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Old 01-08-2007, 09:13 AM   #20
Rick Deckart
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 554
Default Hamstring stretches and stretching in general...


this is my first post on the Performance Menu Forum. I noticed that some people have requested information about hamstring stretches and stretching in general, so I will give a little advice from my non-expert point of view. I do own around 30 books on the topic of stretching and tried practically all systems available in print or other media and in my humble opinion one of the best books ever written on the topic is “Stretching and Flexibility” from Kit Laughlin. If I had to recommend just one book it would be this. It is organised in lessons similar to the courses the group around Kit Laughlin teaches and has arguably the most detailed explanations of stretches I have seen and a serious no nonsense approach which is relatively easy to follow and highly effective once used on a regular basis.

The group around Kit Laughlin developed a technique which they call pre-exhaust stretching, which is somewhat similar to what Pavel T. refers to as threshold shutdown threshold isometric stretching, although the former is dynamical while the latter is isometric (and there is a similar original PNF technique, see below…), but much better explained and probably safer as well (one can seriously injure oneself doing PNF limit stretches---I was there…).

A nice little pdf detailing the technique and showing exemplarily how one can stretch the hamstrings with this approach can be found here:

Whoever tries this take care, this not an official element of the ‘Laughlin school’ but still in an experimental state. Of course a similar technique can be found in the original PNF handbooks, but PNF after the textbook requires a educated practitioner and BTW is much more than mere stretching…

With respect to band stretches, some years ago I did a medline research and found this little article where bands were used with elite athletes to increase flexibility dramatically, at least in the context of these female gymnasts who had years of flexibility training under their belt:

I tried this and it works but requires precision in your dynamic/ballistic leg swings.

Lastly in my opinion it is ‘mission critical’ if you are interested in real progress to understand that there are different kinds of stretching:

#1 Stretching to achieve the full status quo ROM, what one can/should do practically every day.
#2 Stretching to feel good and
#2 stretching to increase the status quo ROM.

The latter I would do no more than once or twice a week as you have to recover fully before you can go on. It may be different for others but that’s my experience. I know that there is a school among contortionist where practitioners stretch one muscle/muscle group for 10-15 or even 30 continuous minutes every day (for example Tige Young: ) but for the average human being this will not work but lead to injury in the long term (IMHO) which in the context of stretching always means complete loss of the gained flexibility. I was able to do full side and straddle splits two decades ago when I pulled my right hamstring while doing a PNF limit stretch, well after that I lost most of my hamstring flexibility and was never able to fully regain the old flexibility (scars don’t stretch well), so take care…
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