saturday (or run) and started loosening up more by nighttime. I felt somewhat loose before the race on Sunday but my hips and muscles are very much limiting me as I run.

I ordered the DVD on this stretching system from Bob Cooley's website as well as one from this website that uses the same method and now are the people working with Dara Torres. Yes that is right. You have probably heard about Dara Torres extreme and expensive fitness routine that helped her get to her fifth Olympics in swimming. You may have heard about the $100,000 of yearly expenses that she has that includes hiring two personal "stretchers". Well "resistance stretching" is the type of stretching that she does. It can be done as a self-stretching routine, but I guess it is most powerful when someone else stretches you. After all it is claimed by the resistance stretchers that is takes twice as much force to stretch a muscle as it does to strengthen it. By turning around resistance stretches, you can do strength exercises.

I like how my muscles around my joints feel after I do the stretches. They feel warm or hot like a fire is burning in them. I don't feel like I am ripping something apart like I sometimes feel when doing static stretches. I also think that with my ingrained patterns of muscle movement while running and moving that I need something very powerful to get me back into proper form and movement. This type of stretching seems to offer that. I will give it a shot. It is new and different (and thanks to Dara Torres) something that will be looked at a lot by athletes and others. I didn't find much web information or impressions of other people who use the program yet, but I did find some interesting links.

First, here is a New York Times article on Dara Torres that is very interesting. If you go to that article you can find a video of Dara doing some resistance stretching or you can find it here. Here she demonstrates some self-stretching exercises.

Here is a video on Dara Torres from the E-60 television show. Near the end you can see some of expensive training routines including a bit of stretching with her stretchers.

This video show Dara in 2000 when she first started using Resistance Stretching. It shows Bob Cooley and others stretching Dara. This is a very different form of stretching than most people are used to seeing.

If you really want to see an interesting video of Bob Cooley and others stretching an athlete in Holland check out this video.

Here is a recently published article on resistance stretching from Time magazine.

Here is a commentary on the article that includes a post from Dara Torres' trainers.

Here is a 2006 Running Times article on resistance stretching.


Marc Middleton said...

Dara Torres is the talk of the sports, fitness, health, and anti-aging world. I think you might enjoy this interesting video that takes viewers back to the very moment the world first learned how Torres has been defying aging for the past 8 years. This is not a commercial or an ad. It's a very revealing news story that's directly related to your blog. Click on my name above and you'll be taken to it.

McKimmie-Style said...

This stuff is amazing and totally works. Her trainers healed my hands and arms after a bad bike accident 3 years ago, and since, I've been self-stretching and have even taken their certification classes to privately train others. Great for any experience level, I have even taught my mom the stretches and she loves them. there is a new dvd on the site that features detailed instructions and a 25 minute full body workout with Dara. The clip is off youtube right now beacause of the blackout period for olympic athletes. Anyway, if you have any desire, you should definitely check it out. there are a list of trainers on their site and the dvd/flash cards are a great introduction to a tension-free body.

Jim Hansen said...

Thanks Marc,
I had found that video earlier and it is very good. I had forgot to add it to my site.

Jim Hansen said...

That is good to hear of your enthusiasm for resistance stretching, mckimmie-style, and that it worked so well for you.
I did order that video over the weekend and look forward to checking it out.

How long does it take someone to learn from training sessions?


Anonymous said...

Hi -
I really Like your blog.
Lots of great ideas in here.Truly.

I am wondering which product (Video/book) you recommend the most to an 'advanced' user?
Torres? or Cooley?
I am looking for the maximum quantity of self-stretch resistance stretching ideas/techniques.

Do you have any update, on how it's changed your body?
For good or for evil..?

Good Luck Jim.

Josh P.

Jim Hansen said...

Hi Josh,

Thanks for your comments.

I am just a beginner at resistance stretching. It has worked very well for me in loosening up my hips, quads, and hamstrings. I run a lot freer and looser since starting doing the stretches. Both videos are similar in routines with a few differences in stretches. The Dara Torres one is newer and has higher production qualities. Anne Tierney who is one of the two who put the video together and does the instructionals on it, is also one of the people demonstrating stretches on Bob Cooley's video, so they both come from a similar frame of reference. I alternate between the videos.

Both show a beginning level of stretches and the remarks are geared more to an athlete. Bob Cooley's book has four levels of stretches (the videos being from level one) but it is not really in "athlete" language: muscles being stretched aren't identified. It is more holisitic. I revolves around "meridians" and body organs and the book tells you what will change in you personality or outlook if you do the stretch. I haven't noticed changes, but I feel real good after stretcing and that makes you happier and relaxed. However the book has a lot more "leveled" stretches, including partner stretches so it is more advanced if you know what you are doing and are capable of doing. Some of them look impossible to me.

I did go to see a resistnace stretcher (only one session so far as it was expensive) but what she could do was so much more than I could understand or do on my own. I wish I could go back. It was very worthwhile and I did learn that I didn't need to push the stretches as hard as I thought I should.

If you are advanced at stretching or working through chronic injuries you may want to check out "The Ming Method" It is something newer that I have discovered and written about on my blog. It has a very different set of fascia stretches. They are very hard to do but they also do some very interesting things. You can find my last post on it here:
If you do try out one of the programs, check back and let me know how it went. I am curious as to how they work with others. Are you a runner? or just into stretching and good health?

Anonymous said...

Hi Jim -

Thanks a lot for your message.
I run for fun and the fitness, but not *seriously*, if you know what I mean.

I figured life is short, wtf, and bought both books. Well, the genius of flexibility is on order, and got the Ming Method in my hand right now. This is very reminiscent of some internal martial arts things I learned. I am very excited by it. There are a lot of movements I had not known about. I am hopeful of this one. Thanks for the recommendation. I will keep in touch. Are you doing the oils, supplements, etc., on an ongoing basis?

btw: here are a few things i found valuable
*this is in lieu of the deformable tp-ball*. I like the big one a lot. And it's heatable.