How To Rapidly Improve Your Hamstring Flexibility Without Stretching
I use to stretch my hamstrings a lot. I had it as a regular part of my training schedule. Daily in fact.
I didn't really enjoy how it felt. It would burn intensely as I forced my muscles to lengthen. But I wanted flexible hamstrings. So I figured it was worth it.
Part of my desire to have long hamstrings was so I could kick higher during my martial arts training. Another more insecure part of me just wanted to look good in my Yoga class. I mean c'mon, everyone knows you're a worthy human being if you can win at Yoga ;-)
One particular night I was holding the hamstring stretches for longer than usual - about 5 mins each leg. I was feeling great because my hamstrings were sooo long.
The next day at Kempo training I was teaching the class a front kick and I felt a POP near my left sit bone. I had torn my hamstring.
Confused by this event I started researching about stretching. Turns out the science says stretching doesn't actually provide long term flexibility improvements AND it makes your joints less stable and more prone to injury.
I'm still not sure why so many people recommend and participate in stretching. And I guess it's not really important why. What IS important is asking a more useful question, like...
"How can I improve my hamstring flexibility without increasing my risk of injury?"
My Approach To Hamstring Flexibility is Radically Different Now
These days I have a different approach. Instead of stretching my hamstrings...
I lengthen my hamstrings through movement.
Why? Because muscles are dumb. Sorry muscles, didn't mean that!
But perhaps more accurately - "Muscles are just following orders". They follow orders from the supercomputer upstairs - your brain. Your brain isn't silly. It knows exactly how long your muscles need to be to safely perform each action you do.
To over-ride this highly-intelligent mechanism through stretching is what's dumb. No wonder it resulted in injury!
So what's the solution? Well, if I...
- Create safe conditions and...
- Move my body through positions where my hamstrings are required to lengthen...
My brain starts to learn that it is safe to have long hamstrings and it adjusts their length accordingly.
Ta-da! End of rebellion. Why struggle against the brain when you can work with it? Peace and love and unicorns!
Do you see how different that is!?
Try These Movements For Faster, Safer and More Permanent Hamstring Flexibility
These movements are simple. But they require you to practice them in a very specific way. If you approach them like any other "exercise", you won't get far. Remember, we're working with the brain, so safety and learning are KEY. Read how to practice movement here and then come back. I'll wait for you.
Ready? Great. Let's go.
Sit on the floor. It's useful to wear socks or be on a slippery surface for this one.
First, check how long your hamstrings are now. Lengthen your legs and reach for your toes on one leg and then the other. Just notice how far you go easily. No need to force, just notice what IS.
Next, bend your knee's and stand your feet on the floor.
Hug your chest to your right thigh and put any part of your face on your knee.
Begin to lengthen and slide your heel away from you. Go gently. With ease. Make sure your chest stays glued to your thigh and your face stays glued to your knee.
Only go as far as you can before your knee and face start to separate. And then come back to the start. THIS IS IMPORTANT!
Repeat this movement many times.
Each time you do the movement place a different part of your face onto your knee. Forehead. Chin. Cheek. Ear. Eye. Notice how this creates a different feeling in your back each time. You are going slowly aren't you?
Pay attention to how your pelvis rocks forward and back and how your back lengthens and shortens as your foot slides towards and away from you.
Then try on the other leg. Then try while hugging both legs together.
Finally, test your hamstring length again like you did in the beginning. Has it changed? Get up and walk around and feel what's different in your walking.
If you practice those movements exactly as described I'm guessing your hamstrings will be longer. And not because of any stretching. It was because you're working with your brain to lengthen your hamstrings. Woohoo!
There are many other movements like these for lengthening your hamstrings and getting better co-operation out of your body. Stay tuned for more!