Hammies with Your Candies

It's Halloween week, HURRAY! I loooove Halloween — partially for the candy, a whole lot for the dressing up, and mainly for the dancing come Saturday night. But in order for me to reach full dance-moves potential I've gotta loosen up my legs. I do this with a combination of unrestricted access to Reese's peanut butter cups and candy corn and some hardcore mobility work. For all of us out there preparing to pull out our legendary Michael Jackson splits, we have got to warm up those hammies to reach prime flexibility potential. So here we go, muahahahahahaha!!! (That's my mobile mad scientist laugh)

DID YOU KNOW YOU HAVE THREE?

There are three muscles that make up your hamstring: the Bicep Femoris, the Semimembranosus, and the Semitendinosus. All three muscles originate somewhere, whether medially or proximally, along the Iscium Tuberosity (commonly but mistakenly know as your "sit bones").

Side note about contractions before going into hamstring functions: There are three different types of contractions and I'd like to define them before we get all confused.

  • Concentric contractions are when you shorten the muscle. For example in a bicep curl this is when you are bringing the weight up.
  • Eccentric contractions are when you lengthen the muscle under load. An example is when you lower the weight down during a bicep curl.
  • Isometric contractions are when the muscle is being contracted, but there is no lengthening or shortening. Example is if you were to hold the dumbbell static at a 90-degree angle to your body.

Okay, so back to hamstrings. Your hamstrings are responsible for concentrically flexing the knee (pulling the heel of your foot towards your butt), eccentrically stabilizing the knee and sacroiliac joint (holding hip and knee joint stabile while releasing the heel down), and a concentric synergist (helper) for hip extension. Basically what I am saying is your hamstrings not only draw your heel towards your bum but they also control the descent of your foot towards the ground by helping keep your hips and knee stable so bones and stuff don't shift around in ways we don't want them to. I mean how much would you enjoy your shin bone (tibia) slamming forward when you brought your foot to meet the ground while running. Probs not so much.

So why does all this anatomy matter? It matters because unbeknownst to most, many of us are in this eccentric contraction of the hamstrings all day long due to poor posture. I call it the Daffy Duck stance, 'cause your bum sticks out like a duck. 

The above picture is showing the difference between a neutral pelvis (where we want to be) and an anteriorly rotated pelvis (no bueno). We will touch on pelvic positioning next week, no worries, I wouldn't leave your pelvis hangin' like that. However, if we are constantly positioned in the latter our hamstrings are forever stretching, and not in a good way. Remember last week when we discussed how your QL is constantly being stretched when in the saddle? Same idea here. Stretching the hammies is great but no muscle likes to be under stress all day long. When a muscle is constantly in a stretched position it can also become weak and unable to perform properly. So how do we fix those hammies (aside from eating massive amounts of Smarties and Snickers and dressing up like Jane Fonda)???

HAMMER THE HAMMIES

  Sit your bum down on your Rogue box or kitchen chair with your lacrosse ball under your thigh. It will take a couple of adjustments but find a sweet spot right in the thick of it. You are looking for your semimembranosus and semitendinosus. While keeping your spine totally straight hinge from your hips to lean forward. As you can see from the badass athlete above, her low back is never compromised when leaning forward. Strive to look literally just like her, well at least your spinal positioning. Keep this dynamic. Hinge back and forth 40-50x or for 3-4 minutes before switching sides.  

 

Sit your bum down on your Rogue box or kitchen chair with your lacrosse ball under your thigh. It will take a couple of adjustments but find a sweet spot right in the thick of it. You are looking for your semimembranosus and semitendinosus. While keeping your spine totally straight hinge from your hips to lean forward. As you can see from the badass athlete above, her low back is never compromised when leaning forward. Strive to look literally just like her, well at least your spinal positioning. Keep this dynamic. Hinge back and forth 40-50x or for 3-4 minutes before switching sides.  

LAX FEATHERING

  Still sitting on your bum, slide the lax ball out towards the side a bit more, but not all the way to your IT band. You should now be more on your bicep femoris. Keep that super straight spine you created in the first exercise and begin to extend your leg straight and then back to a bent knee. Repeat the extension and flexion 40-50 times before switching sides. 

 

Still sitting on your bum, slide the lax ball out towards the side a bit more, but not all the way to your IT band. You should now be more on your bicep femoris. Keep that super straight spine you created in the first exercise and begin to extend your leg straight and then back to a bent knee. Repeat the extension and flexion 40-50 times before switching sides. 

HAMSTRING FLOSSING W/ MONSTER BAND

  Attach a monster band to the rig at about hip height. Step your right leg through and bring the band up to your hip crease. Step your right leg forward so that you are in a short lunge stance. Bend your right knee and bring your hands to the ground. (If you cannot reach the ground stack up some plates, ab mats, or statistics textbooks) Keeping your hands on the ground, begin to slowly straighten your right leg as much as you can. Don't worry if it won't straighten on the first, second or tenth try. Continue to rock back and forth for 25-30 times or around two minutes before switching sides. Before you put the other leg into your stretchy noose make sure to take a stroll around the box and shake it out.  

 

Attach a monster band to the rig at about hip height. Step your right leg through and bring the band up to your hip crease. Step your right leg forward so that you are in a short lunge stance. Bend your right knee and bring your hands to the ground. (If you cannot reach the ground stack up some plates, ab mats, or statistics textbooks) Keeping your hands on the ground, begin to slowly straighten your right leg as much as you can. Don't worry if it won't straighten on the first, second or tenth try. Continue to rock back and forth for 25-30 times or around two minutes before switching sides. Before you put the other leg into your stretchy noose make sure to take a stroll around the box and shake it out.  

HAMSTRING SUPINE BANDED LEG PULLDOWN  

  Finally, you get to lay down!! Please do not be fooled by my beautiful model's sweet smile, this stretch is a doozy on the hammy. Keep the monster band attached to the rig at about hip height. Lay down on your back with your head pointed towards the rig and your feet away from it. Wrap the band around the sole of your foot, close to your heel so it doesn't slip off. You can brace yourself with your arms along your side or hold onto the rig behind your head. Keep your left leg straight with your toe pointed up. In the most humanely possible controlled way, lower your right heel to touch the floor briefly before raising the leg back up. DO NOT let your leg boomerang back towards the rig. Try counting to three or four Mississippis on the way up and the way back down. Complete 20 reps per leg. And yes, the pleasurable burning sensation on the back of your leg is totally normal and good for you. 

 

Finally, you get to lay down!! Please do not be fooled by my beautiful model's sweet smile, this stretch is a doozy on the hammy. Keep the monster band attached to the rig at about hip height. Lay down on your back with your head pointed towards the rig and your feet away from it. Wrap the band around the sole of your foot, close to your heel so it doesn't slip off. You can brace yourself with your arms along your side or hold onto the rig behind your head. Keep your left leg straight with your toe pointed up. In the most humanely possible controlled way, lower your right heel to touch the floor briefly before raising the leg back up. DO NOT let your leg boomerang back towards the rig. Try counting to three or four Mississippis on the way up and the way back down. Complete 20 reps per leg. And yes, the pleasurable burning sensation on the back of your leg is totally normal and good for you. 

You are now officially ready for a full out dance-athon and while I may not be able to guarantee you the Pumpkin Patch Trophy (no I didn't make that up) I can guarantee that you should at the very least be able to reach down to put your Dorothy red slippers on before gobbling Milky Ways  and doing the electric slide.