Stretching With Intention

Although there are many different ways to stretch a muscle, becoming more aware of what you are stretching and how you are stretching can be a much more effective way to use your time.

A muscle will experience a great stretch, and therefore increased length, when it is brought into its stretch position relaxed, held for 20-30 seconds and used dynamically during this stretch time.

For example, lets look at the hamstrings.  There are 3 hamstring muscles:

  1. Biceps Femoris
  2. Semitendinosus
  3. Semimembranosus

Stretching Hamstring MusclesTo keep it simple, lets look at them as a group, rather then individually. They originate at your ischial tuberosity or sitz bone, the bone you can feel beneath your buttock muscles when you are sitting.  They run down the back of your thigh to insert just below your knee.  The hamstring muscles mostly function to extend your hip (take your leg behind you) and bend your knee.

To stretch them, we need to flex the hip (bring your thigh up in front of you) and straighten the Sleepless 2017 trailer

Laying on your back, loop a tie or a belt or a towel or a rope, ect. around the sole of your foot.  Relaxing your leg, bring it up towards you, keeping your leg straight, until you feel a slightly different feeling along the back of your leg.  You want to start your stretch at around a 4-5 out of 10 for intensity.  This means that zero is absolutely no feeling at all and 10 feels as if your leg is coming out of its socket.  If you begin your stretch too vigorously, the receptors in your muscles and tendons will sense this and not allow you to successfully lengthen your hamstrings.

Your opposite, resting leg is straight as long as you don’t have any discomfort in your low back when in this position.  If you do, go ahead and keep it bent with your foot flat on the floor.


The intentional part of this comes in now.  Knowing that your hamstrings start at your sitz bones, you don’t want your sitz bones to just lift up away from the floor and your back to flatten.  This is shown in the picture below.  This means that you are involving your back when it doesn’t need to actually do anything and you are changing the stretch, not getting the most out of it.

You want to gently encourage your sitz bones down towards the floor, keeping your back in a neutral position. Hold this position for 5 breaths.

Now, the dynamic part comes in. Keeping the band around your foot, bend and straighten your knee, using a small movement.  Repeat for 3 breaths.  Relax and try to encourage your leg to come towards you more.

Even though your hamstrings don’t cross your ankle joint, there are connections of muscles and fascia that influence these muscles.  You can gently point and flex your ankle as well, for 3 breaths.  Relax, and bring your leg closer towards you.  Don’t forget to stay mindful of where your sitz bones are.  Keep encouraging them towards the floor. Even though they will not actually touch the floor, you want to draw them down towards the floor.

When you feel you have reached as much length from your hamstrings at this time, change sides.

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