Does your lower back ache from sitting all day? Can you barely walk after your cycling class? Do you stretch your back and feel only more tension?
Stretching is vital for chronic pain, building muscle tone, and full movement.
"Trainer to the Stars," Hollis Lance Liebman's book, 1,500 Stretches: The Complete Guide to Flexibility and Movement, has the complete collection of stretches organized by body part: back, calf, hamstrings, chest, and many more.
He joins host Lisa Davis to share more from the book and why stretching is so vital for optimal health.
Stretching to Transform Your Movement, Flexibility & Performance with Hollis Lance Liebman
This episode of Talk Fitness is in partnership with The Vitamin Shoppe where knowledgeable health enthusiasts are standing by to help you thrive every day.
Lisa Davis (Host): It is so important to stretch. I mean honestly. If you are working out, no matter what kind of workout you are doing, no matter what kind of fitness you’re in, no matter what you’re doing in your life, you have got to stretch. If you are sitting for long periods of time, it makes such a difference. If you are doing a lot of weight training, you need to stretch out. So, I have got the best stretching book I have ever seen and as a matter of fact, it’s heavy. I’m doing curls with it. I can get my workout in. It is by our guest Hollis Liebman. It is 1500 stretches The Complete Guide to Flexibility and Movement. Hollis welcome to the show.
Hollis Lance Liebman (Guest): Thank you so much for having me on your show. A real honor. Thank you very much.
Lisa: Well thank you, Hollis. I want to say that you won National Bodybuilding competitions which I want to have you back to talk about that, trained celebrities and worked as a fitness magazine editor and photographer. Holy cow Hollis. This is great. So, let’s talk about this. When did first think to yourself, okay, I need to get the best ultimate guide, the bible, I will say of stretching? When did this first come to you?
Hollis: You know this book came to me actually, there’s a couple of ways in the publishing world of books, some books you sort of on your own you have the idea and you go about it and doing it. This was an idea I thought of an amazing one, a very grand idea as you have in front of you that came to me as the guy to write it, and I was up to the challenge. I thought is was a great idea, stretching is often overlooked and underutilized and I was up for the challenge and everything came together. But to answer your question, time frame was the very beginning of this year. That it was sort of under a crunch. In the publishing world, you are always under a crunch and I was up for the challenge. And I think the final result with the editorial team and the design team and it’s a beautiful book. I’m honored to be a part of this book.
Lisa: Oh, it is absolutely beautiful. And I love in the beginning you say, “We all do it, we stretch in the morning to get our blood flowing, we stretch our legs after a long drive, and we stretch our shoulders after sitting at our desk for hours. Stretching is an intuitive movement not only for humans, but animals as well.” You know it’s funny, my dog Blue, he’s a pit bull, he’s like the love of my life. He does this great thing where he lies, and his back legs totally spread and then are flat on the ground, it always cracks people up. And then my lab will come over and do like downward dog. It’s so natural. You know when you see them getting on furniture, right, their feet kind of- or their paws I should say, the kind of stay on the back of whatever they are getting off of and they just sit there for a second. I’m like we could learn a lot, right?
Hollis: We can it’s true and you know, and it is natural for the animal kingdom to stretch coldly basically but I must say a sedentary person is not often acclimated towards sudden movements so stretching, the nature of stretching and the way you go about it is very, very important. I think a great analogy I can give you is if you were to take a frozen piece of chicken or a vegie patty for the vegans out there out of the freezer and you were to sort of play with it, it would rip. So, it’s very important to thaw the body out before any sort of strenuous stretching. I can’t emphasize this point enough. It’s very important to thaw out and probably you are going to ask me, but I’ll just skip ahead. When is the best time to stretch? Is actually during and after your workout. Because again, if you stretch cold muscles it is subject to possibly tearing and we do not want that. When your body temperature is warmed up, and we are thawed out that is an ample time to stretch. During and after exercise can’t emphasize it enough.
Lisa: Oh, I’m so glad that you mentioned that. In the book, you talk about different stretching techniques. You have got static versus dynamic and active versus passive. Talk to us about those.
Hollis: Yeah static stretching is basically which most of the stretches in this book are static passive stretches, that is stretches like bending forward to touch your toes. You would hold for 30 seconds to overcome what is called the stretch reflex which is your body’s protective mechanism against over extending your muscles. So, this is the most common stretch certainly in the book and done with life. Dynamic stretch is basically a stretch that combines movement with the stretch. For example, if you were going to run, you might lightly jog in place just to get everything loose and pliable. Active stretching would be basically unassisted stretching so, example being extending an arm overhead and holding that pose unassisted versus a passive assisted stretch would introduce a force that exerts pressure on the muscle to obtain a deeper stretch. So, let’s say you clasp you hands and extend it overhead, the additional force of both arms working together, will result in a passive stretch.
Lisa: I see. Now you also have in the book, the things that stretching helps. It improves your workouts. Reduces the risk of injury. I like, stretch away the stress, boost your mood, align your spine. There are so many important reasons to be stretching. You know I just got back into yoga after not doing it for like 14 years, although I have been doing Pilates for the last six years. But what’s interesting with yoga it’s stretching but God there’s a heck of a lot of strengthening going on and it’s flipping hard. So, it’s different than if I’m just lying on the ground and I just I have one leg up and one leg is flat and I’m stretching my leg. But if I’m doing like some sort of standing pose, you’re still getting a stretch, because of the way you are aligned, but you are still working your muscles. So, talk to us about that and it seems like it’s important to get both types of stretching.
Hollis: Well yeah, the difference would be with yoga, it is basically you are utilizing your core. So, basically you are going to get I don’t want to say more bang for your buck, but yoga is unique again in that you get the stretching benefits, many of them, but you also it’s kind of you versus you and the really cool thing about it is you can sort of change the angles and increase or decrease intensity by simply just chipping the angle. So, yoga is very important, I would say piece of this puzzle. But in and of itself, it is not a complete workout, in my humble opinion. And I have great respect for yoga.
Lisa: Oh sure. Now what do you think goes well with yoga as a workout if that is something that you are doing? What should you be incorporating?
Hollis: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it per se, but in my opinion, my background is I was a former national body building champion and fitness editor this and that and this and that and the point is, my background is largely weight training. I think that to truly change the body, there is nothing like progressive resistance training. And I get that your listeners, a lot of them don’t want to get big or huge or even out here in Los Angeles, body building is – tends to be a four-letter word. But, stretching out by itself and yoga by itself, even cardiovascular work by itself, in my opinion is just a leg of a table and it’s the complete utilization of those things in addition to good nutrition and weight training that enhances the shape of one’s body and helps bone density, posture and the list goes on and on.
Lisa: Yeah, I do think that’s important. I need to get back to that. Because right now I have been doing Pilates, which actually does have a lot of resistance in it because I am doing a more intermediate. Yeah Pilates, I love it. Are you a Pilates fan?
Hollis: I am not experienced with Pilates, but I will tell you from what I have seen, I approve of it from what I have seen and in the hands of a good professional. And I also think we live in very busy times and I think a lot of people are like okay, you know I got to pick and choose and I think if one is hard pressed for time, I think that’s a good way to go. I would say.
Lisa: Yeah, I think so too. And you get some nice – we did some nice stretching at the end today as a matter of fact. I had it this morning. I love it. Like I said I have been doing it for more than six years. although I do want to get back into weight training because I was doing that as well and then I kind of again, it’s a time thing but I was just talking to Lisa Druxman on another episode and we were talking about that you know the time thing and picking and choosing but as long as you are doing something, you got to do something. Right. And you got to stay active. I think that’s so important. Alright let’s talk about these stretches. Oh, go ahead.
Hollis: Yeah, no I was – I forgot my point, I was going to say take somethings, stick with something. I think it’s important to work within one’s comfort zone but also to challenge one’s comfort zone and also to be consistent. So, whatever it might be. I think it’s important to challenge oneself and just to stick with it and make the time. We are all busy. We all have the same 24 hours. It is really, in my opinion, no excuses, just get it in and get it done because the body is like a car. You would not think about driving a car for five years and not servicing it, it would fail. The body is the same way. We have got to service it intermittently to keep it running well.
Lisa: Oh definitely. Alright, so let’s talk about these stretches. It’s so great. Is you have got head and neck, shoulder, arm, back, chest, core upper leg, lower leg, and then you have got dance stretches, dynamic stretches, partner stretches, yoga stretches, and pregnancy stretches and what is so great is not only do you have incredible photos, but you have wonderful descriptions as well. And these bodies are just gorgeous to look at I must say, very inspiring.
Hollis: Yeah, thank you and I must say again, this was a collaborative medium, this book. I’m very, very proud of it and I also must, must mention this is probably I think my eleventh fitness book and I must say, on this book, the packager, the person that the project was presented to, and I had a discussion and I must mention a Sophie Kornishky who really is my coauthor came in, helped with the book, which was a huge fun, but challenging project and I must mention I had a coauthor Sophie Kornishky on this book. I must mention that. I’m very proud of our combined efforts to make this book.
Lisa: Oh, well you guys did a hell of a job. Now what are the – are there absolutely necessary stretches that you should do, let’s say after weight training?
Hollis: I would say, it might be obvious, but perhaps not, with weight training per se you would want to do stretches that coincide with those particular body parts worked that day. For example, if one worked say their chest and their biceps, it would follow suit that during and after the workout that day, they would stretch the chest and the bicep muscles. I would do that first and actually stretch them the antagonistic or back and triceps muscle groups as well to help further the healing process. Because as you know with weight training, what we are doing is micro tears in the muscles. We are breaking down the muscle tissue, through rest and good nutrition, it grows back stronger hence the four-letter word, body building because we are really all trying to do body building if you think about it. Maximal lean muscle, minimal body fat, who doesn’t want that.
Lisa: I don’t know if this is called mirror syndrome or something, but I used to hear that guys who were body builders or women too, they would look – they are looking in the mirror and they end up overworking the front of their body more and then they get really kind of rounded shoulders and they get really tight. Is that something or did I dream about that? What is that?
Hollis: No, you know you didn’t dream about that because in body building, the chest and the abdominals tend to be the focal but then the biceps of course, so there are a lot of people out there that will focus predominantly on these body parts because they are most visible. You will often see great upper bodies on basically stilts because legs day is hard to do. My background and I was also a judge in body building so, I’m looking at the physique should flow, the eyes should travel. Everything should be symmetrical and proportionate from any angle and to me that’s the beauty of what we are doing here, of this body building if you will. Everything should flow and be symmetrical and nothing should stand out. If someone is looking at your physique, in my opinion, and their eye is just not travelling it is caught on something, something is off.
Lisa: Alright, so you have to have that balance.
Hollis: Balance and also the other thing is it was a myth, I feel years ago, that body builders were inflexible and tight, and muscle bound and this and that. That is the furthest thing from the truth. Because of the often-large amounts of muscle mass accumulated, if you think about it, you have to be flexible because the more flexible you are, the further range of motion you can go, the more muscle you can develop. There are plenty of body builders, males, that can do full splits on stage today. That’s how flexible some of these people are. It’s amazing.
Lisa: That’s incredible. So, it’s a myth then. So, when you were a body builder, you were very flexible it sounds like?
Hollis: I was not the most flexible, but I must say it was something I always worked on and I continue to work on. And when I was a kid, there was a pro who did, I have never seen this before, a full split with his back facing the audience into a basically a rear back shot, and it was phenomenal. And I always wanted to do that on stage. I came kind of close, but you know flexibility is an individual thing. It’s something we can all work on. I don’t think it’s a team effort. Though there are assisted stretches and that’s part of the beauty of this journey, is it’s an individual thing and that’s why I fell in love with it so many years ago.
Lisa: You know, I’m looking at some of the photos and some of these stretches look really hard. And that’s where like the callie squat sideways hands bound. I mean you are definitely working, so I imagine your legs are apart, your knees are bent and you’re kind of sitting into it and then you are stretching to the side and you have got to be really using your quads for that, that’s what I mean like some of these stretches require strength too. Right.
Hollis: Oh, yes, strength and some of them are clearly not for beginners and my advice is the book is beautiful, but it can seem intimidating and overwhelming. Look through the book and my advice is to try what feels not comfortable, challenge oneself, but you know just start with perhaps something that is not quite as challenging because the book is for any level and the great thing is we can work up to some of these stretches. Like with it is a companion book to the yoga piece that came out I believe a couple of years ago, bestselling book, fantastic book, I think it was called 2100 Asanas, gorgeous book, my point is, that book also very intimidating, so the beginner, the neophyte if you will, will open it up and try some of the poses, not all.
Lisa: Yeah, because the first time I was looking at it, I thought well, I’m glad I’m back to doing yoga. Because some of these are pretty intense. And some of the – when you look at the people, they look so wonderful and you might feel intimidated because you are not them, but you know what, you are who are and you need to be able to be where you are at and get where you want to go. You have to start somewhere. Right, so you might as well do these stretches. I noticed too, that you have bars and balls and chairs and other things to assist you and bands are really helpful.
Hollis: Some of the peripherals throughout the book, in the later section -these are just – you could say band stretches are ways and means to get a little bit more out of the stretches. But I would very strongly suggest just starting out with the stretches that perhaps are just you and you alone. Perhaps I might even wait for the partner stretching until later. But these are wonderful ways to go in the future. I just wouldn’t perhaps start there right away. The book gives you infinite possibilities.
Lisa: Oh yeah, I mean 1500.
Hollis: Ah yes, and I should tell you that’s a funny thing. I think it was funny. It was quite a thing to get- that was the number they wanted and that’s what we delivered, and I was looking at every resource possible. At one point I was in the library and I had a Spanish book in front of me on stretching. I didn’t understand a word, I do wish I spoke Spanish, but it was helpful in just accumulating every possible stretch. I felt like I went to the corners of the globe to get this list right. And we did. They wanted it translated and I had to look up the translation for the English equivalent if you will. I thought it was funny.
Lisa: I think it’s funny too. No, I think it’s great. Because it shows that even without understanding the language, you can see what they are doing and be like heh, I need that stretch in this book and it doesn’t seem, I mean you guys didn’t miss a thing. And you have stretches that people have seen before and people probably do and then you have ones that are brand new and like I said bring them into more of a yoga arena, so it can open the door to other things which I think is great.
Hollis: It can and also I even was – the cool thing is I was responsible too for the organization of the book because they asked my opinions and I like that section one is the targeted body parts stretching and then the section two is the specialized stretches including the dance, dynamic, partner yoga and pregnancy stretches and I’m skipping, but for those listeners that don’t know, it’s very important regarding the pregnancy stretches that after the first trimester, avoid doing stretches while lying on your back. Because this can reduce blood flow to your uterus and cause abnormally low blood pressure and lightheadedness. So, I just, I didn’t know if you were going to ask that, but I wanted to just put that out there. Pregnancy stretches, please be cautious after the first trimester.
Lisa: Now how long should somebody stretch? Let’s say after they do like a thirty-minute run or something or a thirty-minute swim.
Hollis: Great question. Frequency can be every day. I would do different body parts. I wouldn’t do the same body parts every day. And to answer that question that you just asked, five to ten minutes is more than enough time. I’m not a fan of the ballistic stretching or anything that’s bouncy or anything like that. I have always believed in holding the stretch and then trying to get to a new level there, but naturally because again the body is going to kick in say this hurts, we need to stop. I’m just not a fan – I am a fan of everything controlled, I’m a fan of everything targeted and even in my training; I have never believed in doing say five sets of something because if you think about it, you won’t give your all. If you are doing like a bench press and you have five sets; you know you might be inclined to like take it easy, but if you are only doing two sets; you are going to give your all and I’m much more about quality and not quantity with anything, training, food, stretching, always quality. Push the envelope on quality.
Lisa: Oh, I like that. And what – would that also be push the envelope on weight as well because that’s a big thing now, isn’t it like just do heavier weights, less reps?
Hollis: You know it’s a fallacy that to get tight or ripped light weight will get you one centimeter harder, because what happens is if you built your body with heavy weights in the first place, and then you switch to light weights high reps, it’s as if you took the nails out of the house. The house can crumble. You have to continue to do what brought you to the dance. And I might be skipping around, I know we are on stretching, but when I competed I always trained as heavy as I could, smartly up to the show because my competitors were training lighter and all that and what happened was, I would arrive with as much muscle or as much or most of the muscle I had accumulated in the off season and I would use my cardio and diet and stretching to get ripped and in shape and a lot of people would sort of lose muscle and that’ s how you win is continue to do what brought you to the dance in the first place is what I’m trying to say.
Lisa: I love the way you speak. I love that. Continue what brought you to the dance in the first place. That I such a great image. I like that. Now when did you first get interested in body building?
Hollis: You know, I don’t think my story is that uncommon in how I started. I watched Pumping Iron and it really impressed me with Arnold that not only just charisma but the fact that you could change your body. This is one thing in life that we have very little control over a lot of things, but our body we do. I my case, I was bullied very bad and I didn’t do it to beat them up, I didn’t do it to get women, though it didn’t hurt. I did it to just try to build some self-esteem. Something I could work on instead of being living in fear of this bully, and I did, it was something I could be proud of and it just, the love grew and grew insatiably and it lead to competing and all these other wonderful opportunities I have had and now to be on this side of things with writing these books and these opportunities and people reading your words and this interview, I mean you never, ever take it for granted because I’m still that in some respects, and this might be TMI, but that’s scared 13 year old kid that was bullied. You know, you never forget.
Lisa: No, you never do forget. No, I’m glad you brought that up. Because you know, I was – I’ve talked about it before, about being not only picked last but they fought over who got stuck with me on the team, from like kindergarten all the way up through high school. Like same jackass kids, same treatment. And so, when I got into fitness industry when I got older, I mean not that much older, my early 20s people were shocked, like I bumped into people and they were like you’re a personal trainer but you can’t even throw a ball and I’m like yeah, I still can’t throw a ball but who cares. You know and get off my back and it’s kind of cool when they see me now and like oh wow, you are still in health, you are doing media and it’s interesting because I think we can let that hold us back or we can kind of say blank you and do it. I mean it is more for ourselves, but you know I’m going to lie if there isn’t some satisfaction in them being like wow, look at what Lisa’s doing.
Hollis: Oh yeah, no definitely. Yeah when I walk in a Barnes and Noble and there’s this title there, I’m very proud of this book, it is very humbling and thankful and there’s a- I don’t remember the exact song, but I will say that there is a Kiss song and he says Paul Stanley says in the song, I still love you. And I swear to you when I do these books, I think of that and my passion is still raging for fitness and how far can we push things and I still love this. And I think that resonates with passionate people and getting things done. This book was a colossal endeavor, but a labor of love as well and a very important – I don’t think anything like this has ever been attempted. And if you put passion in, it shows. It shows in the work.
Lisa: Yeah, it really does. I love to talk to you all the time. I love your passion and there is so much to talk about. I can’t wait to have you back again. We’re not done yet, but I’m just putting that out there. Because we have a lot to talk about.
Hollis: Yes, thank you.
Lisa: You’re very, very nice. Alright, so with these wonderful models, and athletes, did you help pick out who was in the book or how did that work?
Hollis: You know I have to say on this particular book, I had certain assignments and then it was left up to the production team. There is what is called a packager in publishing sometimes, where a publisher will go to a packager in this case Moseley Road Inc. who I can’ t say enough nice things about, they gave me start and the publisher says here’s what I want and it’s the packagers job to do it. I was contacted, and I was told what I needed from me, which was the list of exercises, the description of exercises and the intros and all the – all those kind of things. I very much enjoy like on my own other books, I have complete say over the models and this and that. On this particular project, I must say, that was in the hands of the publisher or the packager rather and I think they did very good. It’s a diverse looking. Beautiful global looking. Even the color, I don’t know what you call the color of that book, but it’s beautiful.
Lisa: Yeah, it’s like a in the turquoise family.
Hollis: Okay, there you go. It’s beautiful.
Lisa: It is beautiful, and it has got six gorgeous people on the front too doing the stretching.
Hollis: Yeah, it’s just beautiful. It really is. I will say that then there is other kind of books and maybe I’m babbling, but I think maybe your listeners would like this, Moseley Road Inc. gave me the first opportunity I wrote a core book. I was paid, my name is on it, I wrote it, I even modeled for it and I was off the project and it goes to press and this and that and here’s what I would like to tell your listeners. I got offered many books. It did many books this way, I wrote it, I was in and out, paid, it’s all good. You get to a point as an artist, and I consider myself an artist, where if all you do is hired to paint in black and white, but you can paint in color, I think you owe it to yourself to do so. And what I’m trying to drive at, as proud as I am of this stretch book, and I am, December comes out my greatest book of all time which is called Complete Physique which takes stretching, and weight training and nutrition and all my experience in body building and everything fitness through the years and there is no greater pleasure than when this book is going to come out. I took a risk because it cost quite a bit to put together, I had to hire a model, I had to myself get into supreme shape, I had to write it, hire an editor, layout artist and hope I was able to get it published and I did and but I’m trying to say without pitching it too much, Complete Physique really is combining like a table has three legs, weight training being one, cardio and nutrition and stretching is just one leg. Now this is quite a leg. This book, this stretch book. But Complete Physique combines everything to get somebody to be the best they can be because the competition is not the person next to you, it’s not the guy or girl on Instagram with all the lights, it’s the person in the mirror in front of you. And that’s the point I’m trying to drive home. This book has been a huge labor of love. It is finally about to drop December 26th just very thankful.
Lisa: Okay, Hollis, I’m going to have you back, we can do a bunch of interviews about it. I’m super excited. I wish we had more time. I think you’re absolutely delightful. The book is 1500 Stretches A Complete Guide to Flexibility and Movement. Tell us all the places we can find you on social media.
Hollis: Social media I am Hllpac on Instagram, Hollis Liebman on Facebook, Holliswashere.com I my website. Pretty much if you go to www.holliswashere.com . it will take you everywhere I am.
Lisa: Awesome. Hollis, I think you’re so handsome as well. I can throw the in. Those blues eyes, huba huba. Alright. Everyone thank you for listening to Talk Fitness Today, you can follow me on Twitter at healthemediagal1, you can also follow the podcast at Talk Fitness2 day and you can find us on Twitter and snapchat and also on Facebook, Talk Fitness Today podcast. Thanks for listening. Get this book, get stretching and stay well.
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