From the bag of tricks...
The following tip is from Sue Luby's book Hatha Yoga:
When approaching a stretch, say a lying hamstring stretch (you are lying on your back, right thigh pulled to the chest and fixated with your right arm, left hand around your right foot, now you pull your feet while actively straightening your right leg) try the following:
Pull your lower leg a certain distance while you exhale, stop and relax, while inhaling go back half the distance you gained and relax again. Now on the next exhalation pull your lower leg again a similar distance (as your starting point is improved you will get in a deeper stretch), stop and relax and while inhaling again go back half the distance you gained, much like a ratchet. Repeat until you can no longer proceed and then stay there, and repeat the sequence once more. Surprise yourself how far you could really go. The whole process may take minutes, so don't be impatient.
It is indeed surprising how much of a difference this ratchet approach can make. There are some similarities between this technique and what Pavel T. calls pneumomuscular flexibility training (from Beyond stretching Russian...) but in my experience the former approach works far better.
Side and front split training with deuserband
It's in german but the pictures make it pretty clear how to:
Until recently I wasn't aware that this technique is used in ballet circles quite routinely. Yesterday I tried it and it works like a charm, really excellent. So don't spend money on a stretchmachine, instead use the real deal.
Ouch....good stuff...I think....
I like the old trick of taking a swiss ball...laying back...putting my legs up flat against the wall...then rolling forward and down....sinking into the hamstring stretch while the ball pushed your forward and down....talk about serious pain....works well with a bigger ball.
That sounds interesting Mike.
These band stretches are excellent, not really worth it IMO when you are around 90--100 degrees in the side split but once you get around 130 degrees it gives you additional flexibility like passive partner work. The only problem I see is to get into the starting position without a partner. I can do that with an average band but with a strong band? No way. My solution is to take several smaller bands.
Grease the groove stretching...
Ever wondered if there is such a thing as grease the groove stretching? Of course there is, it's called 'Intensivstretching' and was propagated by Gerd Schnack around 1992. So what's the deal? (I recollect the following from memory as I don't have the book anymore) Say you have a shortend hamstring, simply stretch it for 20 sec every hour your up, that's right every hour your awake one 20 sec stretch.
You do this cold so moderation is key, mild tension and don't overdo. You will soon notice that during the day you will go deeper and deeper into the stretch without much effort. Some years ago I tried that with hamstring stretches for I don't remember how long and it did work quite good.
Increase flexibility without stretching...
Here is my favourite hamstring 'stretch':
Lay on your back with straight legs. Now lift your straight right leg to the point of very mild tension. Roll up as if doing a crunch and place both hands on your knee (placing both hands on the shin or one on the shin and one on the knee works even better), Slowly push with straight arms against your knee but resist with your leg. Build up tension to a near maximum and hold this isometric contraction for up to 10 seconds. You can push as hard as you comfortably can. RELAX SLOWLY and place the leg back on the ground.
After a while when you are recovered lift the leg again, but this time with closed eyes. Stop when the perceived hamstring 'stretch' is comparable to the stretch in the starting position. You should have gained at least a couple of cm. Now pull your knee to the chest straighten the leg to a mild stretch and place both hands on the shin (if that is difficult hold your knee with one hand and place the other hand on the shin). Try to press the shin to the ground but again resist and build up isometric tension, additional press your left heel into the ground as if you were trying to lift your hip from the ground (but don't lift the hip). Hold the isometric tension for 10 seconds and RELAX SLOWLY and place your right leg back on the ground.
After a while try to lift it again with closed eyes to a point where you feel the tension is comparable to the start position. Again an improvement. From here on start a 'traditional' hamstring stretch. The process can be repeated several times.
This is excellent to know when you have a pulled or strained hamstring as you can loosen it up this way quite a bit without the need to stretch it. If you use it for this purpose stay with a relatively low intense isometric contraction (20--30% of max) and hold it for up to 30 seconds and repeat several times.
It is also a good way to finish a classical lying hamstring stretch. Depending on how I feel it works even better after a classical stretch. Unfortunately it doesn't work for the quadriceps, as the hamstrings tends to cramp when one contracts them while in a quadriceps stretch...
Ballistic hamstring stretch with a twist...
This is how I do ballistic hamstring stretches nowadays, it was inspired by the Phil Lancaster post and a little experimentation:
This works best when you place a pillow under the foot of the leg your are 'stretching' so it's a little elevated. If you like you can bend over both legs before switching to the left side, the difference in perceived tension will likely be dramatic.
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