“Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked
while the bamboo or willow survives by bending
with the wind.” —Bruce Lee
STRENGTH PLUS flexibility in the proper timing and intensity yield coordination. Muscles are designed and programmed to do two simple things: contract and relax. They must also get together and agree on the timing and intensity of the movement. Muscles missing any of these ingredients or miscommunicating usually means that you will:
- Tire more easily
- Lack endurance
- Experience muscle pain
- Not move well
Tight hamstrings are responsible for a number of other problems:
- They shorten your stride, limit your chances of winning the race and make you “walk old.”
- They are responsible for 50% of low back pain, making you “feel old.”
- Tight muscles, any tight muscles, are more prone to injury especially when asked to perform under stress…such as in a race or to recover from an almost fall… making you feel “over the hill old.”
Lack of flexibility when it comes to the hamstrings is usually tied to two things: poor coaching and/or stress without enough physical outlet to offset the stress/tension. When I can no longer sit still and focus I know that I have gone past the time when I should have gotten up and exercised that tension away.
Everyone has stress of one kind or another. Ask any group of first graders to give you examples of stress and you will hear the litany: spelling tests, my parents are getting a divorce, I’m getting a new sister, my dog died.
Most people know they need to stretch but most lack the knowledge of when to stretch and how best to increase their flexibility.
When to Stretch
A warm muscle is 20% safer and more efficient than a cold muscle. Stretch should come AT THE END of your workout when the muscles are warm and pliable. Tight, inflexible muscles are like a rope with knots. If you pull the ends of the rope, the knots don’t come out, they get tighter.
The latest articles tell you to warm-up using the movements and muscles you will be using during your activity but at about 40%. In other words, if you are going to run, then you would perform a light jog. However, muscles need to be warmed and used in different ways in order to be safe and efficient. A warm-up should use all the muscles in the body and in different ways, including rhythmic reaching, bending and twisting. And you should not leave the ground. Jumping jacks are NOT warm-ups. Running in place is NOT warm-up. Stretching is NOT warm-up.
How to Stretch
The age-old battle between ballistic and static stretch rages on. I was brought up on ballistic stretch where at the end of the ballet classes we stretched after we were totally warmed-up. The gentle rhythmic movements were done to music. They were not forced. No one got hurt and we all increased our flexibility over time.
Around 1970, I was introduced to static stretch by my associate, a professor of PE at UNH where we were both teaching at the time. He was very excited, gave me a book and told me to try it out. I remember thinking “This is not right for me.” It felt as if my muscles were tightening, not letting go. After numerous attempts I went back to my tried and true ballistic stretching.
Throughout the years there have been numerous articles touting one form or another but more recently is seems that the “experts” are leaning toward ballistic. However, since the word got a bad name due to the way it was done, it now has the new name of “pulsing.” Done correctly, ballistic stretch (or whatever name you give it) does not force, it encourages, and it accomplishes the job more easily, faster and without strain or injury.
Give or Tear
The warmer the muscles, the more elastic and flexible the muscles, the less chance of injury. This goes for cold muscles too. You don’t have time to warm-up your muscles before the car in front of you stops suddenly and you find yourself halfway into his trunk. You don’t have time to warm up your muscles before having to take emergency action. If your muscles are flexible you will have less chance of injury and if you are injured the injury will probably be less severe.
THEN give your muscles – all of them –
a wonderful luxurious stretch.
They will appreciate your care.
For more information about hamstrings and stretch check out my blog Have You Been Hamstrung By Your Hamstrings? posted October 1, 2014.
To improve more quickly, follow the directions in Pain Erasure the Bonnie Prudden Way or Myotherapy to address the trigger points and loosen your hamstrings and all the rest of your wonderful muscles.
For more information about Bonnie Prudden®, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®, workshops, books, self-help tools, DVDs, educational videos, and blogs, visit www.bonnieprudden.com. Or call 520-529-3979 if you have questions or need help. Enid Whittaker, Managing Director, Bonnie Prudden Myotherapy®