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The science of movement

Thank you so much for joining The Body Mechanic Blog. I hope you enjoy it, and enjoy this journey into health and fitness! As always, please share any post to those that could benefit from the information. Now, on to the topic of the day…

The main point of the discussion on range of motion is this: YOUR RANGE OF MOTION IS DETERMINED PRIMARILY BY YOUR BODY’S NERVOUS REGULATION OF THE TENSION IN YOUR MUSCLES, AND NOT BY THE MUSCLES THEMSELVES. To prove this point, all you have to do is place one foot out to the side on a table or chair that is approximately waist high. Get into a position where your leg is parallel to the floor. This is half of a side split. Easy enough. However, if you can do this, then you should be able to just as easily do a full side split. Chances are you can not. There are no muscles which run from one side of your body across your pelvis to the other side. So why can you do half a side split and not a full side split? It is because your nervous system will not let you! It monitors how far apart your legs are spread, and then reflexively contracts your muscles as you try to move beyond your current allowable limit.

Your ability to move is kept in check and monitored by a unique system. And it really is a beautiful system. This system is designed to keep you from tearing yourself apart by flexing too hard, and at the same time it keeps you from being pulled apart by excessive stretch. When you contract your muscles, this system immediately monitors you (via Renshaw Cells and Golgi Tendon Organs) and sends signals which inhibit those contractions in direct proportion to how hard you contract. And when you stretch your muscles, your system regulates the stretch via Muscle Spindles embedded within each muscle and Gamma Motoneurons which regulate the tension in muscle spindles. The job of your muscle spindles is to detect magnitude and speed of every stretch. When you stretch too far, your muscle spindles detect this and send signals which activate Alpha Motoneurons which reflexively contract your stretched muscles in direct proportion to the stretch. This is called your myotatic, or stretch, reflex.

You’ve heard the term, Proprioceptors. That describes much of this unique system of nervous regulation that each of us is born with. But it goes much deeper than that! The system of sensory neurons, muscle spindles, Gamma Motoneurons, Alpha Motoneurons, and the descending pathways of nerves from your brain is called the Gamma Loop. Along with your Renshaw Cells and Golgi Tendon Organs, the Gamma Loop absolutely monitors and controls the tension in your muscles. And the more you understand this system, the more you understand that stretching is not the way to flexibility! Instead, the way to true flexibility is to learn how to relax! The difference in thinking may not be apparent to you, but once you get it, it is PROFOUND.

With this knowledge, you can IMMEDIATELY increase your range of motion significantly by learning how to tense your muscles with coordinated deep breathing. Why does this work? Because: 1) the more you tense your agonist muscles, the more your antagonist (stretched) muscles relax (this is the mechanism behind Static Active Stretching); 2) the more strongly you tense your stretched muscles, the more your stretched muscles will relax (this is the mechanism behind Isometric Stretching); and 3) repeated movements with strong tensions accompanied by focused deep breathing tends to re-set the nervous tension in those muscles.

When you put the above into action, you build strength along with flexibility simultaneously. The reason why so many people have such a hard time with flexibility is that they focus on stretching their muscles. They attempt to force themselves into positions. This is what we know as traditional stretching! Instead, we should all focus on re-setting the nervous tension which regulates how much our muscles are allowed to move.

Have a wonderful day, and an even better tomorrow!


There simply is no medicine better than Positive Mental State! If you insist upon being happy, then you will give your immune system a big boost! Make today a Great Day!

To Your Health!

Jeff Wooten, “The Body Mechanic”

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