This Week’s Mobility Wod: Hamstrings

Your tissues are like obedient dogs, they will always come around. Always. You just have to be consistent! – Kelly Starrett

This week’s MWod focuses on loosening the hamstrings and getting better range-of-motion (ROM) in the whole posterior chain. To clarify, we’re referring to the calves, hamstrings, butt, and low back – all important to movements like squats and deadlifts that we perform daily.

Many of us sit much of the working day, making “ass laminate” (Starrett’s phrase), and gluing the muscle tissues together. So not only do we want to develop functional strength in the posterior chain, but we also aim to create and maintain excellent range of motion by keeping those tissues and joints supple, the layers of tissue sliding smoothly over each other. Just say ‘no’ to ass laminate!

There are some really good tidbits in the video. Starrett brings up the PNF approach (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation), also known as “contract/relax” stretching, and explains why we do it. He also shows us how we sometimes incorrectly compensate for tight muscles in the back of our legs by losing integrity of the back (ie: losing our ‘lumbar curve’ and rounding the back).

For the “before” test, start with a squat or a goodmorning stretch, and see how far down you can go without losing the integrity of the lumbar curve. Then lay down, and use a band or jump rope looped over the foot to help pull your knee to your chest. The leg is bent, that’s fine. Throughout the stretch we want to keep the knee to the chest. Your foot will be at a 90 degree angle because the band is looped around it. Keep that foot flexed like that. The contract/relax protocol is 5 seconds of contracting your hamstrings and then 10 seconds of stretching the hamstrings even further to the end range. So you will have your knee to your chest, then isometrically (your leg doesn’t actually move) contract your hamstrings and push into the rope for 5 seconds, then relax and pull the rope and leg further into your chest, further than previous cycle. You’ll repeat, and each time try to get further into end range in the relax phase. Do this for two minutes each leg.

Next do some bonus work on the high hamstring attachments. We start sitting on a chair/box/bench. Place a lacrosse ball under your leg where the hamstring attaches to the pelvis (the ischial tuberosity), at the top of the back of the leg. Find a spot that feels tender when you work the ball into it. Now straighten the leg out in front of you and then bring it back to the floor. Do leg pumps like this for a total of 20 each side. Move the ball into new painful spots in the high hammy area as you work through the 20 leg pumps.

Re-test after: do your squat or goodmorning….it should be better!