Russian Flexibility Breakthroughs and Techniques

Russian flexibility training is surrounded by a hard core atmosphere. It's harsh and tough; if you don't want to work hard, how do you expect to get strong?

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In America, you stretch your body.
In Soviet Russia, your body stretches you.

Recently, the formerly secret techniques from the old Eastern Bloc have received a lot of attention.

Russian flexibility exercises will add real distance to your stretches.

Partially from the outstanding performance of some Soviet athletes, and partially from the air of exotic and secret potential surrounding them.

But the techniques are useful, practical, and above all - available. They are now used more widely because they work, and the revolutions of Eastern Europe have brought them to a wider audience who can use them.


What's Unique About Russian Flexibility Techniques?

Aside from where they originated, Russian stretching and flexibility training focuses on improving flexibility fast. The focus is on how to increase flexibility during each and every training session. Sometimes through almost brutal means.

Also, a component of Russian stretching techniques is marketing the exotic atmosphere that surrounds them. The techniques are effective, but rarely do the techniques only exist in the hands of an elite group of soviet sportsmen.


Where Can I Learn About Russian Flexibility Exercises?

After doing research, only one guy is giving good Russian stretching info: Pavel Tsatsouline. He is the main guy publicizing Russian stretching ideas around the world.

He has so far written 3 books on the subject, focusing on giving quality flexibility information to regular people. His first book, and possibly his best known, is Beyond Stretching: Russian Flexibility Breakthroughs.

He has done a great job bringing attention to these techniques and allowing normal people a chance to use them. As well as destroying many prevalent myths and misconceptions about flexibility.


Sample Russian Flexibility Techniques

Many Russian stretching exercises are similar to ones you might be familiar with if you already know a lot about stretching. The same basic principles of stretching the human body apply to everyone.

In his books, Pavel goes over Russian ballistic stretches for dynamic flexibility, plyometric training for strength in movement, isometric flexibility training, PNF stretches, breathing exercises, and other techniques. Many of these are, if not well known, generally accepted methods of stretching.

But the Russian stretching techniques usually have a little extra twist to them.

And that twist can help you get the most out of your stretching. Or add an extra few inches to the stretches that you're doing.

Here are examples of just 2 of the many techniques that Pavel introduces in his books...


1. Contrast Breathing

This is a special breathing and muscle contraction method that will get you more distance on your stretches. Make sure not to hyperventilate when you do it.[1]


  • When in a stretch position, inhale as much as you can and tighten your body. (Note: Stay stretched when you're tightening up.)
  • Maintain the maximum tension and hold your breath for a few seconds, and then relax your whole body at once and let your breath out. Face, shoulders, etc. Your whole body should be as relaxed as possible.
  • When you relax you will push further into the stretch. Only do an inch or so, so that you don't strain/pull something.
  • Relax into your new stretch position for a bit, and then repeat the sequence again to get more distance.


2. The Clasp Knife


  • Stretch as far as you can comfortably.
  • Contract all your muscles to about one-third of their maximum contraction.
  • Increase the amount of tension in your muscles gradually. You should reach the maximum amount of muscle contraction about 4 seconds after starting.
  • Don't move, just hold tension in your muscles. And keep breathing - with shallow breaths.
  • Keep contracting your muscles till the tension is unbearable. That could be a few more seconds to several minutes; find your own sweet spot for the amount of time to hold your maximum muscle contraction.
  • …And then, with a sigh of relief, let all the tension drop from your body and at the same time slowly move deeper into your stretch.
  • Ideally, you should hold the tension in your muscles till they are shivering and cannot take any more. Then they crumple and give out from exhaustion, and you move deeper into your stretch.[2]
  • Hold this longer stretch for a bit, and then repeat The Clasp Knife to get even more distance.


What To Do Next...

The Russian flexibility techniques described above are very helpful. Perhaps not as *secret* as you expected, but definitely pragmatic.

If you want a complete take on Russian stretching and flexibility techniques, check out Pavel's books Beyond Stretching: Russian Flexibility Breakthroughs, Relax into Stretch, or Super Joints. In themselves they cover the range of information about how to increase flexibility Russian style.

Oh, and be sure to sign up for the e-zine Starting Strong to get monthly strength training, exercise, and diet tips e-mailed to you - and access to the free e-book Train Smart, Eat Smart: Exercise Nutrition Hacks!

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References:

1. Tsatsouline, Pavel. 2001. Relax Into Stretch: Instant Flexibility Through Mastering Muscle Tension. St. Paul, MN: Dragon Door Publications. Pp. 31-33.
2. Ibid. Pp. 37-38.

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