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The Thermo Diet Podcast Episode 59 - Q&A with Robert Walker

The Thermo Diet Podcast Episode 59 - Q&A with Robert Walker

In this episode of The Thermo Diet Podcast Jayton Miller sits down with Robert Walker, a bodyweight training and athleticism expert in his own right. Rob speaks on stretching, fascial tissue, fibrous tissue, the importance of stretching, and so much more. If you want to learn more about Rob's work make sure to check out UMZUfit at https://umzu.com/products/umzu-fit Stay Thermo Friends!

 

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Full Transcript:

Jayton Miller:
Welcome back to the ThermoDiet Podcast. I'm your host Jayton Miller, and today I have on the podcast, Mr. Robert Walker. So Robert Walker is the VP of Growth here at UMZU and the health and fitness expert in his own rights, specializing in body weight training, mobility, flexibility, and all around athleticism. We talk about a whole range of topics in this podcast, from the fascial tissue, the fiber system, how to stretch, what is stretching, the importance of stretching and so much more.

Jayton Miller:
There's a phenomenal amount of value in this episode, and I can't wait for you to listen to it. Let's get into it. Welcome back to the ThermoDiet Podcast. I am here with Robert Walker. How are you doing today, Robert?

Robert Walker:
I'm good Jayton, how are you doing?

Jayton Miller:
I'm doing well. So Rob is kind of an expert in the field of mobility, flexibility and all around athleticism. So can you kind of tell us how you got started in to that realm?

Robert Walker:
Yeah, sure. So I grew up doing... I was a three sport athlete growing up. I played baseball and I ran track and field, and I played football. I played some basketball too, and some golf. Sports were always a big piece of my life, and especially with running. So I was forced to make the choice between all of those when I entered high school, because you got to stay focused. You get to college athletics, so I ended up choosing running over everything else, which definitely piqued my interest in flexibility training and mobility because the better range of motion you have, the longer your stride, a quicker turnover. So I was doing anything I could to get faster.

Robert Walker:
The mobility and flexibility training that I learned in high school definitely sped me up. It got to the point where I was nationally ranked in the two mile, as a sophomore in high school. So I ran a 9:36 as a sophomore, and that kind of brought me to little bit of pseudo fame amongst sophomores there. What really actually got me super into flexibility and mobility training was I tore my hamstring at nationals in cross country early my junior year, and it kind of ruined my career.

Robert Walker:
I was talking to a lot of colleges about going and then they all stopped talking to me after that. So I was like, "Damn, this is really, really important to take focus on" because, I could have been better about my mobility and flexibility training and I think that could have reduced my risk of injury and the severity of that injury.

Robert Walker:
Hindsight's 20/20, but after that, I started paying a lot of attention to both flexibility and mobility, started doing a lot of body weight training instead of conventional lifting which... you know that I'm a big proponent of body weight training now. That peaked my interest and kept my focus throughout my entire life since then. I was kind of half paying attention to it when I was running, and then after I got hurt, I started really paying attention to it because I realized just how important it would have been for me.

Jayton Miller:
Heck yeah, definitely. So can you kind of explain for the audience, the importance of mobility and flexibility training? Like why is this something that we should focus on?

Robert Walker:
Yeah, sure. So let's take a look at fitness endeavors as a whole first. If you look around your gym, what areas of fitness are people most likely to be working on? Like there's a section for cardiovascular training, you'll see the treadmills and ellipticals and all that. And then there's another section just for benches, dumbbells for actual resistance and strength training. Maybe shoved off in the corner somewhere, has a rod or a dowel, and then some resistance bands to help with stretching. It's kind of like this afterthought, but really there's a big three of fitness and it's cardiovascular training, strength training, and flexibility training.

Robert Walker:
Historically, as you can see in your gyms, like the latter is the least popular. And this is super evident when you look at gyms. With the boom of the internet, it's gotten worse. So cardiovascular training and strength training, they're both kind of, I'll say sexier than the other ones. So they sell programs. If you tell somebody they're going to lose weight, or you tell someone they're going to turn into a superhero by doing strength training, that sells courses.

Robert Walker:
So with the rise of the digital age, people have driven those two down people's throats and being able to touch your toes isn't exactly something that the majority of people tend to think of as a goal. They don't buy a program for that. So flexibility training is really kind of fallen by the wayside, I think. That's my opinion, at least with the rise of the digital age here and the selling of fitness programs.

Robert Walker:
But it's really just as important as the other three. I think flexibility training is something that we all know is good. We all know that we should be flexible people and being stiff just doesn't feel right. But because we're so uninformed about the true benefits of flexibility training, this form of exercise tends to come off as tedious. People think, "I have like one hour in a day, like, what am I going do? Am I going to lift weights? Probably. Am I going to run five miles? Maybe, for some people." But never people are going to say like, "I'm going to take this hour and I'm going to stretch with it," but it really is important.

Robert Walker:
And it's because of those big three of fitness, they're not separate. Each one influences and accentuates the other. Flexibility training as I touched on with the running, it enhances your cardiovascular fitness. If you're a runner, your stride is going to be longer even marginally, and that's going to be huge for you. If you're a runner, your turnover's going to be faster if you're flexible. And then on top of that, just being flexible and I'll touch on this later, being flexible even enhances your ability to breathe. Because we have muscles that run over our lungs and our heart. And if those are really tight, it restricts the internal processes of your breathing and heartbeat, which is crazy. But people don't think about that. Just being more flexible then will in turn, help your cardiovascular fitness.

Robert Walker:
And then on the strength and power side, a lot of people ignore form more, but since I'm a body weight athlete, form is everything. Form first; always perfect form. Form is inherently tied to flexibility. And form it will help you progress in strength. Let's say you're doing a shoulder press, most people suffer from lower back pain when they do a shoulder press, that's because their form is wrong. And that's the most common lift to have incorrect form on because mostly we'll closed shoulders as opposed to open shoulders.

Robert Walker:
Open shoulders would be in gymnastics defined by like, if you reach your arms over your head, are you able to create a straight line from your tip of your fingers all the way down to your [ear lobes 00:08:15]?. Most people can't do that. Like if you listen to this, like stand up and try it, 99% of people do not have open shoulders. It takes a lot of work to do. But if you can get there, like your progression on your shoulder press is going to get way better. Because when you're lifting with closed shoulders on the shoulder press, you're putting a lot of weight on your lower back and your upper chest. So you're building up those two areas of your body, more than your shoulders. You're missing your target group entirely.

Robert Walker:
In that way, opening up your flexibility and mobility is going to help you progress in all of your lifts much faster. Putting in that time is going to reap rewards all the way down the line, because you're actually going to be able to hit the target group that you're trying to work on. That's how they influence each other. There are a ton of benefits of flexibility, and to get people kind of excited about listening to this podcast and excited about doing mobility training, I can just list a few. If you are more flexible and mobile, and that's kind of like a defining feature. It's like being strong or being fast. You are a more flexible person. You will have less stiffness in your life. You'll have a reduced risk of injury. Your body posture and place symmetry will be better.

Robert Walker:
So if you suffer from distorted sizes of muscles which a lot of people do. Like a left bicep is smaller than a right bicep, if you're right-handed typically. A lot of that has to do with how flexible and mobile you are, because it has to do with how full your range of motion is on the lifts you're doing. So it'll help you improve your body symmetry. It'll actually help you be more relaxed, which is also wild, and I'll touch on kind of why that is, probably at some point in this podcast.

Robert Walker:
Lower stress, intention in your body. Stress and emotions, they build up in your body parts, which is also just a crazy concept. And by opening those up, your body, the information is flowing through your body better, from your brain to your muscles, and you can actually lower your stress. Increasing your flexibility and mobility helps with pain relief. A lot of people suffer from chronic pain. Basically everybody does, and opening up your muscles and your joints and your fascia will help improve that pain relief. As I touched on earlier, it'll help with your cardiovascular and your strength training and just ease of daily life.

Robert Walker:
And if you participate in sports, it will increase your athletic performance. It'll improve the efficiency of all of your movements that you do. Again, reduce the severity of your injuries. It will also, and this is kind of up for debate, decrease your delayed onset muscle soreness, the dumps, and then your recovery will be much faster, which is super important. As we touched on in the muscle building program, muscles grow when they're recovering, you're breaking them down when you're training, they're growing when you're recovering. If you're going to improve that recovery, which you will, if you are more flexible and mobile person, you'll get stronger, you'll build more muscle.

Robert Walker:
To sum it all up, there's three components of fitness. It's cardiovascular, strength training and flexibility training. Each one is intertwined, they all influence one another and increasing... it's part of viewing fitness holistically. We're all trying to get healthier. That's what we're trying to do in fitness. And in order to do that, you have to attack all three of those areas, in my opinion, equally, in order to create a healthy and balanced body and lifestyle.

Jayton Miller:
Definitely. I completely agree. Whenever you are doing mobility and flexibility training, what are you actually stretching, and how does it actually work?

Robert Walker:
You do a couple of things. When you work flexibility, you're stretching your muscle, also when you work mobility, you're working on the openness of your joints, that's the key difference there. And you're also working on your fascia, which is kind of this like weird topic that people don't really understand. Fascia is the connective tissue made mostly of collagen that kind of connects everything. It's not just in between your joints and your muscles. That's kind of where it lives, but it runs through your whole body.

Robert Walker:
Fascia contains a lot of things. It surrounds your organs, it contains your blood vessels, your circulatory system and your nervous system. They all run through your fascial system. And when you stretch and you work on your flexibility and mobility, that means you're not... and this is a key point to understand. You're not just increasing your ability to touch your toes or your ability to run faster or whatever. You're also improving the function of your internal organs, the rate of your blood flow, the health of your circulatory system and your nervous system, which is crazy.

Robert Walker:
If you stretch, the theory goes if you increase the healthier fascia, you should be able to communicate from your brain to your muscles better, which is awesome. You should also be able to think better, which is also a wild concept for people. Your fascia is everywhere. It's in your head, it's in your scalp and if you work on that, your body is going to be able to communicate with your brain much, much better. And that's going to have a lot of benefits, everywhere; body hormones, blood flow, everything. Everything's tied to the fascia.

Robert Walker:
So stretching mobility does impact everything when you do it the right way. When you're not just like, "Let me stretch my hamstring today," you have to take it more of a holistic approach to stretching, full body. Everything's connected. You have to stretch your muscles and the opposing muscle muscles and the interweaving fascia. It's one reason why massages feels so damn good. They're really working in that fascia and opening it up and releasing it. It's part of why massages decrease stress. Everybody accepts that that is a fact, and this is why. It's because they're working your fascia; they're opening it up and they're making the nervous system, the circulatory system, all open and flow better for a brief period of time, if you just get one massage.

Robert Walker:
But if you work this continuously, you stretch every day, or five times a week, or something like that, then that can be a feeling that you feel all the time, which is huge. You have to take this seriously and it's just as important as the other two big three of fitness in that light. It's going to change your life if you actually commit to this and take it seriously.

Jayton Miller:
Definitely. So we have the fascial system, and then we also have the fiber system. Can you kind of explain what that is?

Robert Walker:
Yeah. So the fiber system is made up of fascia. Those are kind of like equitable. The fiber system refers to the network of fascia that's running through your entire body. I wanted to touch on this, to kind of depict the importance of this system. I talked about the big three fitness, I want to talk about the big three holistic networks as I call them. So this is a thought experiment that was beautifully brought forward. Whoever's listening to this and are interested in fascia flexibility training, whatever, definitely recommend reading the book, Anatomy Trains by Thomas Myers. This book is about as thorough as it gets in terms of the composition of the body, and why fascia and working the fiber system is so important.

Robert Walker:
In that book, he depicts it in the following way. He brings up this kind of painting or drawing by a man named Vesalius in 1548. What Vesalius was trying to do was he was trying to determine what makes a human, a human. So the thought experiment goes like, "If I could strip the body to nothing, and then build it back, what creates the shape of the body really?" It's not the bones, not the skeletal system, which everybody kind of runs to initially.

Robert Walker:
Because if you look at the skeletal system, you're missing a lot of stuff. You're missing face, you're missing a lot of the bodily structure, you just have bones. It's not the skin as a lot of people think. If you just have the skin and just be like, kind of like a sack of nothing.

Robert Walker:
You can't isolate those things. But what Vesalius didn't... and you can look up this drawing online. It's actually beautiful. He defined three systems that actually make up the shape of who you are. And the first one's the nervous system. So the nervous system, if we were to extract only the nervous system, we would learn a great deal about the human body. If you think about it, we'd have the brain, which is obviously one of most important things, the spinal cord, the vertebrae, we would see the shape of every single organ. We'd see the heart, the digestive system, all kind of outlined. We'd see the hands and the feet, especially those would be very visible. There's a ton of nerve endings in your hands and your feet.

Robert Walker:
I found this out the hard way. In high school, I lost the tip of my finger and it was by far the most painful experience my entire life, after that, because you miss those nerve endings. And there's so many in your fingers and your toes that your body just completely freaks out. And that's kind of why you have that ghost feeling. And that's real. People think that's a myth, about the ghost limb, but I kid you not, when I lost this tip of my finger, I could run my finger right here, and I could hit something; and it wasn't even there, but my brain would think that something was there. It was the most wild thing ever. But that just kind of depicts how many nerve endings are in your fingers and toes.

Robert Walker:
If your nervous system isn't healthy and functioning properly, there's no part of your body that wouldn't feel, that's what makes you feel things. So that's one major holistic network that kind of will show the shape of the body. The second one is the circulatory system. If you were to extract everything from the body except for the vascular system, you would still be able to see a full representation of the body, your blood flowing everywhere. You'd again, see the heart, the brain, the arteries, the veins, the lungs, and you'd kind of see this whole picture of what the body looks like.

Robert Walker:
You'd miss facial expressions that you get from the skin but the body itself would have its complete shape. The third one is the fiber system. If you were to remove everything but the fiber system, which is the febrile elements, and then all your connective tissue, you would again be able to see the entire body. It's made up mostly of collagen, elastin and reticulum.

Robert Walker:
Just as a side, this is why you tend to become more immobile and have more pain as you age because your collagen content in your body begins to decline, which means it's really important to supplement with collagen, or eat a lot of collagen and to replace that. And when you're collagen decreases, your fiber system starts to deteriorate, and that makes you less mobile, less energetic and even hurts your ability to think and hurts your ability to breathe, when you start decline in collagen, and that is why collagen makes up almost your entire body. It's the main component of one of the main holistic networks of the body.

Robert Walker:
So if you were to remove everything but the fiber system, you would still be able to see all the things I said before. You'd see the outline of the entire body. And what's amazing about these three things is that there... and this is kind of just this amazing conclusion that Myers makes in Anatomy Trains, is that, Vesalius brought the idea forward, but what Myers concludes is that all these three things, when they're brought together, they all intertwine, which is really important to understand. These three holistic networks are the nerves and the blood vessels, all kind of merge inside of the fascial system.

Robert Walker:
So they're all very connected, and the health of one, determines the health of another. So you have to look at all three components of those, holistically again to reach that point of optimal health. Then the other thing that's just really, really cool is that they all are movement-based.

Robert Walker:
So they all transmit different information. The nervous system transmits information from your brain to the rest of your body, and makes everything feel and work. The circulatory system takes food, nutrients and moves it throughout the whole body. It's all movement based. And fascia is the same way. It's not just this thing that's sitting there like a bone, it transmits movement information throughout your body. It's all moving and connected with your brain. That's a radical over-simplification of the body; that thought experiment, but I think it really wholly shows that if your goal is to do more in health, you're not just trying to look good or bench more. If your goal is to really feel good, and reach like an optimal point of health, then those three systems should be of paramount importance for you. Maintaining the health of the nervous system, the circulatory system and the fascial system.

Jayton Miller:
Definitely. I completely agree. So it kind of goes back to whenever you were talking about the ghost limbs, it makes me think about the relationship that our consciousness has with our physiology. A lot of people think that the seat of consciousness is in the brain or the heart, but I think that it's in the totality of the being. And I think it's even within... they have studies that show a certain amount of energetic frequency that we emit from the body itself. I think that it's even bound within that. And so by losing it, losing that, you still have that kind of conscious part of that limb still there to a certain degree.

Robert Walker:
Yeah. You might've heard the kind of up and coming school of thought where emotions are stored in different areas of the body. What they're referring to is you store... I think one of the things like pain, emotional pain, stored in your feet and that just makes so much sense to me, whether you buy into that or not because fascia stores information and that's pretty proven. That's not some pseudoscience, fascia does store information, whether that's emotion or not, there's information there. And there's so many nerve endings and fascial components in your feet.

Robert Walker:
And it makes sense to me that that would be the case. And to kind of investigate that, I actually, I don't know if you guys have heard of Reiki at all, but it's kind of like that. I watched that Goop episode with Gwyneth Paltrow and I was just instantly intrigued, like how is this man influencing people with just his hands? How is he doing this? And I started looking into it. I actually took the tests to get Reiki certified or whatever, just to kind of go through the whole process of learning everything possible.

Robert Walker:
I've never practiced it on anybody, but I thought the information was wildly intriguing and having an understanding of fascia and a kind of a low level of understanding of chiropractic practice, it made sense to me. It doesn't seem as wild as people think it is because fascia does store information. I think that's just like a wildly cool concept that I think we'll learn a lot about in our lifetimes. And I'm excited to hear more about it.

Jayton Miller:
Definitely. I think another interesting thing to point out is that the energetically demanding part of the muscle is relaxation. That's actually what uses up the energy. And so whenever we are stiff, we have a deficiency of the flow of energy throughout the body. So whenever you see, like rigor mortis, whenever we stiffen up, whenever we die, that's because we run out of the energy production, which leads to the stiffening up of the body. So if you don't have enough flexibility and mobility then you're not going to have very good energy flow throughout the system.

Robert Walker:
Yes. That is 100% true. Energy is one of those pieces of information that passes through the fascial system, and it's why one of the big benefits of being a more flexible person. I'm not saying you're going to get this by stretching for one day, but being a more flexible, mobile person, you will be a more energetic person. You won't have as much midday fatigue because your energy is efficient. Imagine you're trying to run through an obstacle course on Survivor, versus just running. That's kind of a good way to depict how that works.

Robert Walker:
So if you're stiff and you're not mobile, and your fascia is kind of all grouped together and intertwined and blocking itself, then you run into that obstacle course. Your energy is running through that obstacle course. But if you're open and your energy flows very efficiently, like the efficiency of your energy is going to get lost if you have tight and wound fascia, but it's going to work the way it should, if you are mobile and flexible. You're going to be more energetic.

Jayton Miller:
Definitely. What are some of the different components of the fiber system?

Robert Walker:
Yeah, sure. This is theory, this is also something that was brought forward by Thomas Myers. I'm not going to take credit for any of this. This is something that he discusses pretty heavily in this book and he defines seven myofascial meridians that runs the body. I read this book and I practiced this idea. I made my own mobility routines based off of these seven myofascial meridians. And I've got to tell you, I think he's really, really onto something with this one.

Robert Walker:
I guess I can kind of explain so people understand a little better before I kind of wrap it all together, but there are seven myofascial meridians in the body. The first one, which is probably the easiest to understand is the superficial back line. So that one runs all the way from your toes to your scalp, which, this is just it's endlessly cool thing. So fascia exists everywhere, including on the top of your scalp. Actually the scalp is the end point for most of these lines. All of these seven lines either end at your scalp or in the back of your occiput right here. So that's why you feel just insanely good when you get a scalp massage and really, really good when you massage the back of your neck.

Robert Walker:
You can feel that energy release throughout your entire body. And it's because almost all of these seven lines connect in one of those two spots. The superficial back line starts kind of right around your plantar fascia, and it runs all the way up from your toes to heel. That's your plantar fascia kind of area there, and it runs all the way from your heel to the back of your knee, then it runs from your knee to your hip, then your hip, all the way up the back of your spine to your occiput, and then your occiput, all the way to the front of your scalp. It's all connected.

Robert Walker:
I think the best way to kind of explain this is that like touching your toes exercise that I discussed before. So if you stand up right now and try to touch your toes with your knees locked, you will feel the pull. If you pay attention to it, you'll feel the pull, all the way through that line. You'll feel it in your feet. You'll feel it run up your calf, hamstrings back. It's not just a hamstring stretch. It's a superficial back line stretch. It's going to impact your whole body.

Robert Walker:
Then as soon as you bend your knees, you break the line. So if you bend your knees, you're not going to feel it anymore in your lower part, in your calves and your plantar fascia. And that's important to know that it's all connected, from toes to head. So if you break the line by relaxing your knees, you're going to stretch more of your hamstrings, but you're going to lose the impact in that entire line. Another way to show how they're all connected is stand up and do that exercise.

Robert Walker:
Try to touch your toes with your knees straight. Gauge how far you can reach, then take a tennis ball or a golf ball or something and massage out of your plantar fascia on the bottom of your feet for a minute on each foot, then do the exercise again, you'll be able to reach three inches farther just by opening up that one piece of the line. That shows that they're all connected for the back line.

Robert Walker:
Then there's the superficial front line as well. That one runs in tandem with the superficial back line all the way from your toes of the front of your body, to your head. And then it reaches back to the back of your arm. That's a completely separate line. It's just as important and just as long as the back line. And they're very connected to each other.

Robert Walker:
So something that's important for anybody who's trying to prevent injury, is you have to stretch both the muscle that you're targeting and the opposing muscle. If you only stretch, let's say your hamstring without stretching your quad, you're opening yourself up to the potential for injury there. Because the more mobile, one of those gets, the more it's going to pull on the latter and you open yourself up for injury there.

Robert Walker:
And it's the same with weightlifting and running. I'll use running in the example because I did actually do this exact one. I tore my hamstring and it's probably one of the most common injuries in running. And it's because runners get extremely strong quads and extremely mobile quads. And when you do that and you don't stretch your hamstring and build up the strength of your hamstrings you have a really strong muscle pulling on a weak and brittle muscle and you tear your hamstring.

Robert Walker:
And that's a result, my coach back in high school didn't want us to lift weights. Because he was like, “Oh, if you…” because we were long distance runners, if you lift weights, you're going to gain weight. And then he made us, to depict it, he made us run around the track with a five pound bag of sugar in our hands to show how much it sucks to carry extra weight.

Robert Walker:
I just think that's so wrong. If you're in the gym, you're building up relative strength, you're building up strength in general. That weight is good weight. I get it for fat, but not for strength. If you're a runner and you're listening to this, definitely go to the gym, strengthen your hamstrings, or you're going to open yourself up for injury because your quads are going to be really strong.

Robert Walker:
But that's to say, this is like a holistic thing. If you stretch your back line, you need to stretch it front line as well and work on that. Then you have the lateral lines which run up the sides of your body from the sides of your heels all the way up to the top. I don't want to bore people with the exact details of what that is, but they actually determine any of your side to side movements. And how mobile you are over there. Like oblique stretches or oblique movements is a good way to pick a piece of a lateral lines. Then you've got a spiral line.

Jayton Miller:
A lot of people have trouble with the IT bands too. I know people who've just snapped their, IT bands, so that's another one.

Robert Walker:
Yeah. It's another one there. And then you got, the spiral line was runs up as a double helix, through your body. That one runs like the back of your leg and then the posterior spine and crosses as it comes up to the back of your eye. But that determines a lot of the twisting movements that you do. So if you're very immobile in your twisting movements, like the spiral line's, where you want to look first.

Robert Walker:
And then you have the arm lines. There are actually four separate arm lines. The arms are insanely complicated. And you have four separate arm line that run like, I'm not going to go through all of them, but some run from your pinky up the bottom inside of your arm, some run from your thumb up the other side, and then several of them go through and then over your pectoral, so over your heart and then over your lungs.

Robert Walker:
So they cross, they cross your body here. And that's important to note because if you have trouble breathing, if you have trouble with an irregular heartbeat or anything like that, it could very well be due to your arms being immobile, which is the most wild thing to think about. Because, you can stretch your arms, open up the arm line there and you'll actually be able to breathe better. Which is just such a cool concept and shows really well, how it's all connected.

Robert Walker:
And then you have these kind of weird lines next to, the final two. The functional lines is one of the final two, and those… There's a back functional line and a front functional line and those pretty much determine your athletic activity. The weird movements, like throwing a javelin or something like that, right, that employ several of the lines at once is actually fascia that helped you employ multiple lines at once and you will want to work on those functional lines.

Robert Walker:
If you do athletic activities, you actually will work those inherently, but you should take note that you are working those inherently. Because you need balance in the body. And something that I struggled with personally, as I used to pitch in baseball and anyone who pitches or plays baseball, probably struggles from this. You really work that your dominant hand functional line. And it leaves the other side of your body lagging. Like my left shoulders is less mobile still to this day, than my right shoulder. And it's because, you're working one functional line just over and over and over again and not the other.

Robert Walker:
So I'm now all the time, I'm working this side of my body. The left side, trying to create balance in my body. And then the last one is the deep front-line, which is arguably the most important because it helps connect all of the lines. So it runs up the core of your body and brings it all together. It's much harder to work that one because it's not like, “Stretch your hamstring,” or anything like that, which is a little easier, but I'll spare you guys the details, but the deep frontline is very crucial to work in your body.

Robert Walker:
And if you are interested in learning any more practice behind working these lines, I highly recommend, you can look at Anatomy Trains by Thomas Myers, or you can just look up how to stretch the Myofascial meridians, because this concept has gained a lot a good amount of popularity since Anatomy Trains was released.

Robert Walker:
And there's plenty of resources out there that talk about stretching these. And then when I do eventually release that into Fit Mobility program, which should come out in January or so, I will be structuring our routine completely around working all seven of the Myofascial meridians all together. So that you can make sure you're putting your best foot forward on stretching in a science-backed way. Not just stretching to stretch. It's important to have balance it's important to work all seven and that's what I'm trying to tackle with that program. So hopefully that gets some people excited about it.

Jayton Miller:
Yeah. January 2021. Mobility program by Rob Walker. So how is flexibility restricted in those cases? Why do we actually become rigid and not able to have full range of motion and have flexibility?

Robert Walker:
Yeah. So flexibility and mobility, can be restricted by a lot of things. Some of it is out of our control. Bones, ligaments, muscle size tendons, skin, that can all affect your range of motion.Those are something, we can't change our bones to a certain degree. Some of it's genetic. You can still get past that stuff, but in terms of initial capacity, that is something to consider.

Robert Walker:
Gender also does affect flexibility and mobility. Age, obviously. As I touched on before, collagen [inaudible 00:39:39] definitely impacts your range of motion. Temperature also impacts it and clothing as well is another impactor. So make sure you're as naked as possible when you're stretching. But yeah, most of these issues have to do with the amount of collagen in your system.

Robert Walker:
So it's highly recommended that if you are really interested in improving your flexibility mobility that you take two things into account. One is collagen content. If you're really serious about it, eat more foods with collagen, and then supplement with collagen. It's vitally important to your flexibility mobility and then inflammation as well. Inflammation as a lot of benefits and pitfalls. But inflammation does impact your ability to be flexible. If you are interested in pursuing this route in fitness, make sure you're taking the necessary steps to keep your inflammation low in the body.

Jayton Miller:
Yeah. I would take it as far as to say that any kind of inflammation that is outside of an adaptive response, especially chronic inflammation, so if it happens over a long period of time, it's going to be antagonistic to the state of health that we want to be in. I would also add to that, hydration from an electrolyte perspective. Making sure that we have plenty of calcium, potassium, magnesium and sodium in the system so we have plenty of extracellular fluid keeping the fascial system hydrated and stuff like that as well.

Robert Walker:
Yeah. It also helps with, when you eat salts. You consume salts, it helps with communication of all those systems, like the nervous system and the fascia system. So more salt means more communication throughout the body and that's going to help you open up your muscles and range of motion as well.

Jayton Miller:
Definitely. How does one stretch properly? And then can you go into the best times to stretch and stuff like that as well?

Robert Walker:
Yeah, sure. So I'll start with how does one stretch properly question. There's some confusion about whether or not certain stretches are good or bad. I'm personally not of the belief that there's a bad stretch itself. There are a lot of studies out there and this is where I'll touch on next, because some people who listen to this podcast might've heard that there's some studies coming out that stretching is dangerous and bad for you. And that it can actually decrease athletic performance.

Robert Walker:
All these studies and the abstracts around these studies in the articles that are pointing, these studies are radically generalizing stretching. Most of these studies, not all of them, were done on ballistic stretching, which is a a high risk, more dangerous type of stretching where you instead of, holding movements for smooth, long periods of time, you're actually bouncing, which is a common method used in physical therapy when you're rehabbing from injuries to get your muscle response up by bouncing.

Robert Walker:
It shouldn't be, in my opinion, it shouldn't be used much at all for people who are not rehabilitating. So take all of those articles and claims with a grain of salt. Most of them are about ballistic stretching, but stretches in general, I don't think are bad or good, really. I mean, as long as it's done safely and correctly, and with proper form, it's going to benefit your body.

Robert Walker:
There's no dichotomy over stretches. I think a better question to ask yourself is, “Is this stretch appropriate for the specific requirements of my situation? Am I recovering from injury?” If so, then you do certain stretches, or you don't. If you're healthy, then you can do almost anything. That's the first step. It's really, assess your ability to stretch.

Robert Walker:
You should never feel pain when you're stretching, which is important. People take the no pain, no gain concept way too far in fitness. And it doesn't apply here. Stretching to the point of pain is about 50% further than the stretching to the point of tension, which is what I recommend. If you just stretch to the point where you're just feeling a little bit of tension, you relax and let gravity do the work. That's how I typically stretch.

Robert Walker:
Don't reach too much. If you're doing a seated forward fold, people tend to take assisted bands and pull the shit out of their feet, trying to get to the point where they're doing it. And they search for the pain, in order to feel like they're getting something done, but that's really not how you should do it. When your body is stressed, it's stressed, it's not relaxed. It's going to fight back against what you're doing and that's not how you let your muscles open up. You should take it slow. It's not as quick of a process as let's say, fat loss or muscle building.

Robert Walker:
Opening up your flexibility mobility is a long-term process and you should be patient about it and let your body open up. And I'll touch on breathing in a second because that's really important. But the next thing, you should warm up prior to stretching. People view stretching as a warmup and it is not. You actually do have a risk of injury while you are stretching.

Robert Walker:
It is a workout in itself. That's an important thing to drive home. You should warm up before you stretch and you can do that just by increasing your overall body temperature. That's what I'm talking about. Physically actually warming up and preparing your mind and body for stretching,. I recommend to people that they warm up with like 10 minutes of aerobic exercise to get that body temperature up, get the heart rate to a certain point. Even five minutes works right. Five to 10, and then relax, breathe.

Robert Walker:
Make sure you are ready to do this slowly and calmly. I tend to meditate while I'm stretching. I find it's a nice way to combine time together. And that really helps me relax into the movements and see more benefit in using that time. Because it's like a double whammy. I'm working out and I'm meditating at the same time. I think you should stretch before and after exercise. A lot of people think that it's one or the other.

Robert Walker:
But I think you should always do both. And stretch all major muscle groups and opposing muscle groups. That's a big one. I'll touch on that again. The running example's perfect there. You have to stretch both to stretch properly. In my program I will have people stretching their hamstrings and quads in the same routine to make sure that they are strengthening both at the same time and they're not pushing and pulling on one too much. And then, I touched on this before, but I'll drive it home again. Stretch gently and slowly only to the point of tension and breathe throughout the whole thing.

Robert Walker:
Again, you want your body to relax. You don't want your body to be stressed out. So you have to take it slow. You have to take it patiently. I'm not a huge fan of using resistance bands to accentuate a stretch. I think gravity does the work for you. I think the only things you should use assistance for are to help you with your form because form is extremely important as well.

Robert Walker:
I'll use the standing forward fold again as an example here. Think about the superficial back line as a whole. If you are reaching too far and your form is poor. You're going to have this straightness in your legs, and then you're going to be super curved on the rest of your body. It's not going to really give your lower back the stress that it needs. And it's also not going to impact your hamstrings as much. You should keep your neck neutral in all exercise movements.

Robert Walker:
This is what proper form is. It's good posture, straight back and a neutral neck. And in that way, you might not be able to reach further than the guy next to you doing the proper form right away, but you're going to reap the benefits down the line. And then the last thing is breathe. What you're asking your body to do is you're putting it in a point of tension and you're asking it to relax. Which is tough to do. If you stretch, you're not breathing, you're not thinking.

Robert Walker:
Your body's stressed and you're going to get, even tenser when you stretch, so a lot of people hate stretching. And they feel a lot of pain when they do it, but just fight through that for a second and then breathe. I use a prominent breathing method when I stretch. I typically do in for eight seconds, hold for eight seconds, out for eight seconds all through the nose. And that is one of the more studied [inaudible 00:49:20] techniques that shows massive relaxation of the body. And when you do that, try, just try. Humor me and try stretching for a little bit.

Robert Walker:
Try the standing forward fold and get to your point of tension, then close your eyes. Gauge where your hands are and close your eyes. Then for a minute, hold that stretch and do that exact breathing technique for a minute. And then open your eyes. I promise you, you will literally feel your body opening up and allowing you to stretch further while your eyes are closed and you're doing that breathing. And you will open your eyes and you will be inches lower just a minute later than you were at the beginning and it's because you're telling your body to chill.

Robert Walker:
Like, “This is okay, hamstrings. This is all right. You can open up and let gravity take you.” That's literally what you're asking the body to do. And when you're grimacing and clenching, while you're trying to stretch and you're pushing too hard, your body's just going to fight back and it's going to elicit a stress response and be like, “No, I don't want to do this anymore,” So breathing is vitally important.

Jayton Miller:
Yeah. Just to re-emphasize the importance of that and how it works. Basically, your breathing communicates with your nervous system through the vagus nerve. And so whether you're breathing out through your mouth very rapidly, that's telling your body that you're in a sympathetic state, that you're stressed, that you need to get out of there, whereas if you slow down your breathing, breathe deeply through the nose then you're communicating through the vagus nerve that your body's in a parasympathetic state, it's relaxed. And it's in a good state to where it can heal and focus on those things. What was the technique that you were talking about?

Robert Walker:
[inaudible 00:51:09] breathing? It's the act of breathing in holding and breathing out or the way I want it at least. Commonly used in yoga.

Jayton Miller:
Is it kind of like the 7-7-7 technique?

Robert Walker:
Yeah, I just use [inaudible 00:51:23] personally. I also, on harder movements, I lower it to 5-5-5, because I find it much harder to breathe in for the duration of eight seconds. It's really hard to do if you try it in a really difficult movement. If you struggle with, 8-8-8, go to 5-5-5 but try to work your way up to 8-8-8, because in my opinion it's going to elicit the most relaxation in the body yet.

Jayton Miller:
There's actually an app that you can use for that as well. If you don't want to have to count in your head, it's called Breathe. So that's beneficial for anybody who wants to try that.

Robert Walker:
Yeah. Yeah. I'll check that out too. I haven't heard of that, but I want to make sure that before we sign off, I address the rest of your questions. I think you asked, when to stretch. Really, anytime of the day. That's a common question I get. This is what I say, “As much time of your day should be spent stretching as it should be lifting weights and working cardiovascular fitness,” in my opinion. And that's going to sound like a lot of people, like the old adage of, you should spend as much time studying after class, as you do spend in class, and nobody ever does it. But I'm assuming a lot of people will view this that way as well. But I highly recommend spending as much time, anytime of the day really, stretching as you would weightlifting. Weight lift for an hour, stretch for an hour.

Robert Walker:
That's going to be tough to swallow because hours in this day and age are very hard to come by, but you can do it while you're watching TV. You can do it before bed while you're reading something in an audio book. Stretching has the capacity to be done really anywhere at any time. And if you know what you're doing, it can be really safe and healthy and then really beneficial way to use your time. If you're a competitive athlete then I would add that stretching before and after exercise is very important. And I'll reiterate that you must warm up before you stretch before your exercise. It's not a warm up in itself.

Robert Walker:
I think you asked for how long should you hold this stretch? I get that question all the time as well. Very common question. Definitely a hot topic for debate in the field. But from what I've read and studied, the bare minimum amount of time that it takes for a muscle to actually relax and give you any benefit is 10 seconds. That's, easy to do. I highly recommend you do way more than that, but I would place my personal bare minimum at 20 seconds because you have to also mentally relax to get there, and that takes a little longer.

Robert Walker:
The shortest hold that I personally recommend in my program is 30 seconds. And I typically like to personally hold my stretches for one to two minutes, sometimes even more so that I can get the added meditative benefits. There's some conflicting research on that that says that you don't get any benefit after 90 seconds from actually, it's not possible to get any benefit, but I've seen it personally.

Robert Walker:
And I think it's mostly because of the actual mental relaxation piece, but spending about two minutes on each exercises is beneficial because you actually relax and it challenges your mind. You can meditate during that. You can have enough time to breathe and it really gives your muscle itself at least 90 seconds of actual work. That's what I recommend there. I also get the question. How often do you stretch? All the time. It should be done once daily at least, in my opinion. Bare minimum, three days a week. I think to maintain your current state of flexibility and mobility. And that changes as you get better. If you're an advanced stretcher yoga, you can do all of these contortion movements or whatever, you have to stretch five days a week at a bare minimum to maintain your level of fitness.

Robert Walker:
Another common question I get is, for how long should you stretch? As I touched on before, I think you should in total stretch, as long as you plan to do any other of the big three fitness. But if you're going to stretch any longer than 30 minutes, I would recommend splitting it into two 30 minute components or three. And I would also recommend working a line at a time. So for example, the superficial back line, 30 minutes of just working that line. Working your plantar fascia, your Achilles, your calves, your hamstrings, all the way up the back. And then in another routine you can, same day I would recommend doing the superficial front-line to work those opposing muscle groups.

Robert Walker:
And then the last question I get all the time is the sequence, the proper sequence for stretching. This is also hotly debated, but the most common, and this is what I'm talking about, is order of muscle groups to stretch. Where I've landed after all of my work is that you should start at the inner most muscle, so closest to center and work your way to the appendages. And that's important because the reason why I recommend that is because if you work your appendages first, your appendages are inherently tied to your center. So if you work your appendages without working your center, you will not get as much benefit in your appendage exercises as you would working center. So I typically start with a torso stretch, chest stretch, twisting something like that. Anything around the hips of the pelvis.

Robert Walker:
And then I typically work my way up first. So I go up to the occiput, work the scalp and the reason I choose this first, distraction first is because when I touched on earlier that a lot of the lines meet in your occiput, in your scalp. So loosening these before you move to your appendages is going to enhance the effectiveness of your appendage exercises. If I was working at a superficial back line, for example, I would start with spinal exercises, work my way up to the occiput, massage the scalp, and then return back around to the hips, work all the way down the back of the legs and finish with a plantar fascia.

Jayton Miller:
And for those of you listening, the occiput is right around the top of the neck, bottom of the cranium.

Robert Walker:
Yup. Yeah. And there are many different sub-occipital muscles that you should try to isolate each one. In Anatomy Trains actually, I think he offers several exercises for working each one of the sub-occipital muscles which, I forget which one it was, but I was stretching my sub-occipitals one day and I was stretching… People give the neck is one thing, right. And I was stretching different pieces of it, and then I isolated one of them.

Robert Walker:
And as soon as I isolated it, I felt this insane feeling of relaxation throughout my entire body. And I was sold at that point. I was like, “This is awesome.” Isolating those sub-occipital muscles and stretching is one of my favorite things to do.

Jayton Miller:
Thank you. Well, Rob, I appreciate you hopping on here today. Where can people find more of your work and keep up with you?

Robert Walker:
Yeah. So UMZU Fit, that's everything. I'm the VP of growth here at UMZU, so my work is reflected throughout the entire brand. And but my personal writing and work is almost all done inside of UMZU Fit. So if you are interested in learning anything more about this, my mobility program inside of UMZU FIT will be released in January. I'm also co-writing a program with Jayden, called In the fit mindset that should be out sometime in December or very early January. I've also written, The Bodyweight Ladder, which ended up being a pretty epic, it's like 500 page novel, basically on how to progress from, zero in body weight, all the way through, doing some really amazing things.

Robert Walker:
There are nine levels of that program, some yet to be released, but it'll take you from literally zero and not to be able to do a pushup, all the way through doing straddle punch clapping pushups is the last chest exercise. So just zero to a 100,000,000. And it's a step-by-step process. I think that's one of my best works. And then I also wrote all of the body weight and weighted body weight routines, and sections inside of them. So that fat loss re-composition and muscle building.

Robert Walker:
If you're interested in learning anything more from me, go sign up for UMZU Fit and check all of those out. And then you can also talk to me personally on the platform. That's one of the big benefits of UMZU Fit. We can chat all day long if you want. You can ask all your questions to me that you want, and you can post an activity feed and I can come back and it's me personally doing it. So if you want to talk, that's the place to do it.

Jayton Miller:
Thank you. Sweet. Brother, as you listen, make sure to check him out, and until next time.

Jayton Miller:
Thanks for listening to the podcast. If you haven't already make sure to hit the like button, subscribe and leave a comment down below. If you want us to cover a different topic.

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