Strengthening Hams & Quads?

Leave the first response January 27, 2009 / Posted in Injury Prevention, Mindful Running

In article <>,
Phil Margolies <> wrote:

> Ozzie Gontang wrote:

> > There are a number of popular stretches which are either unsafe for
> > everyone or unsafe for anyone who isn’t very flexible to start with – these
> > include the hamstring stretch mentioned above, the “hurdlers stretch”
> > (seated, one leg forward, the other tucked back under the body

> I’ve heard that this was an unsafe position. What exactly is wrong with this
> stretch. Is it too much stress on the knee?

> > put it against the side of the knee of the straight leg instead)

> This alternative stretch does not stretch the quads. Am I doing it wrong? Phil


First with the quads, I have people grab above the ankle so ther are holding onto the lower part of the foot just above the ankle. My reasoning is that they can grab the foot but then they try to pull the leg backwards…which in my mind or way of looking torques the pelvis and doesn’t get a good quad stretch.

I have the people keep the knees parallel to each other. Often they pull the leg out to the side which minimizes the stretch/elongating of the quad. So I have them knees close, imagine that they are pushing that knee into the ground and very slowly rotate the pelvis under which allows for the quad to be slowly stretched.

But for the quad I am still the advocate of advocates for using the rolling pin, or piece of PVC, or round stick or wooden dowel and lay on it as you imagine that the quad sinks onto the PVC as you roll back and forth (consciously and without pain) to gradually work the fascia around the quads loose. You can do the same thing for the ITB. I think I’ll have to put my book to be first on video tape: “Hanging around bars, gutters and stairwell with Ozzie.” (see picture above) It will be an underground classic in that the folklore works once a person gets the idea of what fascial release, releasing adhesions, and deep tissue release mean…and realize that trigger points (it hurts when you push them) are where we hold tension…unnecessarily…and once the tension is gone, proper movement can be worked on more easily. Here’s a picture of another way to loosen the quads.

Most of the weight is on the hands and feet. Gradually more pressure is placed
on the quads. Starting about 3 inches above the knee, slowly slide down the quad to relax the tight spots in the quads. After some practice one can do the same for each quad. Once the quads are loosened significantly after a few months one can lay across the bar with only the hands on the ground and the feet off the ground.

For the hurdler’s stretch, the rotation of the joint when the muscular structure around it is fighting from being strained often leads to other problems with ligaments and strain of muscles and tendon.

Research showed that people who put their leg up on a table or bar so the leg was at 90 degrees to the standing leg…and then leaned forward grabbing their ankle or foot…over an 8 or 12 week program of doing this 3 times a week gained about 3 to 5 degrees of more flexibility of the hamstring.

Another group did the same stretch but did not lean forward at the waist. The upper body and pelvis moved together. After the 8 or 12 weeks, their flexibility was between 9 and 11 degrees of greater flexibility of the hamstring.

Reason: When you lean forward from the waist, you throw the pelvis in a counter rotation. That is when you lean forward from the waist, the pelvis rolls back and shortened the distance between the origin and insertion of the hamstring, so you are stretching a shortened hamstring.

If you keep the body erect and lean with the pelvis so the body moves with the pelvis, the pelvis (origin of the hamstring) is going further away from the insertion point of the hamstring. Images I use are if you lean forward from the waist it more like a U-bolt. If you keep the body erect, the pelvis and upper body are like a lever pulling the hamstring further away from where it’s attached.

Best way to do it is to sit on a table, so one cheek is on the table and the other leg is standing on the ground. (Use Telephone books or coffe table books or a 2×6 18 inches long) to be able to touch the ground. The leg touching the ground is straight ahead (foot and knee) and not toed out. Gradually as the hamstring stretches, you’ll be able to move the standing leg further behind the pelvis. At first many people will have the standing leg straight ahead and out in front of the pelvis because the hamstring of the leg on the table is too tight.

Or if it is really tight, then have the lower leg of the leg on the table so that the lower leg hangs over the side of the table to start.

The leaning forward comes from the pelvis and not the upper body.

Another way to get into this hamstring stretch another way is to sit against a wall or the front of a couch as you watch TV. Walk your sitz bones, those bones on your pelvis on which you sit, back as close to the wall as possible. Most of us will find that the wall/floor is at 90 degrees. which our back/hamstring curves so that we can’t get close to the 90 degrees. Use the wall as a buttress to hold the spine erect and back off the sitz bones from the wall so you feel the hams stretching but not letting them feel strained or pained.

After you can do that fairly easily, then you begin to separate the legs continually walking the sitz bones back. Gradually in a year or 6 you’ll be able to rest you body on the ground between your legs. Once to start to get over the 90 degrees, then you can use cushions to allow you to rest and lean forward with little or no strain…using the cushions as support to take you to a stretch but not a strain.

Should you strain, your muscles will protect themselves by….you guessed it…shortening.

Once you can get your legs separated a little and to help with opening the pelvis the working on the adductors, those inside groin muscles, you lay on your back on the ground and walk your butt towards the wall until you feet are up the wall and your butt is as close to the wall as possible,…you’re sitting on the wall and your back is resting on the ground. Gradually you allow your legs to slide down the wall. Start || legs up the wall, then gradually legs \/…and finally you will have arrived …it takes 4 to 12 years to get _ _. If you go any faster, you will have allowed your mental images to destroy your body’s capabilities. Remember if you try too hard, you will always get the reverse of what you want. Like you can’t push the river…patience is a virtue…or running like stretching is a dance. You can do it gracefully or clumsily. Go for the grace.

All the above is folklore. If it works for you use it. If not, find someones else who makes better sense and listen to their wisdom….or slowly listen to all with the belief that we all have a bit of truth and find your own way and share it with others…in places like rec.running to see if it makes sense. After 4 years, thanks to Yonson Serrano for passing the baton of the FAQ to me…Yonson later told me that no one else applied…feel like “Will someone please step forward and volunteer”…and quietly everyone else took a step back and unbeknownth to me, I volunteered. While the truth of it is that I volunteered because I have loved this part of my life and learned so much…that it was time to have my answers questioned. And they are…and my folklore has become more grounded and better tested and tried, and retested and reexplained and debated, dialogued and discussed and reviewed and reexamined and experimented with to see if it worked.

I must say that while kinesiologists, and physiologists and researchers in movement continue to research, an entire group of young and old runners have put on their research caps to see what is true for them and for others.

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