Frequently Asked Questions

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General Questions

Who should practice Meridian Stretching?
I want to start Resistance Stretching. What is the best way to begin?
How many privates should I be taking?
Why does traditional stretching never give the flexibility gains that I think I should get?
How soon will I feel the results from Resistance Stretching?
Why is flexibility the foundation for aerobic and strength training?
Does RFST replace my current workout?
Does stretching always have to hurt?
Can't I also increase my strength and endurance?
Is Resistance Stretching for professional and Olympic athletes?
How is the Meridian Flexibility System different from Yoga?
How is the Meridian Flexibility System different from Pilates?
How is RFST different from PNF stretching, active isolated stretching, etc.?
What is an Energy Flow Series?

Muscle Relationships

Balancing What is a balancing muscle group?
Counter-Balancing What is a counter-balancing muscle group?
Completing What is a completing muscle group?

Stretching Specifics

Order Is there a certain order that I should do the stretches in?
Direction In what direction should I stretch and strengthen my muscles?
Speed At what speed should I stretch my muscles?
Duration How long should I hold a stretch for?
Range In what range should I stretch my muscles and when do I start and stop resisting?
Repetitions How many repetitions should I do?
Frequency How long and often should I stretch?
Resistance How hard should I resist?
Position How should I position myself for maximal resistance?
Focus Where should my focus be while stretching?
Warming Up Do I need to warm up before stretching?
Nutrition What role does nutrition play in being flexible?
Injuries How do I stretch a previously injured muscle?
Over-Stretching How can I protect myself from over-stretching?
Soreness How can I decrease soreness from stretching?

More Questions

Do I have to get less and less able to move with age?
Is it true that specific stretches can help to improve specific physical physiological conditions?
Are there stretches for my bad knees, my back spasms, my tennis elbow, my wrist pain, my ankle sprains, etc.? What about menstrual cramps, migraines, weight problems, low energy, heart conditions, etc.?

Who should practice Meridian Stretching?

Meridian Stretching is for you if you:

  • are an athlete
  • have injuries
  • want to remove tension/stress/pain
  • want to increase your flexibility
  • want to improve your posture
  • want to improve the health of specific organs
  • want to know how to stretch before and after a workout
  • are of any physical ability
  • are of any age
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I want to start Resistance Stretching. What is the best way to begin?

Reading The Genius of Flexibility by Bob Cooley is a good start. But it's difficult to learn by the book alone, so be sure to attend a workshop or book a private session to nail down the concept of resisting while stretching. Private assisted stretching sessions are recommended in order for me to give you an idea of where your body is in terms of its strengths and weaknesses, as well as discuss your goals. You can also attend weekly self-stretch classes to increase your flexibility in between private sessions and stay connected to others who practice RFST. top

How many privates should I be taking?

After your first private session, we will discuss what the best approach will be for your body and your goals. For optimal gains in flexibility and strength, I recommend three private sessions a week. top

Why does traditional stretching never give the flexibility gains that I think I should get?

In order to get a true gain in flexibility, you must continuously contract the target muscle group while elongating it. Many forms of traditional stretching involve contracting the muscle for a specific period of time at a certain point in the stretch. Other forms of stretching don't involve muscle contraction at all, which results in over-stretching and possibly injuring the target muscle group. With Resistance Stretching, you begin all stretches in a position where the muscle(s) are as short as possible and move into a position where the muscle(s) are as long as possible (while resisting continuously). Most of the stretch occurs during the movement and not at the end point of the stretch. top

How soon will I feel the results from Resistance Stretching?

Resistance Stretching provides immediate, cumulative, and over time permanent increases in flexibility. Most people are surprised at the feeling the stretch provides immediately after their first experience. It is truly a unique and powerful way to use your muscles that most people have not experienced throughout their entire lives. The results will be felt immediately, however it can take many repetitions of specific stretches as well as life changes to release chronic tension in certain areas of the body. Many people find that after they start Resistance Stretching, they find the "problem" areas of their body and gain a greater understanding of their pain and problems. As they begin to focus on these areas and stretch them out, they usually start making changes in their life situation as well. Switching to an organic diet is usually one of the first things to change. top

Why is flexibility the foundation for aerobic and strength training?

The Principle of Limitations: A muscle's ability to shorten is inversely proportional to its ability to lengthen. Limited flexibility results in a proportionately limited shortening ability of your muscles. A muscle can only shorten if it has achieved optimal flexibility. Optimal flexibility translates into optimal performance. Flexibility is the highest correlating factor for athletic success.

Maximum Flexibility = Maximum Contraction

If the resting length of a muscle is this long:
Resting Length of Muscle
And if maximal flexibility length can be achieved:
Maximal Flexibility Length of Muscle
Then this contraction shortening length is possible:
Maximal Contraction Shortening Length of Muscle
BUT,
If again, the resting length of a muscle is this long:
Resting Length of Muscle
And sub-maximal flexibility is only 25% greater than resting length:
Sub-Maximal Flexibility Length of Muscle
Then only 25% contraction shortening can occur:
Sub-Maximal Contraction Shortening Length of Muscle
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Does RFST replace my current workout?

Resistance Flexibility and Strength Training is perfect for those who are searching for a well rounded total body workout. Resistance Stretching can be used to take the tension out of the tight areas of the body, and the stretches can be reversed to provide Resistance Strength Training to the areas of the body that are weak.

RFST is also for those who already have a workout routine. Resistance Stretching will provide the muscles that are used for working out the balancing action of strength training, which is elongating the muscle while contracting simultaneously. This will not only relieve tension, stress, and pain, but will also prepare your muscles for future workouts thereby increasing your total performance. top

Does stretching always have to hurt?

Pain while stretching is generally caused by failing to contract the muscle while elongating it. Without the contraction, you may simply be over-extending and over-stretching the muscle, which is painful and may lead to injury. top

Can't I also increase my strength and endurance?

Each of the 16 Resistance Stretches can be reversed to provide Resistance Strength Training. This is where you begin in a position where the muscle(s) are as long as possible and move into a position where the muscle(s) are as short as possible while resisting continuously.

You can also target a specific muscle group and do a back-to-back set of Resistance Flexibility Training and Resistance Strength Training to provide an aerobic workout for the muscle group. This is where you begin with your muscle elongated, contract and shorten your muscle to strength train, and then continue to contract your muscle while you elongate it going back to the beginning position for a Resistance Stretch, and repeat.

The Principle of Aerobic and Flexibility: Because it takes many repeats to stretch a muscle, when you have the aerobic capacity necessary to do the necessary repetitions, then your flexibility training is successful. Aerobically train muscles before you stretch them. Good aerobic capacity is highly predictive of the rate you can increase your flexibility.

The Principle of Strength and Flexibility: A muscle must contract strongly (even maximally) while stretching, therefore a muscle will need to have sufficient strength while stretching in order to be capable of stretching. Strengthen a muscle before you stretch it to insure your success when stretching it. Resistance Flexibility Training also results in a 15% increase in strength, as well as strength training resulting in a 15% increase in flexibility. It takes twice the force to stretch a muscle as it does to strengthen it. The flexibility and strength of a muscle are balanced only if the muscle's strength equals half of the resistance force when it is being stretched. top

Is Resistance Stretching for professional and Olympic athletes?

The Meridian Flexibility System is suitable for all ages and abilities and also provides enormous gains in performance if incorporated into a training regime for professional athletes. It has provided positive results for Allan Houston (NY Knicks), Charlie Ward (Houston Rockets), Dara Torres (12-time Olympic Medalist in Swimming), Jason Werth (Los Angeles Dodgers), Michael Gebhardt (Olympic windsurfer), CB Burnside (X-Games), and more.

Resistance Flexibility and Strength Training provides greater strength, flexibility, and range of motion while diminishing injuries, aches, pains, stiffness, and tension. Flexibility is key if you are a professional athlete looking to eliminate the restraints on your performance and exceed in ways that you've always aimed for. top

How is the Meridian Flexibility System different from Yoga?

Answered on this page: Meridian Yoga with Resistance.    top

How is the Meridian Flexibility System different from Pilates?

Pilates includes exercises that provide elongation and shortening of muscles with resistance which improves their flexibility and strength. The Meridian Flexibility System (MFS) emphasizes the need to simultaneously contract and elongate each muscle (eccentric contraction) with twice as much force used to strengthen the muscle (concentric contraction). The need for twice the force along with the need to simultaneously move the muscles in various angles, directions, and planes requires a level of sophisticated and customized movements that goes beyond traditional exercise equipment and can only be provided through the assistance of another person(s). Many people who practice Pilates report that RFST allows them to go deeper into their Pilates practice.

The focus of Pilates is to strengthen the "powerhouse" (abs and buttocks) and execute exercises which are designed to increase flexibility, strengthen muscles, and improve posture. RFST provides the same benefits to the powerhouse through Resistance Flexibility Training for muscles that are tight and inflexible and Resistance Strength Training for muscles that are weak. MFS also incorporates Traditional Chinese Medicine to explain the unique physiological, spiritual, emotional, and psychological attributes associated with each of the 16 main muscle groups in the body. top

How is the RFST different from PNF stretching, active isolated stretching, etc.?

Other forms of stretching usually include static stretching (holding the muscle in an elongated position while relaxing) and sometimes incorporate isometric contractions (static contraction of the muscle group). RFST includes isometric contractions, but goes beyond by stressing that:

  • in order to get a true gain in flexibility, you must continuously contract the target muscle group while elongating it (eccentric contraction) from where it is as short as possible to where it is as long as possible
  • a muscle is only truly flexible to the point where it can continue to maximally resist while being lengthened (using twice the force used to strength train the muscle)
  • stretching without continuously contracting a muscle (static stretching) produces a false range of motion known as substitution, and ultimately results in over-stretching and injury

Additionally, each of the resistance stretches (eccentric contraction) can be reversed to provide strength training (concentric contraction). Put simply, the difference is that RFST teaches you how to resist continuously and maximally throughout the entire range of the muscle, and that stretching without resistance results in over-stretching. top

What is an Energy Flow Series?

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the energy or "chi" that runs through the Meridians flows in a certain order. In the Meridian Flexibility System, the Energy Flow Series starts with the most superficial muscles and then works toward the deepest. It also alternates from the lower body to the upper body and then back. So, you would start with the Gall Bladder stretch, followed by the Liver stretch, which is the balancing muscle group and then on into the upper body with the Lung and Large Intestine stretch. Flows are good for improving respiration and coordination, and they allow you to cover all the sixteen muscle groups.

Energy Flow Series

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What is a balancing muscle group?

Balancing muscle groups are referred to as the agonist and antagonist in Western Physical Therapy. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, each Meridian has a balancing Meridian and the same applies in MFS. For example, the Kidney Meridian runs along the anterior medial muscle group. The Bladder Meridian is the balancing muscle group that is located directly through the leg and runs through the posterior lateral muscle group. If you find that your Kidney Meridian Muscle Group is tight, and you aren't getting results from stretching it, it is most likely because your balancing muscle group is too tight or weak. In order for your Kidney Meridian Muscle Group to fully elongate, the balancing muscle group must be able to fully shorten. So you would want to stretch and strengthen your Bladder and then go back to the Kidney and see if you have made progress. If you still are not making flexibility gains in the Kidney, you will need to stretch and strengthen the counter-balancing muscle groups.

The Principle of Balancing Muscles: Muscles diagonally across from one another through the center of that body part are called balancing muscles. For example, the balancing muscles of the 'target muscles' being stretched need to be flexible enough so that they can contract sufficiently to move you through the stretch movement to stretch your target muscles. It is not usually the muscle that you are trying to stretch that is limiting you, but its balancing muscle group that cannot shorten sufficiently to allow you to move into the stretch. Balancing muscles need to be close to equal in strength and flexibility.

Energy Flow Trellis

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What is a counter-balancing muscle group?

The Principle of Counter-Balancing Muscle Groups: Muscles perpendicular to one another are called the counter-balancing or opposing muscle groups. An example of counter-balancing muscle groups would be your central quads and hamstrings, and your central adductors and central abductors. Another example would be your anterior lateral muscle groups and posterior medial muscle groups, and your anterior medial muscle groups and your posterior lateral muscle groups. Note that there are only four pairs of counter-balancing muscle groups in either your arms or legs. If your target muscle being stretched does not release tension by stretching its balancing muscle group, then you'll need to stretch the counter-balancing muscle groups.

Balancing and Counter-Balancing Meridian Muscle Groups Balancing and Counter-Balancing Muscle Groups

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What is a completing muscle group?

Completing muscle groups are the 'top' for lower body muscle groups and the 'bottom' for upper body muscle groups. For example, the Lung Meridian runs through the posterior medial muscle group on the arms and the Spleen/Pancreas Meridian runs through the posterior medial muscle group on the legs. They are completing muscle groups.

Completing Meridian Muscle Groups Completing Muscle Groups

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Is there a certain order that I should do the stretches in?

The order that you do the stretches in depends on your goals for the stretching session. For example, if you are limited on time and want to clear your channels before you start your day, you could go through Energy Flow Series. Or, if you feel that your quads are really tight, you could do a set of Stomach stretches.

It is recommended that when you work on one muscle group, you follow up by stretching the balancing muscle group as well. You might sometimes feel like doing a set of Stomach stretches followed by a set of Spleen/Pancreas stretches, and then repeating. Then perhaps you may feel like stretching the completing muscle groups by doing a set of Lung and Large Intestine stretches.

As you progress in flexibility, you will become aware of your emotional, spiritual, and psychological health. For example, at some point in the day, you may feel like you have negative and depressing thoughts or you may have feelings of abandonment. This would cue you in to stretch your Small Intestine. top

In what direction should I stretch and strengthen my muscles?

The 45 Degree Arch Principle of Muscle Action: Each muscle group generally moves your body about a 45 degree arch. So when you either strength train or flexibility train a muscle, you need to move that body part across that range. For example, when you stretch the lateral hamstring by flexing, adducting, and inwardly rotating the thigh, this will need to be done in many repeats throughout the 45 degree arch in order to stretch all the fibers of the muscle.

The Principle of the Path of Greatest Resistance: The path of greatest resistance is the direction that is the most difficult to move your muscle in.

While stretching, you will find that there are many different angles and directions to move your muscles while contracting and elongating them. For optimal gains in flexibility, resistance stretch the muscle at different angles and directions until you find the path where you resist the most. This is the tightest movement pattern of the muscle and the best area to target while stretching.

The Principle of the Path of Least Resistance: The path of least resistance is the direction that is the easiest for your muscle to move in.

While strengthening, you will find that there are many different angles and directions to move your muscles while contracting and shortening them. For optimal gains in strength, resistance strength train the muscle at different angles and directions until you find the path where you resist the least. This is the path that the muscles want to move in while strengthening and will insure that the weakest movement pattern of the muscle is strengthened in exactly the way that it needs to be strengthened.

The Principle of Action verses the Stretch of the Muscles: The action of any muscle can only be accurately defined by including one of each of the following: Flexion or Extension, Abduction or Adduction, and Inward or Outward Rotation. For example, the Stomach Meridian Muscle Group's action is to Flex, Abduct and Outwardly Rotate the thigh. Therefore, you would need to Extend, Adduct, and Inwardly Rotate the thigh to stretch those Meridian Muscle Groups. top

At what speed should I stretch my muscles?

Let your body be the authority. You may find that it is best to begin by starting slowly and gradually increasing speed and resistance or vice versa. top

How long should I hold a stretch for?

Resistance Stretching differs from common stretching methods in that most of the stretch occurs during the movement of the muscle and not at the end point of the stretch. Consider how strength training works: you start with the muscle elongated and then you shorten and contract the muscle. If you want maximum strength gain, you wouldn't want to shorten and contract the muscle and then continue to hold the weight once your muscle is shortened. Instead, you would want to do a set of reps. The same applies for Resistance Stretching. Elongate and contract, and if you wish, you can continue to contract isometrically at the end of the stretch, but it's best to do a set of reps. top

Skin Stretch
Skin Stretch Begin
Skin Stretch End

In what range should I stretch my muscles and when do I start and stop resisting?

For a great Resistance Stretch, start in a position where the target muscle group is a short as possible. Then begin contracting the muscle group and elongate at the same time. Elongate the muscle to the point where you can no longer resist. This is your true flexibility range. If you continue to elongate your muscle when you can no longer resist, you are in danger of over-stretching and injuring the muscle.

The Principle of True Flexibility: A muscle is only truly flexible to the point where it can continue to maximally resist while being lengthened. When a muscle can no longer contract maximally, it is being over-stretched and is subject to injury. Increased flexibility translates into increased biomechanical efficiency as well as increases in power, speed, and acceleration. Flexible muscles are much less likely to be injured and stay youthful longer. A muscle is not flexible if it cannot contract at any point while being elongated regardless of range. top

How many repetitions should I do?

This depends on your goals for the stretching session. If you are going through an Energy Flow Series, you may want to do anywhere from 6 - 10 reps of each stretch on each side. This allows you to get a decent stretch on all of your muscle groups in an efficient amount of time. If you are focusing on a certain muscle group, you may choose to do many more reps of Resistance Stretching, and possibly Resistance Strength Training as well. Stop stretching when you feel that your muscles are becoming fatigued. It takes twice as long for your muscles to recover when you stretch them to the point of fatigue. top

How long should I stretch for and how often should I stretch?

This also depends on your goals for the stretching session. You may prefer to do a quick 15 - 20 minute Energy Flow Series or a two and a half hour intense stretching session. Or, you may choose to do a quick arm stretch or two as you are waiting in line at the grocery store. Remember to stop stretching before your muscles become fatigued and let your body be the authority. Stretch whenever you feel tension in your body, whenever you feel emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually burdened. Eventually, you will know exactly what stretches you need to do and when. top

How hard should I resist?

You must resist maximally for optimal gains in flexibility. This can normally only be done by having another person assist you because it takes twice the force to stretch a muscle as it does to strengthen it. However, take it easy, and let your body gauge how much resistance to use. Start off resisting to where the stretch feels good, and then gradually increase resistance as your body sees fit. It is important to remember to not overdo yourself and not to resist to the point where you fatigue your muscles. If you can't breathe when resisting, then you are resisting too hard. top

How should I position myself for maximal resistance?

You should always place yourself in a position where you have the greatest leverage while stretching and you want to apply pressure to the bone as opposed to the muscle. For example, to do the bent leg central hamstring stretch, you can place both hands on your lower calf or both hands on your heel, or maybe just one hand on your heel. You could also grab the middle of your foot from the side, or cup your hand around your toes to grab the bottom of your foot. Always search for the position where you can resist the most and have the greatest amount of leverage.

The Principle of Origin and Insertion: Because the insertion bone is the lever that characteristically moves when a muscle contracts and shortens, you would likewise move this insertion bone while keeping the origin bone(s) relatively stable while stretching. top

Where should my focus be while stretching?

There are four aspects to stretching: position, resistance, breathing, and the psychological effects. While all of these are important, it is best to keep your focus on whatever 'comes up' while stretching. Each stretch will cause you to experience different sensations. Most people find that focusing on the sensations that arise while stretching provides the best results. Learning how to follow your attention is one of the most valuable lessons that can be gained from resistance stretching.

How should you breathe? It can be counter productive to regulate your breathing while stretching. Breathing is important, but instead of regulating the breath, allow yourself to stay focused on the sensations that arise, and you will find that your mind will be free to allow you to regulate whatever ways are necessary to stretch well. Don't make yourself breathe smoothly or deeply or exclusively through your mouth nose or mouth. Find out how to breath within each stretch freely, naturally, and without conscious interference.

Four Aspects of Stretching

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Do I need to warm up before stretching?

Many people find that warming up before stretching allows them to have greater gains in flexibility. You could do an Energy Flow Series to warm up before focusing in on a certain muscle group. Or, you could skip the warm up, and begin focusing on a certain muscle group and gradually increase resistance as your muscle warms up. Once you have done enough repetitions to warm up the muscle group, you could then begin resisting maximally for optimal gains in flexibility. It is best to make sure your muscles are warmed up before resisting maximally. top

What role does nutrition play in being flexible?

As you advance in your stretching, you will find that your eating habits will dramatically improve. Your sweet cravings will become less frequent, over eating will occur less often, and the quality and type of food you purchase and consume will improve. I recommend supporting and consuming certified organic food. It's also important to be sure you are getting Omega 3 fatty acids. I recommend taking a high quality, purified, antioxidant protected fish oil from a reputable company that screens the fish oil for mercury and contaminants. Ensuring your diet is organic, nutrient packed, low-glycemic, and high in antioxidants as well healthy fats is the surest way to become more healthy and more flexible. Many people 'hit a wall' with their flexibility gains simply because their bodies are too toxic.

The Principle of Nutrient Rich Food and Flexibility: Your ability to increase your flexibility is significantly improved by having great nutritional habits. The quality of food and water you have ingested throughout your entire life reflects in the health of your tissues. The only way to become more flexible is by constantly improving your diet. In many people, detoxing old bad food residues from your body is necessary before any increases in flexibility can occur. top

How do I stretch a previously injured muscle?

You will need to perform many repetitions of Resistance Strength Training and Resistance Flexibility Training on previously injured muscles. Focus on these muscles until you feel that they have had a good workout, then move onto other areas of the body. Then go back to the injured muscles and repeat. Focus on the injured muscles until they 'catch up' with the rest of your body. Eventually, the special attention to the injured areas of your body will eliminate the scar tissue and additional layers of tough connective tissue. You may also want to do many repetitions of Stomach stretches because the Stomach is physiologically associated with the muscular system. If the injured area is in too much pain for Resistance Strength Training or Resistance Stretching, stretch and strengthen the muscles surrounding the injured area. top

How can I protect myself from over-stretching?

Continuously contract the target muscle group while elongating it. The contraction keeps the muscle "in check" and as long as you are contracting, you are preventing the muscle from being over-stretched. top

How can I decrease soreness from stretching?

If you have had a really good stretching workout, you should feel a 'good' soreness later that day or perhaps even two days afterward. If you feel uncomfortably sore after stretching, you probably overdid yourself or did something wrong that needs to be identified and corrected. Many people are sore after they are first introduced to stretching, but as time moves on, their body is more capable of recovering faster and the soreness decreases. To keep soreness at a minimum, make sure that you are training just enough but not too much, have sufficient vitamin and mineral intake, great food and hydration, as well as healthy emotional, spiritual, and psychological health. top

Do I have to get less and less able to move with age? Isn't there something I can do that will allow me to enjoy my retirement - so that I can play tennis, golf, and play with my grandchildren, even workout vigorously?

The Meridian Flexibility System is suitable for all people regardless of age or ability. Resistance Stretching is a powerful tool you can use to improve your flexibility and maintain your ability to move freely as you age. top

Is it true that specific stretches can help to improve specific physical physiological conditions?

Yes, each stretch provides a specific benefit to your physical and physiological health. Please see the Physical Flex Test. top

Are there stretches for my bad knees, my back spasms, my tennis elbow, my wrist pain, my ankle sprains, etc.? What about menstrual cramps, migraines, weight problems, low energy, heart conditions, etc.?

Virtually any problem with the body can be improved through Resistance Flexibility and Strength Training. Private assisted stretching sessions are key for providing relief to chronic pain/tension.

During a private session, the trainer will stretch specific muscle groups that will provide specific benefits to your physical, spiritual, emotional, and psychological health.

For example, hip flexor stretches will provide relief for menstrual cramps. Gallbladder stretches help with migraines. Small Intestine stretches help with weight problems. Spleen/Pancreas help with low energy symptoms, etc.

There are specific stretches to improve specific mental health conditions. There are stretches for depression, masochism, avoidance, procrastination, denial, mood swings, addiction, etc. There are stretches that can dramatically improve looks and sexual appeal as well as help with wrinkles, shape changes, posture improvements, hand and foot problems, etc. These are all addressed in the Flex Tests. top


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