Fitness/Flexibility (Video) - The Wave Stretch Technique

Dick Moss

Ann and Chris Frederick have been flexibility specialists since 1996, when they founded the "Stretch to Win Institute," a center devoted to improving the flexibility of elite athletes.

Fitness/Flexibility (Video) - The Wave Stretch Technique
During that time, they have worked with numerous professional and Olympic athletes and have been the flexibility specialists for the Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles, Arizona State University, Seattle Seahawks, two Olympics teams and numerous elite track and field athletes.

The Fredericks have developed a unique system of flexibility training that combines the most effective components of yoga, PNF, dynamic, static and ballistic stretching.

The method stretches the muscles and connective tissue in a number of different planes, not a single plane as with most static stretches.

It also stretches the fascia, a thin layer of connective tissue that covers all muscles, and indeed the entire body. This is an important element in their technique.

They have called their technique "Undulating Stretching," or "Wave Stretching". Here's a brief overview of how it works.

The Undulating or Wave Technique - Overview
The technique involves moving the limb smoothly to a point of stretch (but not pain), then releasing, then moving back into the stretch, then releasing...back and forth in an undulating fashion.

The speed of movement varies, depending on the purpose of the. Also, the angle of movement can change on each wave, to involve more muscle and connective tissue.

Finally, the movements should be coordinated with the athlete's breathing, with the athlete moving into the stretch on exhalation, and releasing the stretch on inhalation.

Important Principles

Fitness/Flexibility (Video) - The Wave Stretch Technique
There are some of the most important principles involved in the technique:

Breathing: Breathing should be synchronized on each stretch, with the athlete moving into the stretch on exhalation, and releasing the stretch on inhalation. On each exhalation, the athlete should focus on relaxing the entire body and feeling the involved tissues releasing. When a stretch is held, it is not held for a specific time, but for a number of breaths and/or until the athlete feels the tissue release.

Multiple Planes of Movement: The angle and direction of limb movement should change on each wave, which involves more muscle and connective tissue and in different planes. This also makes the stretches more applicable to real-life athletic situations, in which the limbs seldom move in a single plane (think of all the cutting and lateral movement in a basketball, football or soccer game).

Traction: When possible, apply traction to the joint before stretching. An example would be pulling the leg to traction the hip joint before stretching the hamstrings or glutes. It has been estimated that 50% of inflexibility can be traced to tightness in the joint capsules. Joints can sometimes get jammed up, leading to lack of mobility and one leg that is shorter than the other.

Speed of Movement: The speed of movement varies, depending on the purpose of the session (i.e. pre-competition versus developmental stretching). For example:

  • Very slow stretching produces the greatest improvements in flexibility by changing the plasticity of the connective tissue. It is most similar in speed to traditional static stretching and is usually performed in the off-season.

  • Medium speed stretches (two slow breaths per stretch) will help to regain flexibility recently lost in a workout or competition. This type of stretch develops elastic, rather than plastic gains in flexibility. It is typically performed after practices or competitions to prepare athletes for the next bout of exercise.

  • Fast stretching will prepare athletes for imminent activity -- for example, practices or games that will occur within an hour or two. It is similar in tempo to dynamic or functional stretching.

  • Very fast stretching incorporates swinging, jumping, bounding and is used immediately before competition or practice by athletes whose sport is explosive.

A complete description of this stretching technique is beyond the scope of this article. However, you can get more detailed information from the Fredericks' book, "Stretch to Win," and/or video, "Flexibility for Sports Performance." Click here.

In the following video, you can see a demonstration of
fast stretching using the Undulating or Wave technique.
It is demonstrated by Tony Scott, a certified stretching therapist.

P.S. If you want to try faster (in terms of speed of movement) warmup stretches like the one shown here by Tony, I'd gradually increase the speed of movement over several sessions. That will give your soft tissue time to adapt and prevent injury.

References: 1. Ann & Chris Frederick, Flexibility for Sports Performance - DVD, Human Kinetics Publishers, 2007.

2.Ann & Chris Frederick, Stretch to Win (Book), Human Kinetics Publishers, 2006.

3. Tony Scott (RMT & Certified Flexibility Therapist) is a stretching consultant and massage therapist, formerly with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Blue Jays. He now works as an independent consultant out of Newmarket, Ontario. 2008.


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© 2008, Physical Education Update,

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