In this podcast I talk about one of the most important concepts in regards to balance: reciprocal inhibition. Don't worry, I know it sounds intimidating, but I break it down into simple terms.
Have you ever met a yogi with "tight" hamstrings? I encountered this several years ago and was baffled.
Stretching is only have of the answer for relieving tight muscles. You need to strengthen the opposite. This concept is called Reciprocal Inhibition.
Reciprocal Inhibition is one concept that, once you really get it, will change your fitness life.
How to apply this in your life
Instead of just stretching, engage the opposite. If your hamstring feels tight, engage the quads. A great exercise to do this is Static Wall.
Call to action
Try Static Wall and let me know how it feels. Do you have any questions on it? Let me know on our Facebook page.
Core Balance Podcast Episode 26.
What do you think your body would look and feel like if you continue to move like you did when you were a kid, before fitness became about treadmills and calories. There is a better way and now you've found it. Welcome to the Core Balance Podcast with your host Chris Janke-Bueno.
Hello and welcome to the podcast. Today I want to throw some edumacation your way. Some high level stuff here. Some things you can use to impress your friends. You are at a dinner party and you can throw some big words at them. But first I have to set the scene a little bit. The year was 2006. I had another gym I called functional strength training and I had some clients and you know things were going pretty well and I was starting to become known in the neighborhood for the guy to go to if you had any kind of minor aches and pains that were kind of I guess limiting you from your workouts and that the workouts were very fun and balancing and things like that.
So anyway I had a yogi come in, super-duper crazy flexible guy, probably the most flexible man that I have ever seen in real life. This guy could bend over forward and touch his elbows to the floor while his knees were straight which was just crazy for me because I, for many years have suffered from just very tight hamstrings and legs and then there was a large part what contributed to my back pain was that lack of flexibility. But here this guy was, he walked in and you know I shook his hands and I think I was finishing up something and then as he was waiting for me he starts stretching and he touches his elbows to the floor and I'm thinking wow, what am I going to help this guy with. I thought there's – I mean he is already there, he’s already you know he has a foot more flexibility than I do.
And I meet him and we start talking and he starts talking about his aches and pains. And I'm thinking aches and pains but you are flexible. But I didn't say this at all. I'm just thinking this. Anyway, he gets to tell me that his aches and pains are actually in his hamstrings because his hamstrings are too tight. Well, what?! I said, wait, your hamstrings are too tight? I have never seen anyone able to touch the floor like you can with your elbows. How are your hamstrings too tight? And he didn't know how to answer that. He said I don't know, I just have this feeling that they are tight all the time. So I figured it out though. It took me a few minutes but I said oh my gosh I know why.
It's this concept where well, I'll just tell you the words. Remember I said you are going to be smart and you could talk about this at your parties. The concept is called Reciprocal Inhibition. Two really big words: Reciprocal Inhibition, but I will tell you what it means. Reciprocal means opposite. Inhibition basically means that if you engage one muscle, let's go to the bicep, the famous bicep muscle. You engage your bicep, automatically your tricep which is the opposite or the reciprocal will disengage or kind of turn off. So think of this like a light switch. Your muscle, every single muscle of your body can either be on or off, just like a light, like a flick-switch light. This is not a dimmer switch. This is either on or off light. Your muscle can either be on or off and when your bicep is on you are doing a bicep curl let's say, there's a mechanism in the body that will actually disengage the tricep.
So this is really empowering if you really get this because if you ever have a tight muscle you can stretch that muscle by engaging the opposite. But this yogi did not have a tight muscle. The issue was that he was stretching his hamstring so much that he was actually disengaging his hamstring and the detriment here was that not only was he disengaged in the hamstring but he was not engaging the opposite, the quad, the thigh muscle, the front of the leg. So this is why we rarely stretch in the sense of what you are probably used to seeing let's say you go to a trail and you see all these runners stretching and they are just sticking their leg out on to a fixed object and then they are bending forward in order to stretch their hamstrings. I think a better hamstring stretch is to lie down on your back, lift your legs straight up toward the sky, tighten up the thighs and the front of the leg and pull your toes down by tightening up the shin muscles. Now what we've created is a stretch throughout the whole back of your leg and a tightening of the muscles in the front of your leg. And so you are using that concept of Reciprocal Inhibition in your favor instead of just creating a lot of really loose, floppy, flexible muscles.
The exercise I just told you about, go on our YouTube channel, it's called Static Wall. So go to My Core Balance’s YouTube channel, Static Wall, and you will see what I'm talking about there. And it's a great, great hamstring stretch, not because it's stretching your hamstrings necessarily but because it's engaging the opposite that is the most effective way to stretch and to create that different joint position in your body.
Now, again this doesn't really answer the question. I don't think I have answered it for you as far as why the yogi’s hamstrings felt tight. So again go back to the point that I made about how if you tighten up one muscle it will release the other muscle. So in this case there's a balance there right. There's a – it's almost like a balance sheet in financial terms. If some money goes in, some other money goes out and you have this give and take balance. So if you tighten up the cord and you stretch the hamstring you've created more tension in the quad and you've released some tension in the hamstring. But if you are doing basic classic kind of generic stretches that we all grew up seeing and probably doing then you are releasing tension in the hamstring but you are not sending it anywhere. So what ended up happening is this guy was basically getting weaker and weaker in the hamstrings and in the quads and so he had very little strength stabilizing his pelvis. Also the hamstrings were in such a lengthened position already that when he was just standing there they felt like they were lengthened like they were too tight because they were at the end of their range. They were tight. It's like take a rubber band, stretch it out as far as you can so it's really tense and tight, that's how he was all the time. So imagine if you had muscle fibers that were pulling like that that it would probably feel very tight.
So what was the answer. What do we do? Well, if you can imagine or you can probably guess we did the opposite of what he really wanted to do. He wanted to stretch those super flexible hamstrings even more. We did the opposite. We strengthened the hamstrings. We did stuff like hamstring curls. Even things like superman. Again all these exercises you can look up on our YouTube channel, My Core Balance YouTube channel and superman hamstring curls, hamstring lean was another really good one. And I told him, I warned him upfront. I said your flexibility will probably diminish a tiny bit and it did, maybe an inch – it may be diminished one inch, but that was completely fine for him because that pain that he had in his hamstrings, that feeling that those hamstrings were so tight that he needed to stretch them even more, that all went away. And so again I want to encourage you to use this concept of Reciprocal Inhibition basically means when you engage one muscle, the opposite muscle will stretch. And not only use it in your personal workouts but to make yourself look very edumacated as well at parties or what have you.
It is one of the most important concepts that we use on absolutely day to day basis here at My Core Balance. Literally everything that we do is centered around Reciprocal Inhibition. And it really is just as simple as flicking on a light switch. You turn on one light, the opposite light will automatically turn off naturally. The body’s mechanism. It doesn't want to the engage both muscles at the same time.
So I hope that helps you. Please let us know how you are engaging this in practical terms. What have you tried? What exercises do you realize that you do on a daily basis that maybe employ this strategy of Reciprocal Inhibition and just let us know on the Facebook page My Core Balance Facebook page.
You've been listening to the Core Balance Podcast. I'm your host Chris Janke-Bueno. We'll talk again next time. Until then let's be fit, let's be healthy, let's be happy. It feels good to move, so keep moving.
Stop relying on willpower, motivational tricks, and pump-up strategies and learn how to top into your inner fitness fire with Chris' 60-minute audio book: Ignite Your Fitness Passion (published 2015)
Relieve your back pain with this easy-to-follow video program designed to get to the root cause of your pain: muscle imbalance. Check out the Back Pain Module.
Learn the basic principles that make a successful fitness program with Chris' 60-page book, Functional Strength: The Key To Pain-Free Movement (published 2008)