Have you been stretching your hamstrings for years?
Seeing results yet? Many of us are on the road toward longer, more mobile hamstrings. And a long road it can be, too. Here is a quick list of key strategies for more effective stretching of any muscle, working with the hamstring example because it defies our efforts so. Find a quiet moment, a rug or a mat, and enjoy!
- Take your time. Happy hamstrings need more than a hasty couple of minutes after three hours of monster trail riding, or three hours of holiday shopping on concrete.
- Hold the stretch. Sound like agony? Try breathing deeply throughout. Back off a bit from your absolute max stretch, and then deepen slowly later as you feel comfortable. Stretching should be enjoyable. Think of letting your tissues soften and lengthen, rather than clenching.
- Holding for less than about 20 seconds is unlikely to make lasting change in our tissues. So take the time to send the right message in the right way to your muscle and fascia (myofascia connective tissue, which envelopes and interweaves with every muscle).
- Try a couple of variations of your stretch. In the example of a stretch of the hamstring muscle group, after the straight up version, try drawing the leg across the body’s vertical midline, or externally rotating the thigh bone. Both moves help reach the lateral muscle fibers.
- Try repeating the same stretch, gently lengthening a bit more each time. Flossing can be a great help. What is “flossing”? Get into your stretch, then move slightly in and out of the edge of your comfortable range of motion – gently. Try flossing with your foot in a Theraband — it can be very effective.
- Maintain good alignment even as you stretch. The position of the pelvis, for example, can dramatically change the effectiveness of a hamstring stretch. Stretch the soft tissues off the anchor of your bones.
- To lengthen muscle, occasional attempts won’t do the trick. Regular stretching is needed. Daily stretches will really get your body feeling happy. Free your body, and your mind will follow.
At New Leaf, we can show you just what we mean in our small group yoga and Pilates classes, privates and duets. For us, it is a privilege to support you in finding healthy movement that is sustainable for you — over the whole arc of life.