You get the picture? He’s placed his focus internally on what the muscle is doing and that will limit how far he will stretch.
Test this on yourself right now. Step back, put your foot up on a chair, and do a hamstring stretch, reaching for your toes and focusing on how it feels when you get to the “end” of your stretch. Stop at your “pain tolerance” and mark how far you reached using a point on your leg. Try this now, then come back to read the next paragraph.
Now let’s try it with an external focus. Do the same thing but now set a target with your eyes outside of your body and try to make your shirt or wristwatch touch that target, e.g., think of making your watch reach down and touch your shoe, (two completely external targets). Went a lot further, didn’t you?!
The brain loves goals; it loves to hit targets outside the body… It’s actually wired to operate on the external world, e.g., chase and catch your prey, climb and pick that fruit…
When most people try to improve their flexibility they focus on what they feel… “oh, that hurts so good!” “That shoulder is so tight!…” That’s an internal focus. And the brain will stop you from going as far into the range of motion.
The limit of “flexibility” is not a “short muscle.” It’s the brain’s preset limit for how far it will let you go based on feeling. There are no tight cadavers… When you die you’ll be very flexible!
So, whatever your goal—improve shoulder range of motion for a better tennis serve, or bend over and tie your shoes more effectively—having an external focus as you do your range of motion training is going to make you achieve your goal A LOT faster!
Below are a few more photos of typical stretches and ways to make them an externally focused movement rather than internally focusing on feeling the stretch. Notice how much further I’m able to “stretch.” That’s the goal, right?!
As always, don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions or would like to talk about specific ranges of motion you struggle with. We’re here for you!