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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

A Targeted Approach to Hamstring Stretching

The hamstrings are made up of four muscles.  Depending on the way we stand and move, one or more of these muscles can become overly tight.  In a standard hamstring stretch, this one particularly tight hamstring muscle might not get the attention it needs because all four muscles will share the stretch.  The stretches below will show you how to isolate the stretch on each group, and shift the hamstring stretch further away from the knee.

THE HAMSTRING SQUAD
The four muscles of the hamstrings involves the bicep femoris (short head), bicep femoris (long head), semimembranosus and semitendinosus.  The bicep femoris group is located laterally while the semi's are located medially.  Knowing the anatomy and general location of the muscles is key to knowing whether you've focused the stretch where it matters.

HAMSTRING STRETCH OVERVIEW (VIDEO)
We'll get more specific below, but in the meantime, here's a brief rundown of the stretches.  Notice how the foot is positioned relative to midline and how rotation is needed to isolate each side of the hamstrings.
TEST IT!
Hamstring flexibility is required in many functional movements, but more so in the Hip Hinge.  The hip hinge is a movement we use in daily activities like picking up laundry, gardening and tying shoes.  In cycling, it allows the spine to maintain neutral during the aero position.  If a client comes to me with below average hamstring flexibility, it will be difficult to prevent the spine from slumping or flexing, and the lower back will fatigue quickly as a result of constantly fighting the tight hamstrings.
THE MEDIAL SIDE (SEMI-)
Since the semimembranosus and semitendinosus is located on the medial side of the thigh, this stretch will be focused on the inside of the thigh!  Just make sure the foot and the thigh are both internally rotated!
THE LATERAL SIDE (BICEP FEMORIS)
Although this stretch will also hit the long head of the bicep femoris, the short head of the bicep femoris will get more of the attention because the knee is locked.
PROXIMAL STRETCH
We tend to only stretch the hamstrings in a locked position, so most clients I see tend to need this stretch the most!  It's crucial to keep the back in neutral before pulling the hips back.  This will not only protect the spine, but focus the stretch further away from the knee and into the muscle belly of the long head of the bicep femoris.

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