HEALTHY HAMSTRINGS

FACILITATED STRETCH TECHNIQUE

 Hamstrings

 

Hip And Hamstring Flexibility

Why Is Hip Mobility Important?

Tight hamstrings are a common complaint. This may be because it’s one of the most noticeable things to show up in our yoga practice and in our daily lives. How many times have you heard someone say, “I can’t even touch my toes anymore!” Or maybe you have said this yourself. Now, touching our toes does not define our worth; the awareness of this limitation and tension in this area of the body simply provides opportunities for us to investigate. Too often, this investigation leads to repeatedly stretching the area in order to lengthen and hopefully release the tightness. However, continuously stretching hamstrings will not likely provide us with the flexibility we desire and may actually cause further tension, pain, or injury to hamstrings and other areas in our bodies. In order to increase flexibility while maintaining the health of the muscles, we must incorporate a technique called facilitated stretching.

yoga backbend techniques: 12 classes [backbend technique to relieve back pain "bowing the spine']

HIPS AND HAMSTRINGS IMMERSION

  • Increase range of motion of your hips and hamstrings
  • Learn techniques such as facilitated stretching
  • Release stress patterns, discomfort, or pain in your hips, back, and knees
  • Twelve 75-minute classes, all levels appropriate
  • Learn postures: Pigeon, Lizard Variations, Lotus, Eagle, Hanuman, Fire Log, Seated Straddle Splits, and more!
  • Lifetime unlimited access to all

WHAT EXACTLY IS MUSCLE TIGHTNESS?

First, let’s discuss why muscles become tight. Muscle tightness results from an increase in tension through active or passive mechanisms. Passively, muscles can become shortened through postural adaptation — think sitting, or walking in high heels all day — or through injury and scarring. Actively, muscles can become shorter due to spasm or contraction. Regardless of the cause, tightness limits range of motion and may create a muscle imbalance.

Page, Phil. “Current concepts in muscle stretching for exercise and rehabilitation.” International journal of sports physical therapy vol. 7,1 (2012)

What is facilitated stretching, and how can we utilize it to increase flexibility in our hamstrings?  

What Is a Facilitated Stretch?

This occurs when we activate, or contract, the same muscle(s) we are stretching.  There are two types of muscle contractions — isotonic and isometric: “An isotonic contraction is a voluntary muscle contraction that causes movement … An isometric contraction is a voluntary contraction in which no movement occurs.”

Charland, Jeff & McAtee, Robert E., Facilitated Stretching Fourth Edition, 2014

The latter is the action we adopt in a facilitated stretch. Knowing this is important because it is how we maintain the health and integrity of the muscle. If we don’t engage our muscles, eventually they might lose their ability to contract. Losing this ability can lead to imbalances in our bodies; when these imbalances are significant, we can experience a decrease in range of motion. This decrease can lead to injury or chronic pain.

 

 

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IMPLEMENT FACILITATED STRETCHING

How can we cultivate this in our practice?

One of the best ways to incorporate facilitated stretching into our practice is to go slowly and to utilize props that will support the process. In the video below, Matt demonstrates the use of a facilitated stretch in forward fold, using a chair. He breaks it down into 4 digestible actions.

Four Actions to Utilize Facilitated Stretch in Forward Fold

  1. Lean forward into the big toes.
  2. Press the back of the hamstrings apart.
  3. Move the sit bones up to the sky (will pull up on the hamstring and start to straighten the knees).
  4. Move the sit bones down toward the heels, but don’t move your pelvis.

 

STRATEGY FOR HEALTHY HAMSTRING FLEXIBILITY

You may also enjoy the original blog paired with this video, “Avoid the Yoga Butt”

Suggested Immersion: Hips and Hamstrings: 12-Class Immersion

WHAT IS PNF?

Facilitating these actions may also be referred to as proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF).  

“Multiple studies have shown that PNF stretching is superior to traditional static stretching in terms of improving active and passive range of motion. It can be used to supplement daily, static stretching and has been shown to help athletes improve performance and make speedy gains in range of motion. Not only does it increase flexibility, but it can also improve muscular strength. What’s more, PNF stretching is believed to repair the microscopic damage that typically follows a high-intensity workout.”

Wicke J, Gainey K, and Figueroa M. A comparison of self-administered proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation to static stretching on range of motion and flexibility. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2014; 28(1): 168–172.

Sharman MJ, Cresswell AG, Riek S. Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching: Mechanisms and clinical implications. Sports Medicine. 2006; 36(11): 929-39.

All that being said, it’s important to also consider the amount of activation we utilize. It’s recommended that we only engage roughly between 15% – 20%. We want to stay on the side of a more conservative amount of force so as not to channel too much force to the joints, thus minimizing injury.   

To more fully understand this, click here for Matt’s 12-class immersion

Hips & Hamstrings, which took place in June 2021. To help you explore and uncover the strength in your own body, Matt’s new 12-class immersion, Strength, starts in October. Sign up today for lifetime access.

Written by Trish Curling

yoga backbend techniques: 12 classes [backbend technique to relieve back pain "bowing the spine']

HIPS AND HAMSTRINGS IMMERSION

  • Increase range of motion of your hips and hamstrings
  • Learn techniques such as facilitated stretching
  • Release stress patterns, discomfort, or pain in your hips, back, and knees
  • Twelve 75-minute classes, all levels appropriate
  • Learn postures: Pigeon, Lizard Variations, Lotus, Eagle, Hanuman, Fire Log, Seated Straddle Splits, and more!
  • Lifetime unlimited access to all

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