Tips, tricks and tools: work your quads to stretch your hamstrings

Learned this little trick and the underlying concept in massage school. You can get more out of your hamstring stretch if you first activate your quads. The concept is called reciprocal inhibition. When you have antagonistic muscle groups and you activate one set, the opposite set has to relax. Quads and hamstrings are antagonists, meaning they perform opposite actions. Activate your quads and your hamstrings have no choice but to relax. Then, follow up with your favorite hamstring stretch and you’ll get more bang for your buck. Who can’t use more bang for their hamstring stretch buck?

Step 1 Activate Quadriceps: a simple way is to “sit” with your back against the wall. (I’m having a flashback to high school basketball practice)

Step 2 Stretch Hamstrings: you’ve got lots of options.  Mia the cat seems to like this one. Here’s what you need – an open doorway and a couple of legs. The leg that remains on the floor increases the stretch on the leg that’s up the wall. Also, be mindful to keep your low back flat on the floor instead of arching your back.

You’ll feel the stretch change as you change the angle of your foot (bringing toes towards nose) or as you slightly rotate the leg. Holding a stretch for approximately 90 seconds allows the brain to reassign the muscle tension in the target muscle group. If you start with a more moderate stretch you’ll be  able to increase it over the time of the stretch. If you start at your maximum stretch, you can make yourself really sore and encourage your muscles to go into spasm. Your choice.

Enjoy those loose hamstrings everybody!


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