This is an intermediate–advanced technique. It definitely is *not* for beginners.
We have an article on this website which details the SledgeHammer Stretching protocol. We strongly recommend you read this article before trying the sequence in this video. Find the article at https://stretchtherapy.net/sledgehammer-stretching.
This is the one you've been waiting for! If you are an experienced stretcher, and you have a part of the body that just does not want to let go, you need the SledgeHammer.
You need to have had enough experience with intense contractions to know how far to push your system (Olivia is demonstrating her two contractions with all of her strength, one contraction for a full 30", and the second for 15") and you also need to be able to relax into the forces being applied by you and your partner together—this means you need to be strong enough to control the elongation we are going for.
When we taught this system at the Australian National University in the Monkey Gym, we required the attendees to have had experience with intensive resistance training (IOW, strength training) already, so keep that in mind. You really do need to have had experience in this area to get the most out of this (and to be safe).
As well, you need a partner for this. I mention this to forestall the inevitable "I don't have a partner, how can I do this?" kind of questions! A creative person might be able to duplicate the loading using equipment, but we also know from experience that a partner completely changes the relaxation–elongation part of the technique in an extremely beneficial way. Find a partner.
Part of this technique overloads the central nervous system, and this facilitates an over-riding of the normal protective mechanisms that so often prevent us from going deeper into a desired range of movement. The technique uses a combination of 'going to failure' (well known by anyone who does resistance training), but as rapidly as possible, ideally in a 4–5 rep. range and, further, immediately adds two maximum-effort contractions in the end stretch position to strongly invoke the "post contraction inhibition reflex" (PCIR). This phase mostly works on the neuromuscular system. The final part carefully allows the combined forces to slowly elongate the part we are working, and its main effect is on the fascial system. In sum, whatever tissues need to lengthen (muscles, ligaments, tendons, fascia, and nerves) will lengthen—but do make sure you are in full control of this process, to ensure you do not go too far.
In this video, Olivia and Kevin are demonstrating the SledgeHammer technique only for the calf muscles. We will be bringing out the full "SledgeHammer Stretching" Course later this year.
In this video, we're going to go through all the intricacies of the SledgeHammer Stretching sequence for the calf muscles. It's a partner sequence and we need maximum intensity. So, my partner today will be Kevin. Kevin will come on in. So, for the pre-fail exercise, we will be using the straight-legged standing calf raise. And then we're going to go in and do a stretching exercise, which looks like this. So Kevin and I will take you through the points of form of each of those positions and then we'll have a brief pause and then we will demonstrate the full sequence. So, Kevin up you go on the ladder bars.
Standing calf raise. You want enough of the ball of the foot on your support so that you're not worried that you're going to slide off. Have the weight even through the ball of that foot. And it's a straight legged exercise so the stretching leg is pressed straight. Now Kevin has put his full weight on me and then I'm going to explore my range of movement in terms of the stretch. So drop the heel as low as I can, feel the stretch come on and then the exercise hopefully has enough load via your partner that you can only really come up to that neutral position, by which I mean the heel is at the same height as the toes. And hopefully your load is adequate that you'll only be able to do four or five of those repetitions and then the muscle will be failed. And then Kevin will come off. Recall also from the previous video that the transition into your stretching position needs to be as quick as possible.
And let's go through the points of form of the stretch. Get your heel right in against the upright as best you can but still be able to have the stretching leg pressed straight. Make sure as much of the ball of the foot is in contact with the upright. Tuck the tail. Pull on your arms. And your first task is to bring the hips up and close to the ladder bars as you can. Then Kevin comes into position as quickly as possible. He's got his leg/hip right behind that side of my hip and he is leaning in with maximum force to help me maintain the heel right in against the upright.
And then we'll hold it for a period of time. And then we'll go through the contract relaxes. We'll do two contract–relax sequences in this demonstration when we get to the actual sequence. And after the second one, we will change the pelvic position, by which I mean we'll go to an untucked bum stuck out position, and you can explore incorporating forward bending as well; making sure that's from the hips, so a straight spine, untucked pelvis. That combination will target the full length of the calf muscles here. That's quite hard to talk and breathe at the same time. So, we are ready to actually do the sequence. Well I'm ready. Are you ready?
Let's do it. Okay. So, standing calf raise to begin with. Kevin lowers his full weight. Down I go – I work out my range. Straight kneed and I'm going to try and fail within about five or six reps. I'll have a brief pause in the full stretch position each time – because that's the whole focus of this is the stretching – and I want to be failing the muscle in the stretch range of movement. That's two. Three. Pretty hard now. Four. What did you say you weight Kevin?
72. One more. Okay, off you come Kevin. Straight down, into the stretch. Good form. Straight knee. Up, in you go Kevin. So there was no resistance from that muscle getting into this first position because I just failed it using the calf raise. You can lean in more weight Kevin. Breathe and relax. We have that initial stretch period like we would in any stretch sequence in the Stretch Therapy system. I haven't got a clock. You'd be able to use the clock on your own watching of the video. Right now, the stretch is coming on hard. So that's how quickly the muscle recovers even after you've just failed it. All right. I'm going to do the first of the two contraction sequences. Remembering the contraction for any calf exercise is press the ball of the foot into whatever it's resting on.
And I'm doing this at maximum intensity, maximum, and I'm going to do it for 30. That's 25 – keep pressing, keep pressing. You can lean in a little bit more Kevin. Remember we don't want any movement in the contraction. That's 15. Keep going, keep pressing as hard as you can. Even though it's intense in and your brain's saying, please stop – don't. Keep pressing, pressing, pressing. 10 to go, lean in more Kevin – don't let me move at all. That's good. Five more. And stop. Take a breath in. I'm going to reposition to more of an untucked pelvis – lean in hard Kevin – and incorporate forward bend.
The total length of time we'll be in this position will be around the five-/six-minute mark. So it's a long-held stretch as well as working at maximum intensity. You can keep adjusting your position, go deeper into the stretch. I'm trying to untuck the pelvis more, lean forward a little bit more. Breathe and relax. It's pretty intense. All right, let's do the second contraction. This time we'll just do a 15 count. Again, maximum intensity, use everything you've got left. 15, 14, 13. Lean in more Kevin, don't let me move – that's it. 12, 11, 10 press, press, press, press, press. Nine, eight, seven, six, keep pressing; five, four, three, two, one. Slowly stop. Big breath in. I'm going to come up a little bit more Kevin. Untuck, lean in hard, and as much forward bend as you can.
All right. I'm going to try for another 15 full deep breaths in and out here. It's no longer a strong, strong stretch –it's really diffuse; it's quite interesting sensation. And just like any final position, you need to be able to breathe and relax there. Completely let go. Kevin, you can lean in a little bit more. Another seven breaths. Making sure that knee's pressed straight. Three to go. Two more. And then Kevin you come away nice and slowly. And lower yourself out. And shake out. Okay. So, that's the demonstration of the calf sequence. Please review all the points of form of this exercise but also review the first video which talks about the protocol in detail. Enjoy. Oh God that hurt.