Stretching

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Qoppa
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Stretching

Postby Qoppa » Fri May 09, 2008 5:10 am UTC

Long story short, my hamstrings are way too tight and I want to fix that. My goal is to be able to sit on the floor with my legs straight out in front of me with a straight back, perpendicular to the floor and my legs. Can't do it right now because there's so much strain on my hamstrings if I try to sit up.

How much stretching is too much for one muscle? I don't want to overdo it and pull something. Is holding a stretch for 3 at a time minutes too much? Also, what are some good stretches for your hamstrings? I know the whole 'touch your toes' and sit on the floor and lean, but are there any other good ones?

(Side question: why does sitting on the floor with straight legs require flexible hamstrings? It doesn't seem like they would have much of a role in preforming this 'feat'.)

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lesliesage
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Re: Stretching

Postby lesliesage » Fri May 09, 2008 10:04 am UTC

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0range
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Re: Stretching

Postby 0range » Wed May 14, 2008 1:07 am UTC

Have you thought about doing Yoga? A good Yoga program will not only stretch your hamstrings, but it will stretch everything else, so you don't create imbalances in your flexibility.

I think a lot of people are intimidated by Yoga, but it's really very approachable, and after a dozen or so classes you should be comfortable enough to start going through the postures on your own.

Good luck!

Edit:

Also, the poster above gives excellent advice. I recall when I first started doing Yoga my teacher had me "cheat" on many postures by using 2 foot blocks to rest on for postures that required any sort of bending over.
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Flying Betty
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Re: Stretching

Postby Flying Betty » Wed May 14, 2008 3:47 am UTC

Just a warning- stretch until you feel a pull and hold it. You can gently ease yourself a little farther down, but if it hurts at all, STOP! I've watched too many people destroy their bodies stretching too far too fast (dancers). Expect it to take months. I think it took me several months of every day stretching to touch my toes regularly and easily, and 5 years to do a split. Though I've lost the split I still have most of the other flexibility I worked so hard for, so it really does pay off in the long run.
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Fossa
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Re: Stretching

Postby Fossa » Wed May 14, 2008 7:51 am UTC

I have the same problem as the OP. Any attempt to stretch my hams inevitably stretches (and eventually strains) my lower back, even leaning over a desk or chair. Any other advice?

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Re: Stretching

Postby akashra » Wed May 14, 2008 10:37 am UTC

For flexibility you want longer stretches, for power you want fast/short stretches. Flexibility isn't just about stretching, it's also about clearing out all that dead fibre and muscle growth. A lack of protein in your diet will inhibit growth, as will dead fibre hanging around. A foam roller is most effective at this, though not a complete solution.

Stretches for hammies - assuming left leg stetched. Reverse for right leg:

1.
I. Find a door frame. Your spine should be right up against the wall, or as close to it as your flexibility allows.
II. Outstretched, put your left leg vertical up against the wall.
III. Have your right leg completely outstretched down the doorway.

2.
I. Kneel on right knee with your lower leg (shin/ankle) along the floor.
II. Outstretch your left leg diagonally down to the ground completely.
III. With your left arm, reach for and hold toes.
If you're trying to avoid an arced back, make sure your shoulders are back.

3. The foam roller. (Read: PAINNNNN).
Actually no, just google this. It's usually saved for your quads and IT Band, but is also sometimes used on your hamstrings.

Generally both of these I do for 1 minute each side, repeated 5 times. The latter is done 3 times daily.
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Re: Stretching

Postby lesliesage » Wed May 14, 2008 11:11 am UTC

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Re: Stretching

Postby Fossa » Wed May 14, 2008 12:56 pm UTC

It doesn't hurt my lower back, but I feel zero stretch in my hamstrings. All of the actual stretch comes from my back. I can actually touch my toes if I reeaaalllly stretch my lower back, but I still can't sit in an L position (back to the wall, legs flat in front of me).

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Re: Stretching

Postby lesliesage » Wed May 14, 2008 1:52 pm UTC

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Re: Stretching

Postby Fossa » Wed May 14, 2008 2:55 pm UTC

Keeping my legs straight and just bending at the waist is about as doable as if you told me "Just fly". :oops: My flexibility in my upper legs is really that bad.

I'm going to try ashkara's helpful tips tomorrow. I've been up all night finishing a lab report. Going to coast through my day, work out briefly, then collapse into a ball of unconciousness. Not the time to try new things I'm afraid. :(

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Re: Stretching

Postby Drake » Wed May 14, 2008 8:34 pm UTC

Throwing in my $0.02....

I second Orange!
So far, most everyone has been discussing static stretching (i.e. touch toes). Personally, I am a fan of dynamic stretching (i.e. practicing your high kicks).
Some dynamic activities which improve flexibility include: cherry pickers, cartwheels, forward rolls and the like.
Some dynamic activities which can really improve flexibity include kicks, chops and the like. Someone experienced in martial arts can show you a bunch of different kicks to try, and how to do them safely; and you don't even have to worry about being strong enough to break boards! (As a side note, A friend of mine with a blackbelt is convinced that the only reason he can do a split is because of all of the kicking he had to do during training)

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Re: Stretching

Postby newnajinska1 » Tue May 20, 2008 6:32 pm UTC

Okay, if you're having this much trouble stretching out the hamstring, you're probably male. That's a predominantly male problem. Don't worry, most guys suffer from this.

But as a dancer, I have to warn you that the worst thing you can do is stretch when you are cold, forcing yourself into it. For an example of the effect this would have, put a rubber band in the freezer and than try to stretch it. Ouch.

Basically, the best way to become flexible is get your muscles sufficiently warm (do you have a running, pilates, yoga, or martial arts routine?) and THEN try stretching. Stretching when you're "cold" is pointless. The muscles are all ready tight, and inflexible. But if you get them moving, they have a fair chance to eventually relax in the stretches given above. Those positions and the foam rollers are all good ideas. JUST TRY THEM WHEN YOUR MUSCLES ARE WARM.
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Re: Stretching

Postby akashra » Wed May 21, 2008 3:17 am UTC

The "don't stretch cold" thing is a myth that's hung around since the 80s. It's widely accepted as being utter BS these days.
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0range
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Re: Stretching

Postby 0range » Wed May 21, 2008 4:08 am UTC

Drake wrote:So far, most everyone has been discussing static stretching (i.e. touch toes). Personally, I am a fan of dynamic stretching (i.e. practicing your high kicks).


Dynamic stretching is an absolutely vital precursor to any type of physical workout (I'd go so far as to say that it's synonymous with warming up). The best kind of dynamic stretching is any kind which uses movements that you'll be doing in your workout. So, if you're stretching for a martial arts class, knee raises, leg raises, kicks, blocks, etc...

One important thing is not to confuse dynamic stretching with ballistic stretching. One should be completely in control of your movements when stretching dynamically, taking care not to use any type of throwing motions (throwing the leg upward is a common mistake you'll see in most clubs, and this can be detrimental and leave one injury prone).

Ballistic stretching is best done after you're warmed up and stretched. So, save those high kicks for later on in your workout. (or better yet, get rid of that rubbish all together :mrgreen: )
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lart
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Re: Stretching

Postby lart » Wed May 21, 2008 5:54 am UTC

akashra wrote:The "don't stretch cold" thing is a myth that's hung around since the 80s. It's widely accepted as being utter BS these days.


As a hockey goalie for most of my life I can't even come close to doing the splits until I've warmed up...so it's definitely not a myth. When I stretch away from the ice with no warm up it takes forever to actually loosen up and be able to stretch to anywhere near my capability.

I also don't hold my stretches for too long...usually about 30 seconds or so...I can usually feel when it's time to move on to the next leg/arm/whatever. You want a routine that gets different muscles and cycle through it several times in each stretching session.

OP: For the most part just use common sense and pay attention to how your body reacts to the stretching. Otherwise there's better advice out there on good stretches for your issue than what I can give.

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Re: Stretching

Postby recurve boy » Wed May 21, 2008 2:11 pm UTC

lart wrote:
akashra wrote:The "don't stretch cold" thing is a myth that's hung around since the 80s. It's widely accepted as being utter BS these days.


As a hockey goalie for most of my life I can't even come close to doing the splits until I've warmed up...so it's definitely not a myth. When I stretch away from the ice with no warm up it takes forever to actually loosen up and be able to stretch to anywhere near my capability.


Whoa. Stretching and warming up are not the same thing.

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Re: Stretching

Postby mobikwa » Wed May 21, 2008 2:12 pm UTC

What you may want to try is crossing your legs and then doing the bend over and touch your toes thing. It restricts your back leg from movement and you can get a better stretch. Just make sure to switch the crossed legs and stretch both of them.

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lart
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Re: Stretching

Postby lart » Wed May 21, 2008 5:02 pm UTC

recurve boy wrote:
lart wrote:
akashra wrote:The "don't stretch cold" thing is a myth that's hung around since the 80s. It's widely accepted as being utter BS these days.


As a hockey goalie for most of my life I can't even come close to doing the splits until I've warmed up...so it's definitely not a myth. When I stretch away from the ice with no warm up it takes forever to actually loosen up and be able to stretch to anywhere near my capability.


Whoa. Stretching and warming up are not the same thing.


I didn't say they were.
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lesliesage
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Re: Stretching

Postby lesliesage » Wed May 21, 2008 6:00 pm UTC

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Re: Stretching

Postby akashra » Thu May 22, 2008 12:31 am UTC

What lart has said doesn't in any ay have anything to do with whether or not it helps long term - only short term. Everyone knows that once you're warmed up your flexibility improves - that's a completely separate issue to whether or not you'll do any damage by stretching while you're warmed up. Hell, commonsense tells you that stretching further while you're in a less flexible state is going to tax muscles more than when you're already warmed up - what's the point of doing a stretch that is easy to achieve? Not really stretching, is it? The same stretch has to go a lot further once your muscles are in that state.

One thing that hasn't even been discussed is PNF (proprioceptive muscular facilitation) - steching styles hich you normally *would* be encouraged to warm up first. That's because in this case you're talking about both stretching and contracting muscles.

As for citations? No, I don't think so. We can say the same for the claim that stretching cold is bad or any other claim made here. Insisting on citations is the most transparent way to try to make a point. But hey, if you want to go on the basis of "because others have written it, or more have claimed it, it must be true", let's throw this one into the ring: http://www.google.com.au/search?q=The+b ... =firefox-a

But even Friel condones stretching throughout the day while cold (with a dozen citations, if you must).
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lart
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Re: Stretching

Postby lart » Thu May 22, 2008 2:11 am UTC

akashra wrote:What lart has said doesn't in any ay have anything to do with whether or not it helps long term - only short term. Everyone knows that once you're warmed up your flexibility improves - that's a completely separate issue to whether or not you'll do any damage by stretching while you're warmed up. Hell, commonsense tells you that stretching further while you're in a less flexible state is going to tax muscles more than when you're already warmed up - what's the point of doing a stretch that is easy to achieve? Not really stretching, is it? The same stretch has to go a lot further once your muscles are in that state.
<snip>


It does help long term...if of course done on a regular basis. e.g. My being a goalie...blahblahblah...

"cold" stretching isn't bad per say...it's just not as efficient and that is what I was saying in my original post.

It's easy enough to test which works better...as they say "in theory, theory and practice are the same..."
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Re: Stretching

Postby newnajinska1 » Thu May 22, 2008 2:30 pm UTC

Am I the only one who's ever pulled a muscle from stretching before warming up then?

But honestly, I stretch while reading a book for about 30 mins every night. I stretch quads, claves, sartorius, glutes, abs, and the trapezius. It's a great way to completely dump all the tension after a long day of dancing. (or just after any exercise routine.)
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Re: Stretching

Postby recurve boy » Thu May 22, 2008 3:29 pm UTC

lart wrote:
recurve boy wrote:
lart wrote:
akashra wrote:The "don't stretch cold" thing is a myth that's hung around since the 80s. It's widely accepted as being utter BS these days.


As a hockey goalie for most of my life I can't even come close to doing the splits until I've warmed up...so it's definitely not a myth. When I stretch away from the ice with no warm up it takes forever to actually loosen up and be able to stretch to anywhere near my capability.


Whoa. Stretching and warming up are not the same thing.


I didn't say they were.


You're right. I completely misread it.

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Fossa
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Re: Stretching

Postby Fossa » Wed Jul 02, 2008 5:23 pm UTC

Alright, so I had nearly given up on improving my lower back/hamstring flexibility because it was bad enough that the stretches to improve it caused considerable pain in my lower back without me feeling any real stretch anywhere or seeing any improvement despite weeks of trying.

Fortunately, I just discovered a very effective method (for me at least) which I thought I'd share since I'm guessing other people have been having similar problems. The stretch is also very good for isometric stretching.

So, you will need enough floor space to lie on your back and a normal chair with a solid back. I'm using a standard dorm chair and it works well for this.

You'll want to lie flat on your back with one leg out in front of you as it normally would be. Position the chair such that the back of the chair is facing you and your outstretched leg is going between the legs of the chair.

Your other leg should be lifted somewhat in the air as you position the chair. Then take the heel/lower calf of your other foot and rest it on top of the chair back. Your leg will most likely be in a semi-bent position (because if you're like me your flexibility is so bad that you can't sit in an "L" position). This is fine.

Gradually pull the chair towards your head with both hands while keeping your leg and lower back relaxed. The edge of the chair should come about to your groin. You'll feel the stretch in your lower back and hamstring but without any of the pain I've associated with other stretches.

Don't over do it. If you're feeling a stretch without pain thats good. Don't pull the chair so far that you feel any pain in your back or elsewhere.

When you find a happy position for the chair where you're feeling the stretch but not feeling pain, its time for the isometric stretch.

The isometric stretch will stretch the muscle fibers which are still unstretched without putting additional stress on the ones that are. It helps make a difference a lot faster than with static stretching alone (without the danger of ballistic, "bounce" stretching). To do the isometric stretch, VERY GENTLY try to push your leg back to the floor while keeping your butt on the ground.

You should be slightly tensing your lower back, butt, and hamstring in the process. This will stretch them all farther. Do this for ~15 seconds then release and switch legs. I've seen noticeable improvement after only a week of doing this twice a day.

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Re: Stretching

Postby Token » Sun Jul 06, 2008 12:51 pm UTC

If you don't have a chair handy, this is a similar stretch that I use.

Sit on the floor with both legs outstretched. Bend your left leg so your foot can comfortably rest flat on the floor. Reach forward and link your hands behind the middle of your right calf. Keeping your back relaxed, lean slowly backwards to lie down flat, pulling your right leg up around your hip as you do. Don't lock your right knee - let it bend as necessary to keep your hands in a comfortable position on your calf. If you can get your head flat on the floor, just gently pull your leg closer towards you.

I give this as an extra option because it doesn't require any props other than a suitable area of level floor, and because I can't get anything out of the chair one before the back of the chair gets in the way (though I may be following the description wrong).
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Fossa
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Re: Stretching

Postby Fossa » Sun Jul 06, 2008 7:57 pm UTC

The chair thing is if for if your flexibility is really bad. It lets you keep your back flat on the ground at all times which is really important to allow me to stretch my hamstrings without causing lower back pain.

If you can comfortably sit in an L position (back flat against a wall, legs flat against the floor at a 90 degree angle in front of you) or tighter the stretch won't do anything for you.

If thats even a little bit hard for you and stretching is difficult, however, the chair thing is a god send.

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Re: Stretching

Postby tiny » Mon Jul 07, 2008 7:29 am UTC

newnajinska1 wrote:Am I the only one who's ever pulled a muscle from stretching before warming up then?
Wheee, a fellow dancer!! *waves*
I pulled a muscle more than once because I wasn't really warm, and 'dynamic' stretching is the worst idea I ever had.

My experience is that the importance of a warm up depends on which muscles you stretch.
It's really hard to do something wrong when you work on big muscles like the front of your thighs, your hamstrings or your calfs. The muscles on the insides of the thighs however... wimps.
So unless you're stretching for splits warming up can even be done by light stretching. Hands-to-the-floor-with-straight-legs is part of my warm up routine.

Protip: While increasing the strain on a muscle, breathe out. And no going back up; bouncing is counterproductive.
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