Hamstrings are group of three muscles which help bend the knee and extend the hip. Hamstring tightness is very common and can cause low back pain, knee pain, running injuries and impair performance. Here’s a cool and effective hamstring stretch exercise using Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation or PNF technique. This is a physical therapy technique which uses the anatomy and physiology of the neuromuscular system to effectively stretch the muscles. A contract relax technique is used here to inhibit the hamstrings so they can be stretched more effectively. 10 secs of the contract phase and 30 seconds of the stretch phase for 2-3 minutes.
Hey guys, this is Manu Kalia, physical therapist and Ayurveda herbalist. So I’m going to show you a hamstring stretch and we’ll use a physical therapy PNF technique, which is proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation technique where we’re going to use contract/relax to inhibit the muscle, specifically the hamstring, so we can stretch it a little bit better. So it works really well. It’s quite effective. So you can use a belt. You can use a rope, towel, anything you essentially need.
So the way I like to do it is this. So take this belt, loop it around my foot, cross it. We’re going to start down here; the other leg is down. Now, I’m going to bring it up. So when I first start feeling that stretch—you could get it in the calf a bit, you might get it in the hamstring through here—when you first start getting a decent stretch, so you get to that point and then I want you to…so before that the knee is locked. When you get to that point I want you to soften the knee a little bit, just bend it lightly. So it’s slightly bent. Now, that kind of protects the back too, especially if you have some neural tension along the whole chain and some old low back static nerve-type issues.
So we bend the knee. Now, what you’re going to do is, in that position and range, the contract phase is about 10 seconds or so. So what you’re doing is I’m going to try to contract my hamstrings to inhibit them. So it’s about 50% of effort that you’re going to do with that phase. I’m going to try to drive my heel straight down. So this is the direction I’m driving my heel down. My arms are not letting it go down though. So I’m contracting now, pushing it down. I’m going to holdfor 10 seconds, so one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10. And this is an isometric phase, an isometric contraction. I’m pushing down and then I relax, and then I stretch, I pull it a little further. Now, that phase, the pull phase, I’m going to hang out there about 30 seconds or so. So as I hang out for 30 seconds, I would do the exact same thing and I would drive that heel straight down again. So when I’m driving that heel down and with a slight bend in that knee too, I’m really kicking in a lot of these muscles here also. So I’m holding that phase again, one, two, three, four, five, all the way to 10 seconds or so, and then relax completely and then pull, pull, pull, pull, pull. So do that for about two, three minutes or you could go even longer—contract, relax, contract, relax—and as you keep stretching that tissue further and further and further.
So, great way to do that. Make sure you do that stretch on both sides, left hand, right side, because remember, the goal is symmetry and balance between your left and right side. Very important to have good flexibility of that hamstring. Your goal, remember is about, ideally, especially if you’re an athlete but even otherwise, your goal is about 85 to 90 degrees, somewhere about here.
So this is pretty good. Now, if I’m like right about here somewhere, that’s going to be a more moderate amount of tightness in that. And as I get further down, so this is really tight. So this can get you in a lot of trouble. If I don’t have good flexibility to the hamstrings there, it’s going to impact what happens all the way up the chain, whether for running, whether for sports, even day-to-day activities, contributing to low back issues and all sorts of other things too. So especially for those of you who are runners and athletes, you need to have like 85, 90 degrees of range of motion in that hamstring.
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