stretch

Improving your Hamstring's flexibility.

Many amongst us know that they need to work on their hamstring flexibility. When I bring it up with my patients they aren't unduly surprised.

Aside from stretching, I also ask patients if they perform myofascial release with their hamstrings (Eg. Foam Rolling) and often the answer is yes.

The difficulty is that foam rollers are too large and cumbersome to properly address this particular muscle group. With this approach, you will generally find that the relief is temporary and minimal.

I have a two step approach for addressing hamstring muscle stiffness based on the anatomy. 

Step 1. Addressing muscle stiffness at the hamstring origin point.

Step 2. Addressing hamstring muscle stiffness in the belly of the muscle.

Step 1: Addressing muscle stiffness at the hamstring origin point. Hamstrings originate from your ischial tuberosity, aka your 'sit-bones' and from the femur. There is a degree of irony here as our hamstrings weren't actually designed to be sat on. 

  • Sit on a hard surface, preferably a chair.
  • Take a tennis sized ball and place it just past your 'sit-bone'. (This is one of the few times I would recommend using a harder ball like a cricket or lacrosse ball.)
  • Move you body weight onto the ball and proceed to roll from side to side. (If you feel as though you are rolling over steel cables then you are doing it correctly.)
  • Do this for 2-4 minutes or until you feel a change or until you stop making change.

 

Step 2: Addressing hamstring muscle stiffness at the belly of the muscle. We have three hamstrings; semimembranosus, semitendinosus and biceps femoris. The first two are located closer to the inside of your leg and the other is closer to the outside near your Iliotibial band (ITB).  Remember to roll on the center of the hamstrings but also on the inside and outside.

  • Sit on a hard surface, preferably a table or bench top.
  • Hard balls don't work for this, I only use the ALPHA ball from yoga tune up. These balls have some give and their large grippy surface is ideal.
  • Place the ball in the center of your hamstring and then move your body weight atop of the ball.
  • Once you have found a tender spot or knot then sit on that spot with your weight and begin to flex and extend your knee. You will feel you hamstrings moving past the ball as you move your leg.

 

Re-test your flexibility!

Try to touch your toes and see the difference.

 

NB. If the spot is not tender make a mental note of relaxing and if that location is still not tender move to a new spot.

NB. If you start feeling numbness or tingling down your leg or foot move to a new site. The sciatic nerve does pass down the back of the leg and can become trapped by the ball.

David Gruhl

 

How to make foam rolling count - David Gruhl

There is no doubt that an incredibly effective way to improve musculoskeletal health is myofascial release or as it is more commonly known, foam rolling.  It may generate a number of changes including; reducing pain, improving flexibility and consequently increasing performance. It is easy to understand why it is a common recommendation from many health practitioners.

 

One of the underlying reasons why foam rolling is often avoided is because it is very painful to do. This is true.  Myofascial release can be very uncomfortable.  So do we just put on our pain face, grit our teeth and get on with the job?  Nope.  And this is why you shouldn't.

So do we just put on our pain face, grit our teeth and get on with the job?

If you are doing myofascial release and you are in significant pain, you will often tense your muscles.  By doing so, you are bracing against the pain and making the exercise pointless.  When there is excessive pain we lose control of our breathing and begin to pant.  We start sweating, we wince, moan and tense our muscles to brace against the pain. This is stimulating of our sympathetic nervous system known as our fight or flight response.  Once triggered, it is difficult to relax when so much adrenaline is pumping around your body.  

The correct amount of pressure is uncomfortable but tolerable. The goal should be to increase the pressure as you progress through the exercise.   You should always be able to take deep breaths and relax onto the ball or foam roller.

The correct amount of pressure is uncomfortable but tolerable.

The role of myofascial release is to improve our soft tissue (muscles) movement. This occurs by de-activating the trigger points (knots) in muscles and by improving the ability of our muscles slide and glide past each other.

I have an array of different tools that I use for my own personal myofascial release therapy including; cricket balls, soft balls, golf balls, Alpha balls and soccer balls.  On any given day I will be able to tolerate a different level of intensity. Your muscles will be able to tolerate different levels of pressure depending your current training load, hydration, frequency of myofascial release, and even your emotional state and stress levels.

You can purchase some of these tools online from our shop here.

Drop in today and have a chat about how to make your personal conditioning regime effective.

David Gruhl

B.Hth Sc (Pod), Hons