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A Better Way to 'Stretch' Your Hamstrings | Ep. 83 | Movement Fix Monday
Static Stretching, You're Dead to Me
Static stretching isn't something I spend much time on and I rarely recommend it to people. You could say it's dead to me.
What I want to do over the next 3-5 weeks or so is show you what I do instead of static stretching for different areas and for different movements.
I have been doing Q&A on Instagram's new 'stories' feature and the questions I have been receiving have inspired me to make this mini 'what I do instead of static stretching' series. So thank you to those who sent me questions.
First, we have to consider what we are trying to get out of stretching and see if there's a better way to get the characteristic or change we are after.
If I asked someone, "What are you trying to achieve by statically stretching?", I think most people would answer:
- Improve range of motion
- Prepare for exercise
- Keep their body healthy
Or maybe they'd say 'I really don't know now that you're asking me'.
There's no doubt that static stretching can temporarily improve range of motion. Stretch something for long enough and your range of motion increases. I'm sure we have all experienced that at some point. But how long does that really last?
Just because something is mildly effective at one thing doesn't mean it is the best way to achieve the goal(s) and worth your valuable time.
Lack of Stretching Epidemic or Lack of Moving Around Epidemic?
Tons of people complain of their hamstrings being tight, yet they stretch the hell out of their hamstrings constantly. You know what they don't do? Actively control their range of motion, load the range of motion, and strengthen through that range of motion.
I think we have a 'lack of moving around' epidemic and not a 'lack of stretching' epidemic
First and foremost, stretching isn't going to make your muscles longer. You'd have to hold a stretch for hours on end and do that over a long period of time to actually make a muscle longer. The effect of static stretching is most likely just wearing out your stretch reflex and getting the muscle to temporarily relax.
What I prefer doing instead is follow a series of logical steps to work on movement rather than work on stretching and just tugging on my stretch receptors to fulfill some need I have to 'feel' a stretch.
The series I use typically looks like this:
- Roll out
- Do this to reduce muscle tension to allow you to move through a larger range of motion
- Move through the range
- After you have decreased muscle tension, use your own muscles to take the joint through a range of motion
- Now that you have gone through the range of motion, go through the range of motion under some load
- Get strong through a large range of motion so the positions are strong and available for you whenever you want to get there
The Hamstring Flow
What I use instead of stretching the hamstrings is the following:
- Roll out the calves and hamstrings on the foam roller for 20-30 seconds to reduce tone
- Straight leg raises 5-10 reps each leg to move through the large range of motion
- Ankle circles to perform a nerve tensioner to decrease sensitivity to nerve gliding and tension
- Romanian Deadlift (RDL) to load through the range of motion
- RDL can blend into strengthening depending on volume and load
I would go through this series of 5 things for a few rounds with the ultimate goal to blend it into a strength training or muscle building session with the RDL or a conventional deadlift.
For example, you could set up a timer, go through this series for 10 minutes and then cut out steps 1-4 and perform sets of RDLs for 5x10 or 4x8 or whatever your rep scheme is that you want to get in to.
The Next 3-5 Weeks
My goal is to bring you the best, most useful information I can week in and week out on my blog. Over the next month I am going to make posts similar to this where I bring together pieces into flows that you can use instead of static stretching.
I cover all of this stuff and much more in The Movement Fix Workshop, which you can see more about here.
Until next week,