Pandiculation – “Dynamic Stretching” Squared

In a recent  New York Times article about stretching, Gretchen Reynolds reported on the largest study ever conducted on the effectiveness of stretching. The results showed that…

Stretching makes no difference one way or the other as far as injury prevention is concerned.

The percentage of those runners assigned to do 20 second static stretches before every run, was identical to the group assigned to the “no stretching” regimen. The study was conducted over the course of three months.

Dr. Ross Tucker, a physiologist in South Africa and co-author of the Web site The Science of Sport said, “There is a very important neurological effect of stretching. There is a reflex that prevents the muscle from being stretched too much.” This is exactly what Hanna Somatic Educators have taught their clients for years: the reflex Dr. Tucker refers to is called the “stretch reflex.” It is invoked by static stretching, and induces the muscle to contract back against the stretch, in effect making it tighter than it was before. This is a reflex that protects the muscle.

Reynolds goes on to write, that “Dynamic stretching, or exercises that increase your joints’ range of motion via constant movement, does not seem to invoke the inhibitory reflex of static stretching, Dr. Tucker said. When “you stretch through movement, you involve the brain much more, teaching proprioception and control, as well as improving flexibility.”

Pandiculation improves muscle function at the level of the nervous system.

Hanna Somatic Educators have been teaching students for decades not to stretch to change muscle length, but rather to pandiculate. Pandiculation is a brain reflex action pattern that animals do. Next time your dog gets up from rest, watch what he does; he’ll put his front paws out and lengthen his back as he relaxes his belly. This “wakes up” the muscular system at the level of the  brain, so that the brain is always in control of the muscles.

The action of pandiculation re-sets muscle length and brain level control of muscles and movement. when you release muscles in this manner, balance, proprioception, and coordination is improved, and this alone can prevent knee, hip, and back injuries when running.

Phil Wharton, well known author of the Wharton Stretch Book, now agrees that contracting a muscle first, then moving it through its range of motion is much more effective than simple, static stretching. Dynamic stretching, however similar to pandiculation, isn’t as effective if you don’t incorporate muscles in the center of the body, from which all movement originates. Think of an animal, first contracting its back muscles, then slowly and deliberately lengthening them only as far as is comfortable for them to go – then doing the exact same thing with the muscles of the front of the body.

Think about your typical athletic stretches and see if you can find a way to pandiculate them - meaning tighten the muscles FIRST, then slowly lengthen them to a comfortable length, then completely relax them. This can be done with hamstrings, quadriceps, waist muscles, triceps, biceps, you name it!

Here’s a short video that shows a couple of easy pandiculations you can do prior to your run. Try them out and see what you think. To learn these and other Somatic Exercises that can teach you to reverse your pain and regain freedom of movement, click here.

9 thoughts on “Pandiculation – “Dynamic Stretching” Squared

  1. Super-Duper site! I am loving it!! Will come back again – taking you feeds also, Thanks.
    Hello. Great job. I did not expect this on a Wednesday. This is a great story. Thanks!

  2. Pingback: How To Relax Muscles Rapidly and Effectively « Pain Relief Through Movement

    • Thanks for pointing this out. Honestly, I don’t recall which video this was and I don’t understand how it became disabled!! I’ll look into it and see what happened. So sorry! Seeing the difference between stretching and a movement that is a slow pandiculation that re-sets muscle length and tonus is helpful.
      Best to you,

  3. Thanks for the site. Just to be accurate and despite the headlines, the study did NOT show that “stretching makes no difference one way or the other as far as injury prevention is concerned”… it showed that getting runners to do 20-second static stretches before every run makes no difference,
    There are other ways of sretching – and different timings – that do make a difference, but “they” will never be able to prove it to their satisfaction.

    • Hi,
      Thanks for the clarification. I recently read a study that pointed to the use of stretch bands as “added resistance” (which makes me think of a practitioner’s hands as resistance) that showed the best results as far as a “stretching” method was concerned.
      When you say “they,” do you mean the practitioner/runner who’s doing the stretching method that seems to work for them? I find that proving the efficacy of one’s method is both laborious and, for those of us in the Somatic Education field, only possible if we get grant money to run a study.
      The best “proof” of the efficacy of Somatic Education thus far comes out of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, whose studies were done on the Feldenkrais Method (from which Hanna Somatics stems).

      Thanks for your comment!

  4. Due to pain in my thighs or quads its hard to do any type of exercise. My muscles stay contracted and dont relax. What can i do to fix them?

    • Hi George,

      If your thighs and quads are so tight that you can’t exercise, the problem isn’t in the quads or thighs. It’s in the center of your body. When the center of the body is too tight and in a state of constant, habitual contraction (sensory motor amnesia), the periphery of your body (the thighs, quads, knees, feet, neck) work too hard and compensate.

      My suggestion is to begin learning how to reverse that situation of chronically tight muscles by learning Somatic Exercises. If you live near a Certified Hanna Somatic Educator, it’s best to go for a few hands-on clinical sessions to more rapidly learn to release and relax the back, waist and abdominal muscles so that your quads/thighs and the rest of your body can stop working so hard!

      You can purchase any of my DVDs or my book directly from my website. I also do one one one video Skype sessions with people so they can learn directly from me with personalized guidance. There is information on my site about those sessions as well.

      All the best,

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