Stretch the Tight?

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Note From TG: It’s July 4th. I’m in Maine. There’s no way I was writing a new post today, so I decided to repurpose the post below.

It coincides with Dean Somerset’s Ruthless Mobility, which is currently on sale at half-off the regular price. The sale ends TODAY.


I started with a new client yesterday. As is the case every time I work with someone new I’ll sit down with him or her (in this case her) and attempt to get all the pertinent information I’ll need to help them achieve their goals and to write an effective training program. Things like injury history, what their training has looked like previously, training preferences, perceived barriers on what’s limited them in the past, favorite 80’s cartoon, you know, all the important stuff.

Please tell me someone out there remembers Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears!?!?! And please tell me someone else out there tried to make their own version of Gummiberry Juice (which, when drunk by humans, gave them superhuman strength) as a kid by combining Mountain Berry Punch Kool-Aid with actual gummy bears???

No? Hahahaha. Well, uh, me neither. That’s just stupid talk!  Yeah, that’s what it is……stupid.

So anyways, along with the brief Q&A I’ll also perform an extensive movement screen so I can gain a better understanding of how someone moves and whether or not they present with any distinct compensation patterns which may (or may not) be “feeding” into their dysfunction or pain.

Many people have been programmed to think that increased range of motion is good – and that the more we have of it, the better off we are.

Yes and no.

For those who are stuck starring at a computer for ten hours a day and have little to no amplitude (ROM) in their daily lives (and as a result have the movement quality of a hipster wearing a pair of jeans 3 sizes too small), working on improving their mobility would absolutely be a priority and help to improve performance in the gym and their quality of life.

For someone like the individual I was working with yesterday, however – who had plenty of ROM, to the point where she was borderline hypermobile, yet still was under the impression she had “tight” hips – going out of our way to “stretch the tight” and work on improving mobility could have more deleterious effects than good.

She came in with a history of left hip/ITB pain, and upon testing her hip internal range of motion on that side, it was limited.

Pretty strange for someone with plenty of laxity, right?

As is par for the course, she has spent years stretching her hip in hopes of improving her mobility in an effort to get better.

It hasn’t worked.  Yet, I was able to improve her hip IR by a good 10-15 degrees in a matter of 30 seconds without “stretching” her hip. It was priceless to see her reaction when it happened.

So, how did I do it?

I’m Gandalf, duh!

Okay, in all seriousness what I did was work on her REACTIVE STABILITY, which is a term that Dean Somerset has tossed around for a while now.

The Cliff Notes Version: the body will limit a movement into ranges of motion it deems to be either risky, pain producing, or “un-known.”

This is often referred to as PROTECTIVE TENSION, which is what the body creates to help support an injured area.

If I test someone’s hip IR and it’s limited I can’t just assume it’s due to shortness or stiffness of specific muscles. It can definitely be a factor and the main culprit for some people, but it’s something I feel far too many fitness professionals gravitate towards because of an archaic mindset or because it’s “what’s always been perceived as the problem.”

As many of you know Dean (Somerset) and I are good friends. If you ever hear a joke that starts with an American strength coach and a Canadian exercise physiologist walk into a bar……

…’s probably us.

He and I have done several workshops together and I’ve had the opportunity to see Dean perform his voodoo assessment stuff each and every time. And it never ceases to amaze me.

One of the best “party tricks” he’ll use in our workshops is exactly the protocol I described above. In short, what he’s found (and I can confirm) is that reduced hip internal rotation is often a symptom of something not working and the body will compensate by forcing surrounding musculature to chronically fire and “tense,” impairing ROM, and thus mobility.

To be more succinct:  lack of hip IR = reduced lateral stabilization.

Have someone do a (correct) side plank, have him or her focus on deep, forceful breathing and watch what happens.

Awesomesauce, right?

The side plank helps work on lateral stabilization, which in turn tells the over tensed muscles to chill out, improves reactive stability, which then in turn takes away the “perceived threat” and ROM improves.

It’s not a catch-all for everyone, but you’ll be surprised as to how often it works. I should also note that it’s not something that will stick long-term. Typically the increased ROM will last a few hours, maybe a day. But for something like this to last at least now we know that it’s not a situation where we’re going to tell someone to “just go stretch.” We need to work on improving (lateral) stabilization.

And this is the type of stuff that Dean covers in Ruthless Mobility.

To reiterate, there are PLENTY of people who need to work on improving their mobility in the traditional sense – mobility drills, stretching, etc – and Dean covers that in droves here. So whether you or some of your clients need to work on mobility in specific areas (t-spine, hips, etc), this resource provides a TON of options.

Dean’s not a small human being. He practices what he preaches, and it’s amazing to see how supple he is in his own right! Trust me: you’re going to be watching the videos and think to yourself, “is that Dean Somerset or Houdini?”

But of more value, and more germane to the point(s) I made above, Dean covers stuff that most fitness peeps gloss over or fail to understand altogether. And that’s why I wholeheartedly feel this is THE next “go to” resource on the topic.

Not only do you get 4-5 hours of brilliant content, but you also earn valuable CEUs to boot. So there’s that to consider as well.

Ruthless Mobility is currently on sale at a heavily discounted price, but the sale ends tonight (July 4th). Get on it people. You won’t be disappointed.

—> Ruthless Mobility <—

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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  • Robbie

    Great stuff Tony! And yes, I did love the Adventures of the Gummi Bears! I remember buying small child size jugs of juice for my super human strength.

    • TonyGentilcore

      I LOVED that cartoon growing up. I may need to hit up Youtube later on for a bit of nostalgia.

  • John

    Hey Tony. This is really interesting. How might one program something similar for the shoulder. My thought would be a 1 arm push up hold or a bottoms up kettlebell something-or-another, but what do you recommend?

  • Sean

    wow…awesome post Tony! Im a PT in canada and found this extremly helpful…i often use stabilty to increase mobility but this is a cool connection…with prolonged core training have you does that the increased hip IR ROM sticks?

    • TonyGentilcore

      Well, giving credit where it’s due…….all the credit should go to Dean Somerset. He’s located up in Edmonton, so maybe you two can connect?

      In terms of how long the ROM sticks….a few hours to a day. Not long. But just get the conversation going in that people don’t ALWAYS have to stretch what’s perceived as “tight” when trying to improve ROM.

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  • Tony, I’ve been sharing this with anyone who will listen (my physical therapist, my trainer, my yoga teacher, etc. etc.) because it actually came the day after I realized that my hip range of motion had increased substantially since beginning a new corrective exercise program with lateral stabilization exercises (side planks, clam shells, fire hydrants, glute work). For someone who had lost a significant amount of range for close to 2 years, it was like a miracle! It also reduced my pain a good amount too. So thankful there are people out there like you, Dean, and my PT who are aware of this approach, and I hope the word continues to spread.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Awesome stuff Sue! Glad it helped.

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  • Pierce Datwyler

    Awesome Tony, you’re stuff is always gold. I applied this to my client a few weeks ago and it was magic. We’ve been working on his overall hip stability with an emphasis on the lateral glute and ab activation and we’ve seen a huge improvement. Thanks again amigo!

    • TonyGentilcore

      Glad to hear 1) that it made sense and 2) that it worked. Score!

  • Mark

    Just came across this now Tony. Great information. I have an issue with my left internal hip rotation and the side plank with the breathing made my range a little bit better.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Well, then, you may have found your “corrective.” Try to do this prior to training each lower body day and over time you should see some improvements.

  • Mark

    Just came across this now Tony. Great information. I have an issue with my left internal hip rotation and the side plank with the breathing made my range a little bit better.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Well, then, you may have found your “corrective.” Try to do this prior to training each lower body day and over time you should see some improvements.

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