Why I hate this stretching practice (And you should too)

June 4, 2019

There's certain stretching practices which I've personally never gotten on with, yet others have found immense success. Why is that? Most would say genetics plays a hand in these differences, and you'd be right. The thing is, though. When most people say 'genes' it's actually code for "Yeah I know it's something to do with this, but I have absolutely no idea what or how."


It's not just about the stretching protocol itself which can give varying results. It's also the ability of the individual to get into much crazier positions with the same stretch, where others cannot.


I've heard other iterations of the genes answer, such as freaks. Freaks is a good one.


Pretty freaky though, right?


I've also heard talented.








I guess they're all correct explanations but, they don't really address precisely why. Which is extremely important because if we really understand why something is so, we're far less likely to prescribe to ourselves (or others) one-size-fits-all drills which are frankly asinine.


Only because.. We are all different. Otherwise, hunky dory. Blanket prescribe your nuts off for all I care. If everyone is exactly the same, then what works wonders for one will do the same for all.


We segue into my big complaint.



The Butterfly Stretch



What's wrong with this stretch? I hear you say. Well, nothing.




Yes, I have absolutely no problem with this stretch whatsoever.


Well you said..


I know what I said. It was never which stretch I hated, it was which stretching practice. More specifically, the things that people do with this stretch (and others) which grinds my gears. I'd actually much prefer to see this particular practice phased out of marital arts dojangs the world over.


It's when a partner is instructed to stand on the inside of each knee, putting their (variable) body weight smack bang over the hip joints. I would have added a picture but #1 - I can't find one anywhere* and #2 - I'm not prepared to create one for the sake of the post because I don't want people doing it in the first place.


*In a way, I'm glad. Less people doing it the better. Find me a physio who recommends it and I'll eat my arm.


The thing is, martial arts can be very..... I guess you could say "We've always done it this way so, that's what we'll do." Well, it's 2019 and I say that's a cop out. Phasing out training prescriptions which don't work, or can potentially cause damage is a smart thing to do.



Why do I hate it?


Because it depends on how you're built. Short version is those people with hip sockets which point forward more (Anteverted) are going to have a much harder time doing this than those with hip sockets pointing more out to the side (Retroverted)


That's just the socket.


Pair this boney development up with Anteverted Femoral Necks and whabam. Getting your knees to the floor is bordering on impossible.


What's a Femoral Neck? One of them.



You'll need a birds-eye view to appreciate Femoral Neck angles.



On the left, you've got more retroversion going on. About -4 degrees. Translation? You'll find external hip rotation easier. Which means you'll find the Butterfly stretch much more comfortable.

On the right? It's about 47 degree anteversion. Which means Butterfly stretches will make you hate life. Especially if you have north of 60kg's distributed across both hips. On the other hand, these same people will find getting their kicks up into a really high chamber relatively easy. Since that's a lot of internal rotation.


I know it's really difficult to visualise how all these bits and pieces come together. Trust me, I've been wrestling with this for the past 3 years.


So I've attached another visual below which can hip us a little more. The basic premise is this. Forward facing hip sockets + Anteverted femoral necks + Butterfly stretch + 60kg person stood on top = Stupid.



You'll be loading your partners bodyweight into the small pinch point highlighted above. You'll be compressing bone against bone and for what? Nothing. Nada. Diddly. Except some really pissed off hips. Later down the line, cam/pincer deformities.


On the left? I hate Butterfly stretches. On the right? Mmmmmm I luuuurve me them Butterfly stretches.


Obviously if you're the opposite and possess hip retroversion galore, well you can knock yourself out. Hell, why not get some Cirque De Soleil action going on and balance 4-6 people on each leg, displaying all sorts of fancy contortions with you in the middle looking as calm and composed as a monk.



Don't be like these people.


Aside from butchering the Butterly stretch because people unwittingly just copy what their instructor did, who copied what their instructor did, who copied theirs... It's worth stopping and thinking about it for a second. Is it reallllllly a smart thing to do?


Biology would say no, absolutely not.


Then there's some people who just need to be imprisoned for their gross negligence.



I mean. WTF?


It's just unnecessary.


Even though some people are built for it and others are not, I still feel it's not worth the risk. Not everyone is tuned in enough to know the difference between a stretch and compression sensations. You also don't need a human body in weight to be able to make headway in your flexibility training.


Do you put a human body on your arm in order to stretch your shoulder? Fancy it? No me neither. We all know a fellow martial artist with hips that have completely given up on them. Phasing out shenanigans like this is going to vastly reduce the likelihood of your hips going AWOL.



It's a wrap.


Yup, I really hate that practice. For the record, my hips are perfect for this, but I don't fancy it.



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