SANTA CLARA, California, November 29. DR. G. John Mullen is back with his Dryland Tip of the Week focusing on how to stretch the hamstring properly.
Purpose: The purpose of stretching is to make the muscle and surrounding fascia supple and increase in length. The most important part of any exercise program is compliance. This is particularly true for stretching exercises. When you stretch you get an immediate increase in tissue length. This is due to the elastic properties of the tissue and improved stretch tolerance. However, the term elastic implies, this change will not last long. When you repeatedly stretch muscle and its fascia; you get a 'plastic' change in the tissue — a lasting change. To do this you must stretch daily. Missing several days will put you back to square one.
To improve, we have found that stretching each muscle for 30 seconds daily will get you results. Of course you can stretch longer, but at least do 30 seconds. You should feel a stretch sensation, not pain. As with any exercise, if it causes your 'pain' — stop. The literature suggests static stretching impairs speed, power, and potentially endurance performance before performance. For this reason, stretching is best suited after workout. Moreover, for those with frequent calf cramps, newer research indicates tight hamstrings correlate with calf cramping, therefore hamstring stretching may be beneficial for people who frequently cramp.
Directions: Lie on your back. Bring one knee toward your chest and grasp behind your thigh with both hands. Keep the other knee bent. While holding the knee to your chest, straighten your knee until you feel a stretch on the back of your thigh. Hold for 30 seconds.
G. John Mullen is the owner of the Center of Optimal Restoration and creator of Swimming Science. He received his doctorate in Physical Therapy at the University of Southern California. G. John has been featured in Swimming World Magazine, Swimmer Magazine, and the International Society of Swim Coaches Journal.