As we saw last week, most people stretch infrequently; don’t stretch a muscle for long; frequently use ballistic stretching techniques; and if they attempt to hold a stretch, they often hold their breath while pushing hard into ‘the pain’ of the stretch.
To stretch effectively, you should pretty-much do the complete opposite. That is:
- Stretch regularly (just once-twice a week will do if your technique is correct),
- Spend time on each stretch,
- Avoid ballistic stretching,
- Stretch deliberately slowly,
- Avoid any pain,
- Relax into the stretch,
- Never force the stretch
- Use deliberate slow & deep breathing to help drive the stretch,
Technique: To stretch your left ‘hamstrings, bring your left leg up onto a table (or other stable object) that’s roughly 10-15cm higher than your knees (higher if you are very flexible). Keep your left knee straight (don’t bend it). Then dorsiflex your left foot and toes (i.e., draw your foot back toward you). Bend forward at the hip making sure you keep your back straight, gently reaching out with your left arm to see whether you can touch your left toes with your left fingers, and if so, how far your fingers/hand can stretch past them. This will give you a good guide as to how flexible your hamstrings are before you actually start stretching, then come up from this initial ‘test’ stretch.
Now bend your left arm 90 degrees at the elbow. Again, keeping your back straight, bend forward at the hip until your left elbow rests on top of your left thigh. Back remaining straight, and bending at the hip, slide your elbow forward toward your feet, until you feel a great stretch in your left hamstrings (but no pain). Now relax, breathe in and out deeply and regularly, waiting until the feeling of the stretch subsides and you’re completely comfortable at this position (this may take 30 – 60 seconds, just be patient). Now slide your elbow a little further forward along your thigh until you again feel a strong stretch, but no pain. Stop there and repeat the same deep relaxed breathing until you cannot feel the stretch. Continue this for 4-6 cycles (more if you like). Once you’re happy with the number of stretching cycles you’ve completed, come back up for a moment and then stretch down again with your back straight, to test how far your left fingers/hand can move past your toes now. You should find that you have significantly greater range of motion in your left hamstring than before. Now repeat the same for your right hamstring. Note: people with lower back issues should stretch hamstrings lying down to avoid straining their back.
This technique allows you to gently fatigue the hamstring muscle-spindles. It takes a little more time, but only needs to be done once a week, and is likely to be much more successful long term and not painful!
Article Written + Submitted by:
Andreas Klein Nutritionist + Remedial Therapist from Beautiful Health + Wellness
P: 0418 166 269