Lengthen the Hamstrings, Touch the Toes

You might notice that I didn’t call this “stretch your hamstrings, touch the toes.” That’s because, going back to what you’ve learned about stretching vs. pandiculation, simply using your body weight to try and pull yourself down toward the floor to touch the toes just doesn’t work. It could also potentially tighten your hamstrings further. How’s that? Well, first of all, when you use your body weight to stretch, you’re not necessarily engaging the brain actively to lengthen the muscles involved. Second of all, if you push past the point of your muscle’s present length by sheer force, there’s a nifty little protective mechanism called the “stretch reflex” that keeps you from causing fiber damage to the muscle. That reflex actually causes the muscle to contract back against the stretch.

One more important point: when the hamstrings are tight, it’s not just about the hamstrings. Remember: muscles of the body work together synergistically. So if you want to lengthen the hamstrings, it’s even better when you also engage the back and buttock.

Here’s a nice variation on the old “touch the toes” routine:

Test out your present range: bend down to touch your toes. Let’s say that you can only get as far as the photo. What now?

Inhale and lift your head, tighten your back, buttocks and hamstrings and lift yourself back up a little. Be aware of tightening those muscle groups in a pattern.

Slowly lengthen and release down toward the floor only as far as is comfortable. Then inhale, engage the back, buttocks and hams, and slowly lift the head again.

Again, slowly lengthen down toward the floor, only going as far as comfortable. You will notice that it’s easier to go further, as the muscles are being released actively. When you’ve gone as far as you can, lift the head, tighten the back in a bit of an arch, and engage the buttocks and hamstrings.

For the last time, slowly and consciously, lengthen and release down toward the floor. See how far you’ve come!

Bend your knees and roll yourself back up to standing.

Close your eyes and the different sensations of your back, buttocks and legs.

The cool thing about this variation on a well known stretch is that you might also find some nice relief from back pain when you slowly tighten, then lengthen, tighten and lengthen the back in a quest to lengthen the hamstrings.

The principal of paniculation can be applied to any standard stretch: tighten INTO the contracted muscle, then lengthen OUT of it. Voila! Happier, more coordinated muscles.

To learn this highly effective method as you learn to relieve long term muscle pain relief and relax chronically tight muscles, click here to buy my new, easy to follow instructional DVD!