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Hamstring stretching; All you need to know!

Hamstrings may be the most commonly stretched muscle group ever, even if you barely use them. But if you want to have better hamstring flexibility this post may help you achieve maximum flexibility.

There are numerous ways of stretching; static, dynamic, ballistic and proprioception neuromuscular facilitation (or PNF for short, you may know them as partner stretches). Surprisingly, when assessed over a period of time, they all show similar increases in range of motion (how much you can move your leg). So this choice is entirely up to you, personally I’d go for the static stretch as they are least painful (personal opinion) and you can easily do them while watching TV or sitting down after your workout.

Whether you are sitting down, lying down or standing up, whether you are stretching in a straight leg raise fashion (image below) or a straighten your knee fashion, increases in ROM are similar. However, I would recommend doing both. You can think of it as stretching from both directions, straight leg raise you may feel higher up the hamstring closer to your bum. When you do the straighten the knee version, you may feel it more towards the knee. So doing both you stretch both ends of the muscle… or do you?

The straight leg version, you place a foot on a surface, and tilt forwards from your hips, imagine pushing your bum back and bringing your chest towards your knee. In the Straighten the knee fashion, start of in the same way but with a bent knee, then bring your chest close to your knee, now in this position, attempt to straighten your knee and there you will feel a stretch. Either by sliding the foot forward or moving your hips back.

Not only should we stretch with a bent knee and straight knee. But we should also stretch straight in front of us and to the side. This gets more of the parts of the hamstring, as you have three muscles making up the hamstring group, stretching in one direction will not get them all. Try it out and tell me you don’t feel a different part of your hamstring screaming out in stretch pain.

It was nice to think a while ago that having warm muscles will help the stretch, it made a lot of sense to me, as warm muscles are more flexible, then surely the stretch gains will also be increased. Sadly this is not the case. So should you feel like it you can stretch away a Sunday morning in front of the TV or you can take a hardcore path to stretching and stretch after your workout or sport. If you have done this then you know what the hardcore is about. It is so much more painful to stretch a muscle after hammering it in the gym or whatever sport you play!

Lastly, the part I’m sure most people will be happy with, stretching a muscle once a day for 30 seconds is enough… That’s right 30 seconds a day and eventually you’ll be able to do the splits.

Now how can we test our improvement? Easy! Lie on the floor, keeping your knee straight (a slight bend is fine, but don’t cheat yourself now!) lift your leg as high as you can. KEEP THE OTHER LEG ON THE FLOOR, KEEP YOUR LOWER BACK ON THE FLOOR. That’s all there is too it. The picture on the right is incorrect but it looks like it goes further, the left leg is coming off the bed so isn’t measuring what I want, that leg must stay on the floor and then you can make an accurate judgement as to whether or not you are getting more flexible.

Reference:

https://www.jospt.org/doi/pdfplus/10.2519/jospt.2005.35.6.377

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