Friday, June 15, 2007

Z-Health and Flexibility

I've always understood mobility as joint ROM and flexibility as soft tissue (muscle) elasticity. The conundrum I ran into pre-Z was performing flexibiltiy exercises trying to increase ROM about the joint. This worked slightly in the very, very long run, but nowhere near as well as the immediate increases brought about by Z--direct, precise, thorough joint mobility work.

Above are two videos, filmed 5 months apart: The first was pre-Z and I weighed about 10lbs more than I did in the second. In the first, I warmed up with 65lbs, 85lbs, 95lbs, 115lbs before attempting the 135lbs. In the second, I had no warm-ups, just two missed attempts at 135lbs before making the third.

My reasons for posting these videos are threefold:

  1. To demonstrate the improvement in motor control from concentrated daily mobility work
  2. To demonstrate the increased flexibility from concentrated daily mobilty work
  3. To demonstrate the increased strength, total systemic strength v. localized special strength, like a focused squat cycle.

However, I really want to focus on the flexbility aspect here.

How much flexibility work does someone practicing Z-Health have to perform?

The answers are "some" and "none."

  1. "Some:" a) An athlete that requires specific flexbility for an event, like a gymnast who has to perform the splits, should perform Z for the joints in which the muscles responsible for the particular task insert, i.e.: hips, hams, and calves, followed by skill work in that position; b) an individual battling to prevent the formation of post-surgical individual scar tissue or an individual attempting the breakdown of post-surgically induced scar tissue
  2. "None:" Neither my clients or I perform any flexibility work anymore. The Z takes care of the soft tissue work by increasing joint ROM and control.

Obviously, this opens a whole can of worms.

What value is there in flexibilty training for the general population? Would it be reckless to say none? Do we truly understand the differences in flexibility training and mobility training? Do we truly understand that many fitness professionals believe that they are the same thing and that the intent in both concepts may be the same, but the outcomes are radically and starkly different?

For me personally and professionally, I no longer see the value in any flexibility protocols if I haven't attempted any mobility work first. I may include some flexibility work after or in tandem with Z, but this is a rare case indeed.


Blogger Doug Nepodal RKC Team leader said...

Nice work Geoff!

5:53 AM  
Blogger Mark Reifkind said...

to be honest geoff I can't see gymnasts, dancers,track and field athletes,weightlifters or mma guys not stretching.
Remember also that stretching has a therapeutic/active rest aspect to it as well that will enhance circulation and promote recovery; not just for an elongation of the tissue or mobilization of the joints.
I beleive it will also help mitigate the scarring/adhesions that are layed down after heavy tissue loading.

9:57 AM  
Blogger Geoff Neupert said...

Rif, please notice these are the groups of athletes that I recommend some stretching for. But the amount of stretching many of these groups do we have to admit is excessive. Not only that, many times we fail to see the forest for the trees and therefore lose our perspective: flexibility is joint angle specific and based on joint ROM. Just because you can do the full splits doesn't mean you can perform a full front squat with load and vice versa. It's all the SAID principle--you get what you train for, bottom line, period.

As far as mitigating scarring/adhesions after heavy tissue loading, I'm not sure. It doesn't mean I don't believe that it will or it won't, I'm just not sure.

None of the flexibility work I did before made a difference long term either with myself or my clients--it just rearranged compensations. In fact, the heavier I loaded, the MORE I had to perform all the stuff that you're currently doing just to keep myself walking! I can still load my body relatively heavy and as long as I perform my joint mobility work, I'm fine--no ill effects.

Z-Health is a lot more than just R-Phase--that is, moving each joint through its full ROM in an isolated fashion--in the upper sports-specific phase I believe there's a lot of position/activity specific work. R-Phase is the "alphabet of movement" if you will--that's how Dr. Cobb describes it. If you haven't mastered the alphabet, you can't put a whole lot of words together, let alone write an essay, which is what upper level athletics is essentially.

I don't mean to sound like I have all the answers--I certainly do not. But one thing is for sure, I can't just wave off the things I'm seeing/experiencing in my lab which is my business because current scientific/fitness literature says otherwise. Admittedly, I need to go back and revisit what static stretching is supposed to do: I know it's supposed to help with recovery--supposed to. But here's something kind of interesting: At TPT a couple of us were playing with static stretching as a recovery tool, post workout. We would then run the person who just finished the workout thru the Z-Health assessment, which takes all of 10s to the skilled eye. What we found was a decrease in neurological function post-static stretching as opposed to performing Z as a cooldown to aid in recovery, which enhanced CNS function. If static stretching aided in recovery, at least neurological recovery, we would've expected the opposite. Could I be wrong? Absolutely.

Again, I don't have all the answers, that's one thing I'm certain about. All I've got is what I see and what I can corroborate with my colleagues who have taken Z-Health.

1:22 PM  
Blogger Mark Reifkind said...


I do believe that z health is onto something good. too many good people are finding the same thing.and I have to take the time to explore it to have a valid opinion. Til then I have to go with the direction that has been working for me and my clients pretty well so far.
as far as stretching most of the stretching I do is purely corrective:
i.e if I do a comparison ROM asses and one side is not at the norms then it gets stretched; otherwise it doesnt.
As far as it's restoritive value I can tell you with me that it is a very normalizing aspect.I treat it as a yoga and focus on breath and linking as well as 'stretching' an individual muscle.
DIfferent as 'bodybuilding isolation training' is to integrative full bodymoves.
does the average person need to do the splits? of course not, but using held postures to test, assess and restore normal ROMs in basic primal patterns is not a bad thing.

using massage, trigger point and vibration therapies to aid in circulation, scar tissue and adhesion removal is also good.

as far as your ability to load your body heavy I have to say the true test will be if you can lift the same loads you were doing before in the big lifts with no pain and no need for any other modalities.

again I do plan on investigating z health in the future.I beleive now that my twisting the'wrong way ' as a gymnast is the basis for all my injuries. I may even have started out life left handed and been switched.

3:16 PM  
Blogger Mark Reifkind said...

all my clients that have a hard time sitting on the floor with their sacrums 90 deg to the floor have back issues. sometimes all the stretching they need is just to get out of chairs and sit on the floor.

3:17 PM  
Blogger Mike T Nelson said...

Interesting comments from all.

I can attest to the fact that since doing Z Health correctly, I have not found the need for static stretching or even many dynamic mobility drills.

In the past I would need 45 minutes of static stretching, foam rolling, and dynamic drills just to lift. At one point I was doing this for 30 minutes at night also. Now I do about 15 minutes of Z and I am off to lift and I feel much better. If I am feeling "off" I may add a little more Z during the session or the next day. I've found by adding some Z at the end, I am sure to leave better than when I started.

I do the same with clients by monitoring their gait and make sure they leave in better condition than when they came in.

There is always more than one way to do things. Trying to sort out coincidence and actual correlation is very hard though.

Mike N

5:07 PM  

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