Tom Longo Describes the Art of Assisted Resistance Stretching
I help tune the body’s biomechanics. I see the body as a living, breathing flesh, blood and bone machine that is always seeking balance and is self-repairing. So I look for flexibility and strength imbalances between different muscle groups, analyze how these are twisting the body and hindering the performance of specific muscles and joints, and then perform as well as prescribe specific stretching and strengthening exercises to correct the imbalances. As I work the body in this way, it will automatically adjust and move toward more balance. It will then have a chance to repair and heal any injuries, inflammations and pains created by the imbalances. It will also become a better aligned machine, able to perform at a much higher level, with more power, stamina, and control.
how I do it
The more interesting and fun story of my work is in how I actually go about all of the above. What I really do. I stretch bodies very powerfully with scientifically based flexibility exercises. I also do some strengthening, but most of that I prescribe for the client or their strength trainer to focus on. My real work is powerful, precise, complex stretches performed in three dimensions. So I hardly ever stretch a body part in a straight line. I pull it in two different spatial directions at the same time and also rotate it. This is the key to finely isolating a specific muscle group. But more importantly, I elongate the muscles while my client is simultaneously powerfully contracting them. This is the true secret to increasing a muscle’s flexibility and what we call Resistance Stretching, a revolutionary stretching idea created by a genius friend of mine by the name of Bob Cooley (www.thegeniusofflexibility.com). Resistance Stretching creates immediate, cumulative and long lasting increases in flexibility and protects against overstretching injury during the stretch.
It’s hard to really describe what I do without it sounding kind of peculiar. I pull and push and manually manipulate a person’s body while they simultaneously attempt to create the opposite movements by powerfully contracting the specific muscle group that we’re stretching. I even tie their lower body down to a specifically designed stretching board to stabilize and support the body during stretching. I often need to massage specific muscles so that they will relax and stretch more effectively, and I typically do this with my feet by walking on specific body parts while supporting myself. This is usually everyone’s favorite part of my work because it helps the muscles relax and release tension and it feels really good. They usually don’t want me to stop.
why I do it
I really love taking the pain out of bodies and helping them work and feel better. And so the essence of what I do is powerfully pull the tension out of muscles that are holding too much tension, and help increase the tension in muscles that are too weak. This is how I create balance in a body: by moving tensions around, rebalancing and releasing, allowing the muscles to function to their highest capacities and the joints to articulate with ease and complete range of motion. Sometimes it feels like I’m manipulating a Rubik’s cube. Sometimes it feels like I’m pumping out deep wells of tension. The best time is when I feel the muscles relaxing and stretching out smoothly and suddenly functioning better. I then watch my client stand up and move his or her body more easily and gracefully and comfortably and joyfully. That’s why I do this work!