Stretching Those Hamstrings

by Rachelle on January 15, 2015

It can often seem like there are two kinds of people in the world – flexible people and those who… well, aren’t. This distinction seems especially noticeable when you fall into the “not flexible” camp. Is it true that some people are just born stiff and tight?

StretchingNot true, because there is a lot of things you could do to begin stretching out your hamstrings for greater flexibility.

  1. Do not ever force a stretch.

You’ve probably heard this advice before and likely ignored it. You may have thought, “If I just work on it harder and push through, my flexibility will improve.” But the trouble with this train of thought is that when you’re working on flexibility, your muscles (and nerves) aren’t passive structures.

So, stretching too forcefully or too quickly will activate a “stretch reflex,” which increases muscle tension and resists the stretch.

Here’s what you can try instead:

  • Pick a stretch, and rock slowly back and forth into the stretch several times.
  • Focus on having an even, steady breath.
  • Every few repetitions, hold the stretch for a bit and see where you’re at.

After a 30 seconds or so, you’ll likely find yourself further into the stretch with much less strain than before. Fundamental hamstring stretches require just an elevated surface – a bench, chair, table, or anything sturdy enough to put your foot on. Just as described above, ease into the stretches with smooth rhythmic movements into and out of the stretch, followed by a short holding period.

  1. Start your stretching by bending your knees.

Bending forward with straight legs is great if you can do it, but otherwise it’s not the best choice if you’re having trouble moving even a few inches forward in the straight leg stretch position. So, bend your knees and take the slack off the calves and hamstring attachments at your knees. Focus instead on maintaining a flat or slightly arched back, and keep your chest up and hinge forward at your hips.

  1. Stretch other areas first.

The source of your flexibility issues could be the result of the other areas of your body, rather than just your hamstrings. Work on back stretches, hip stretches, and calf stretches before your usual hamstring work.

  1. Don’t hold static stretches for so long.

The results of many flexibility research studies have shown minimal increased benefits for holding a position longer than 15 – 30 seconds. This is why it is recommended to do shorter holds with more repetitions (especially if you’re just starting out with flexibility work).

Longer holds may be helpful if you’re working on a specific issue (and after you’ve already spending some time working on shorter holds), but don’t spend minutes in a position in an attempt to improve especially when you are just starting out. Holding for a longer period of time can be useful in certain situations, but that takes experience and practice to figure out if that’s best for you.

  1. Follow up with active, dynamic movements

Have you ever noticed that your flexibility gains from an earlier training session seem to disappear once you try to work on the position again? This can be frustrating, and this phenomenon is often caused by a lack of increased movement in this new range of motion.

The retention of range of motion requires active use in the new range, otherwise your body reverts back to your old range of motion in that position. Essentially, you need to re-educate your body to move in this new range. Dynamic exercises such as deep squatting, leg swings, full range jumping, and kicking drills work very well.

With that in mind, keep the intensity low and well within your limits, and don’t do prolonged stretching before any heavy exercise.

  1. Try just one flexibility technique at a time

There’s nothing wrong with trying any of these methods, but beware of trying everything at once. If you try out too many methods at once, you won’t know which method in particular works best for you, or worse, you won’t know which thing could possibly set you back. Give one method a shot by itself for a couple of weeks.

Rachelle

Rachelle

Health Contributor at Creative Bioscience
Hi I'm Rachelle, or "Elle" for short. I am a busy body, but always been a plus sized kinda girl. I've learned that my curves are sexy, and I can feel good about how I look without looking like a stick! I'm a work-a-holic and stay as active as I can with lots of projects, so I have to prioritize my health choices. Working for Creative Bioscience has opened my eyes to what you can do to supplement your diet, and manage things in a natural way. The advances that are being made in the health arena are so exciting, and we are on the front lines bringing the best of the best. Rachelle's favorite product is hCG 1234
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