December 20, 2009

Bent leg hamstring stretch

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This video shows our approach to stretching the three hamstring muscles, between the *ischial tuberosities* (bottom bones) and the tibia (lower leg).

We have found that, compared to all conventional straight-leg hamstring stretches, this is much more efficient (in terms of results gained for time spent); much less painful, and provokes a significantly lower protective response from the mind/body—meaning you can go further. This exercise is also how we get into front splits, in time.

Read transcription

Kit:

In terms of any hip flexion or extension movements, so that includes all backbends, we have found that variations on the lunge give the best results. The lunge exercises give the best hip flexor stretches and conversely, they also give the best hamstring stretches and that's what I want to show you now. We hardly ever do any conventional hamstring stretches anymore since we discovered this one.

Kit:

Now, the thing I'm holding in my hand here is something that Sharon made me. And what it is is a bit of shiny liner on one side and a bit of padding for a knee or a foot, in this case, on the other side. She likes to use this on carpet and we found that it works quite well on the sheeting here we're using for our background. So let me show you what the exercise looks like. The basic position is the lunge. It's the foot up in a position like this. I'm supporting myself with this hand here. That's furthest away from the camera, and I'm holding my body onto the thigh like this with the other arm.

Kit:

You can hold the support hand if you want to, but I don't need to for this one. Then you straighten your back, make sure that your ribs and tummy are pressing into the thigh. And then use quadriceps, the large muscle at the front of the thigh here, to slowly push the foot away from you. So here we're invoking the reciprocal inhibition reflex. That is, quadriceps is inhibiting hamstring here as I extend the knee. And the reason for holding the body onto the leg is to reduce the apprehension reflex, that fear dimension.

Kit:

Now in this position here, two contractions are possible. One, I'm going to try and pull the heel of this foot here, back to the bottom by folding the knee. But weight and friction holds me in position and no movement results. The second contraction is I'm going to try and push the foot straight down into the floor and you'll feel that activates this muscle up here, biceps femoris, near the glute muscle. And hold those contractions for at least five to 10 seconds. Then stop, take a breath in, square the hips, lift the chest along the leg a little bit. And when you're ready, very slowly extend the foot a bit further away from you by using quadriceps on that front leg and re-straighten the back.

Kit:

You'll find even if you're loose, that gives you an excellent stretch. And if you're very, very loose, you can actually come down onto the floor like this and support yourself on the elbow instead of the arm. To come out, push back like this and slide back into the start position. I'll show you what that looks like from the other side. See how I'm walking the back knee back? That's to wind up enough stretch on the hip flexors to make this an effective hamstring stretch. Then I wrap my arm around the leg like so. This is the grip that's shown in the book. You can try that. And if it works for you, use it by all means. Then use quadriceps on the front leg. And I find that by lifting the ball of my foot off the floor, it just feels more comfortable in the ankle for me.

Kit:

I then press the front leg a little bit straighter like this until I get a stretch in the hamstrings at the back of the leg. Then I do the two contractions. I pull the heel back to the bottom, five, four, three, two, one. I press the foot into the floor using that other muscle group. You'll feel that this contraction sensation's completely different. Five, four, three, two, one. I stop. I take a breath in, pull myself back onto the leg, square the hips, and then on the breath out, slowly try to press the front leg a little bit straighter like this. And then pull back on the hand to straighten the back. And that completes it. Stay in this final position for at least half a dozen breaths in and out. Let the body goes limp as you can. And to come out of the stretch, put both hands on the floor and push back like this.

Kit:

Now as always, compare left with right. Hamstring differences left to right are very common. And if you find that one side is tighter than the other, stretch it a second time. One of the most common requests we get on the website is "What are the best hamstring stretches?" Well, in my view, the lunge version of the hamstring stretch is the best by far, but you can also use the bent knee to straight leg position in a conventional hamstring stretch as well. Let me show you what that looks like. I'm going to use the 'slidey thing' for this one as well.

Kit:

Going to to start this exercise with both legs out in front, like this. Put one heel on the slidey thing and this leg here, I'm going to turn out to the side and bring the foot back to the body like so. Then I'm going to pull myself onto my thigh like this, and this time we're going to use the slidey thing to extend the leg, again using quadriceps as before, as we did in the lunge version, because using quadriceps to slide the foot out inhibits the hamstrings slightly. So with a good grip of my foot in this position here, I can do both contractions. I can help the heel back to the bottom, which I'm doing now, or I can push the leg down to the ground, which I'm doing now.

Kit:

And then take a breath in and use that breathing in action to straighten the back and on the breath out, complete the exercise by simply sliding the legs straight like this and keeping your body on the leg. Finally, arch the back backwards. That's a much better way of doing it than the conventional way, which is to have the legs straight and to bend forward like this. Just try the bent leg version and see if you like it. And make sure of course you do the other side.

Kit:

And taking my own advice, we're going to show you the other side. So the foot goes on the slidey thing. I'm just going to move myself back a little bit. This leg here, when you put this leg in position, don't let this hip here go back. Keep both hips absolutely square to the line of the legs and only move this foot back as far as you need to, to be able to bend forward. Take a breath in, lean forward, and hold the ball of your foot like this. Or if holding the ball of the foot makes the sensation too strong in the calf muscle, you can always hold the heel like this. Straighten the back, slowly extend the leg using quadriceps, re-straighten the back, do the two contractions. I'm doing the first one now, which is pulling the heel back to the bottom. I do the second one by pressing the foot straight down into the floor, take a breath, always use the taking in a breath action as a means of straightening your back. And then as you breathe out, push the leg as straight as you can.

Kit:

And for me today, that's a strong stretch. And finish it always by straightening the back. Now, you'll notice that my body is still in firm contact with the thigh here, which cuts down that apprehension reflex we talked about. To come out, push yourself back. Now, if one side is still tighter than the other, like my left side is tighter than my right side today. I do it a second time on that side. Off you go.

 

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