I recently received an article from one of my clients about the explosive growth of stretching in America. There are many franchised stretching companies across the country that have grown exponentially. The article discussed the debate about assisted stretching versus unassisted stretching. Just to be clear, assisted stretching occurs when someone else stretches you, and unassisted stretching is when you do it by yourself. The article expresses how helpful stretching is for chronic pain, pain management, and better long-term health. Most chronic pain can be reduced by stretching. Knowing how to do it, when to do it, and understanding why you are doing it are key issues. Unfortunately, the article did not go into the how, when, and why. It was more about the business of stretching and highlighting a couple of businesses. You can read the article for yourself here. You know me. Today we are going to discuss the how, why, when, and what to do for the best results.

What you get at the Franchised Companies

I have talked to several people who have been to one of the national franchised stretching companies and even explored one myself. In the above-mentioned article, they highlighted a company that did resistance stretching. There are a couple of problems with the stretching they are doing. For many people, they would see nothing wrong with what these companies are doing and in fact, may feel better after doing the stretching techniques, because these companies are doing stretching the way we have always done it, and therein lies the problem.

The national franchised company I explored stretches people by strapping them down to a bed while stretching their bodies. Firstly, you cannot duplicate this at home, and secondly, the stretching practitioner is not allowing for your brain’s reaction. This may result in more strength training than stretching. Of course, for many people, when dealing with their muscles, it is a “no pain, no gain” mentality, so this fits right in line with their beliefs.

The second company has created a technique of resistance stretching which includes you contracting a muscle while the practitioner pulls in the opposite direction. As the practitioner is pulling your leg behind, the muscles on the front of your thighs are contracted to prevent the practitioner from pulling your leg behind you, think about that for a second. When you lift a weight, isn’t gravity pulling the weight downward as you are lifting upward? Isn’t this the same thing? Their technique is more strength training than stretching.

In both scenarios, they are using brute force to stretch the muscle, as if the muscle is fighting against them. Like most people, when thinking about stretching, they visualize stretching a muscle like pulling taffy. The brain reaction is never considered while stretching. Too much pain and the brain will contract the muscle to prevent an injury. In the “no pain, no gain” mentality, one may think we need to teach the muscle a lesson and show them who is boss. This forcing of a muscle movement could end in an injury.

The Problem with Franchise Assisted Stretching

Now, if you spoke to most people who use these companies, they may be very happy with the results. Right after they are stretched, their muscles are fatigued, like after a workout, so their body feels tired and limp. They also believe they are incapable of doing it to themselves, and when they go home the stiffness returns fueling the need to go back to the stretching company. The customer is on a roller coaster of pain. When they get stretched, they feel better. They go home for a few days and the pain returns. They go back to the stretching company, only to start over again, basically at ground zero. The practitioner is not teaching them how to stretch at home because the customer will not have the same equipment at home, plus the company wants them to come back in order to make more profit. Over time, the customer may get tired of the roller coaster effect and give up, thinking it‘s about their age or bad genes.

I know at The Muscle Repair Shop many people come here weekly to be stretched and that is great for my bottom line. However, for any of you to stay on a course of improvement, you must stretch every day at home to maintain and improve. I have had a few clients stop coming because they did not want to stretch at home and did not get the results they were looking for. Sadly, too many people are looking for someone to touch them and heal them without the person changing anything in their lives. It just does not work that way.

Over the last hundred years, the medical community has taught people to expect miracles from health practitioners. Keep in mind, that your health is a team effort. You and your practitioner must work together to improve your health. This is why I teach each client how to go home and do the work for themselves.

Let’s Do This the Correct Way for Best Results

The first important thing to know is that your muscles are the “Emotional Fingers of the Brain.” Every thought you have can, and will, affect the tenseness of your muscles. No movement happens without the brain feeling comfortable with the movement you want to do. If you try to override the brain’s fear, an injury usually occurs.

Stretching is nothing more than showing the brain you can make move without hurting yourself. Once the brain sees that, you are free to move any way you want. Think about this, if you had done a split every morning for the last 5 years and you were good at it, doing a split would require no thought of fear from you, right? If you have never done a split and are attempting to do one, the thought of doing a split sends shivers of pain throughout your body, and your brain would stop you.

When getting assisted stretching, the practitioner must understand this about the brain, and give you time to relax so you can release the muscle by slowly letting your brain see you moving in the direction you want to go. If I contract the muscle on the front of your thigh so I can stretch the muscles on the back of the thigh, your brain will be fine as long as I stop when your brain has contracted the front of the thigh as far as it can, comfortably. If I continue to push for more movement, the back of the thigh may spasm, or the muscles in the low back may spasm leaving me with a stiff back

When stretching correctly, as in the case above, relaxing the whole leg and hips, breathing out to relieve tension throughout the body, then allowing me to move your leg in a direction to extend the back of the thigh without resistance from you, will allow your brain to see it is safe to move that far since there is no injury.

Believe it or not, this is a very simple concept, but it is not discussed at all in the stretching world. As I have said to many of my clients, you have much more to unlearn, than to learn with my technique. Sadly, most injuries from stretching occur due to the lack of knowledge in this area. The best results are rarely obtained as well.

When YOU Stretch

When stretching on your own, remember to focus on the specific area you’re stretching, feel the muscle gently stretching as you go through the motion. This does not mean pain, but a release of the muscle tissue. With some of the stretches, it means to feel each muscle you are stretching such as in the calves. Do I feel on the inside, outside, or middle of the calf muscles?

Inhale, then breathe out as you stretch the muscle. The purpose here is to release the tension throughout the body. We have busy schedules, responsibilities, and deadlines to meet. This results in chronic stress, which affects everyone. This chronic stress causes your muscles to tighten. The breath allows you to relax the body before you begin to stretch the muscle.

Self-massage softens the muscle before you stretch it. Trying to stretch a hard muscle is like trying to bend steel. Unfortunately, too many times you may try to duplicate what a massage therapist does by rubbing the muscle. This type of self-massage is very different, and I find that even when doing a massage, it is therapeutically better for the client’s body than the typical massage techniques.

For example, you want to soften the muscles on the front of your thighs. Using the pads of your thumbs, gently press on a spot on the thigh. You are not digging into the muscle to force it to let go. Take a moment and feel if there is any pain there. If not, go a little deeper. If there is still no pain, for a third time press a little deeper. Remember to inhale, then exhale as you press. This takes a little patience on your part, but if you are willing to take the time, it works like a charm. Work all over the thigh checking one spot at a time. What is interesting is, that if you take your time, you will feel the muscle releasing and softening. Many times this alone will resolve an issue in your body.

What You Shouldn’t Do

Strength training requires a mindset of pushing through the set to increase your power. Stretching, instead, requires a “relax and let go” mindset before the brain will release the muscles. Think of stretching as eating. No matter how much you eat today, tomorrow you will get hungry again, right? If you eat too fast and force food down your throat, you will probably get sick.

The same is true for stretching. If you try to stretch too long and too fast, you will probably hurt yourself. What you think, feel, and do create tightness in your muscles. Stretching your muscles is a daily thing–a process–and the more you force the stretch, the more likely you are to hurt yourself. Think about a dog or cat–every day they stretch several times. You need to do the same thing, every day.

How to Resolve Your Own Pain!

Solving your pain can be easily done with a couple of stretches. Below are a couple of stretches for the hips and the outer thighs. I would suggest doing them every morning when you wake up and then every night before bed. Don’t forget to do the Tennis Ball Massage each day as many times as you need it.


Stretching is more about feeling the muscles letting go than forcing them to stretch. If you are forcing the muscle, you could be doing strength training, not stretching. Make sure you are feeling the intended muscle stretching. If not, the form could be wrong. Holding for 5 seconds allows the brain to release the muscle before it senses any danger. Repeating the stretches 10 times allows the brain to learn it is safe for the muscle to move that way.


Don’t forget the Tennis Ball Massage!

Softening your hips and back is easy when you use the tennis ball. Just lean against the wall and apply enough pressure to feel the painful area. The temptation is to press harder but resist it. Instead, breathe out and allow the muscle to soften under the ball. Then move to another spot and repeat. Continue doing this until most of the painful spots are gone. Check out previous newsletters to see the video.

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.About The Muscle Repair Shop

Drawing upon his personal experience as a former competitive athlete turned wheelchair, obese, and chronic pain sufferer, Muscle Repair Shop Founder Butch Phelps decided to take his health into his own hands when at the age of 36 he was told he might not make it to his 40th birthday.  Applying balanced nutrition advice from his doctor along with a sound exercise program, he went from 315 lbs. to 180 lbs.  Motivated by his experience, he then acquired degrees in advanced therapeutic massage and aging sciences to help people eliminate chronic pain. This included applying his expertise in how people age, including the effects of dementia, anatomy, psychology, and the day-to-day struggles of living as an older person to his practice and development of The Muscle Repair Shop’s one-of-a-kind Stretch n’ Release Technique.

Available through in-office and virtual coaching treatment sessions, this unique combination of stretching and breath work teaches the brain to release the emotional side of muscle tension and pain allowing clients to find lasting relief and healing from stiffness, aches, injuries, and chronic pain. The at-home exercises come with customized instructional videos and virtual or in-office support, allowing clients to enjoy and experience life and sports as they did before limitations slowed or curtailed activities.

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