its actually quite a tricky muscle to stretch. Interestingly it inserts into the shoulder and then skips over to the forearm. Speaking with my therapist hat on, I’d say 85 % of shoulder problems have a “poor relationship” with the bicep. Getting some sort of stretch in, is therefore, good.
Stretch No 1
The “just straighten your arm” stretch. Do what it says on the tin. It’s better than nothing
Stretch 2 is more fun. Sit down with your arms behind you and start sliding your bum forward. You’ll either feel the stretch in the elbow, the shoulder or in the belly of the muscle. Over the weeks, focus on getting your hips further forward to increase the stretch. Build to 2-3 minutes
Number 3 is a disgusting stretch, so make sure you have built some stretch capacity by pushing Stretch 2 along for a few weeks. This hanging stretch is stolen from gymnastics and is called the German Hang. Find a low bar, hang off it. Pull your knees through your arms then keep on turning. Lower your legs to the floor and hang in your shoulders. Do start this with a low bar, as you may need to drop straight off even as you get into something resembling the position. Its very intense!
It also helps you understand the meaning of the word “intense”
Whilst I talk about the various therapies and stretches for Plantar Fasciitis here, its worth tuning into the “length of stretch” debate.
If you look at Porter D, Barrill E, Oneacre K, May BD. The effects of duration and frequency of Achilles tendon stretching on dorsiflexion and outcome in painful heel syndrome: a randomized, blinded, control study. Foot Ankle Int 2002;23(7):619-624.
You’ll find two protocols coming neck and neck:
3 minute of stretching 3 x a day, or five sets, 20 seconds each, two times daily.
Either way, the take home message that a quick reluctant 10 second stretch when you can be bothered, isn’t enough. The study also determined that both sustained and intermittent Achilles tendon stretching exercises increase Achilles tendon flexibility. This increase in flexibility correlated with a decrease in pain!
It’s impossible to get fit without someone reminding you to “stretch your quads”. The quads, or quadriceps ( quad for four) run up the top of the front of your leg. Three of them go from the knee cap to below your hip. One goes across the knee and then across the hip. Here is a useful graphic from wikipedia
Stretching these muscles is important as they are the ones most likely to become short if you sit too much. We all sit too much.
Here is the standing quad stretch that I think everyone must have seen at some stage
But this is just the start of your quad journey. Get on a bed (or anything comfy) and kneel down
Put your hands behind you and lean back. Some may find this hard. Don’t worry, just keep on getting used to it. Just incase you get stuck, it maybe as well to have someone around to pull you back up again if you cannot get back up again.
Once you build your confidence, get a cushion pile and slowly take a cushion away each time you try
Eventually you’ll simply lie down. you’ll notice my hips are fairly high, so to be a quad stretching master, eventually you need to pull your hips down.
Unfortunately, you probably need to build this up to 3 minutes. If your ankles are very tight you may need a small roll (a towel) under them, as the initial stretch can be quite intense! Enjoy. Slowly build up your time and tolerance. In the early stages, it’s just about getting used to it.
A big welcome to your Plantar Fascia. An unknown part of your foot, that, so it seems, you don’t have to worry about.
It will do whatever the hell it does for years, then one morning, in some unlucky people, it creates almost crippling heel pain.
First thing in the morning, upon getting out of bed, you’ll be in so much pain that even hopping across your bedroom floor is something you’ll dread. Even contemplating allowing your heel to touch the floor makes many want to throw up in their own mouths.
It’s not all bad. Just give it 5 or 10 minutes of hobbling around and you can begin to limp with a bit of dignity. Welcome to the party you now have plantar fasciitis. It often self cures, in anything from 6 weeks to TWO YEARS.
There are two positive sides to the condition:
1) You’ll meet lots of people online searching for a cure. So it’s like an agony based Tinder.
2) you’ll meet lots of dodgy therapists trying to part you from your money for quack cures. If you spot them, it’s fun to watch. If you cannot see a quack coming, its a bit expensive.
So some back ground, according to the BMJ plantar Fasciitis copy has the reputation of being “a trivial condition”. Clinically “benign and self limiting”. So, if you are limping around your bedroom, screaming with pain, wondering how you can get to the loo, don’t worry, its “benign and self limiting”.
Pull yourself together. Its not cancer
So who gets it?
Middle aged and older people. In some research I undertook, the age spread was thus
Athletes and active people
In my research, these were the activities being undertaken prior to Plantar fasciitis developing
Those with a reduced range of ankle dorsiflexion. I’ll publish my results soon, so do join the mailing list
“sit with one leg crossed over the other, and stretch the arch of the foot by taking one hand and pulling the toes back toward the shin for a count of 10. The exercise must be repeated 10 times, and performed at least three times a day, including before taking the first step in the morning and before standing after a prolonged period of sitting”. Thanks to Benedict DiGiovanni and Nawoczenski,
Most foot issues (not only plantar fasciitis, but the nasty achilles tendonitis) benefit from a better range of ankle flexion and pliable calf muscles. This daily stretch is also a must.
however, Crawford F, Thomson C. Interventions for treating plantar heel pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2003; (3) found limited evidence to support the use of night splints to treat plantar fasciitis sufferers who had experienced pain for greater than 6 months. They found that patients treated with custom made splints improved but those with premade or ‘off the shelf’ splints did not.
INSOLES: In my humble opinion, buying and wearing flatter shoes often causes Plantar fasciitis . This is often combined with the whole “go barefoot” rebellion. It’s based on the “well, its more natural, innit” concept and totally, totally fails to take into account the fact that you have worn heeled, and supported shoes for the last 20-30 years!
There are loads of fantastic stretches for your glutes ( your bottom muscles) . These are seen as the biggest, strongest muscle the body has, and is the one that really powers most human movement.
It’s crucial to build a supple muscle . Today, I’m just getting you used to this”easy” lie on your back stretch. Simply cross one leg over the over in a figure of 4 shape and pull the “4” towards you (see above). You’ll feel a great stretch.
If that doesn’t work for you, isolate the core of this moves by grabbing your leg and ankle so you can see what you have to do to get the stretch to work. Focus on pulling the knee up towards your chest, with a pull across your body (see below).
Having great flexible shoulders can make your day to day life much easier and improve your posture, as well as your gymnastics!
Basically, can you make you hands meet behind your back? If so, you are well on the way to some really useful shoulders, if not, this is your first port of call. Develop your shoulders individually, both the reaching down and the stretching up parts.
Work on these sub-stretches, with some other drills we will show you, and your shoulders, too, will become lovely.
No modern discussion of flexibility, trigger points or pain is complete without talking about fascia.
I was introduced to fascia by Julian Baker of the Bowen technique during some guided dissection sessions back in 2012 ( which means I have dissected corpses as part of my studies).
Its the “sort of fatty stuff directly under your skin
Years ago this “stuff was simply cut away by laboratory assistants so you could see the actual muscles.
It’s only now that people see this as a new communication highway for our endocrine, circulatory, or nervous systems.
Today much “tightness” is attributed to dysfunction in the fascia. Although this is far from proven it’s useful working hypothesis that makes us focus on trigger points. They are “a hyper irritable locus with a taut band of skeletal muscle, located in the muscular tissue and/or its associated fascia.”
Sometimes called knots, trigger points can be quite painful, will cause stiffness and weakness of the affected muscle, and restrict the muscle’s full range of motion.
Fascia can also stick to muscles in what Gill calls “fuzz” ( if you cannot pick the skin off your muscle, its arguably adhered and interrupting muscle function, reducing range of motion
When poking around your body, you can often find what needs attention if
1. You press on the skin, and its super painful with pressure
2. you cannot pick the skin away from the muscle. This should glide, not stick
3. You feel special tension in an area when you stretch
This is sorted by, being bothered enough to do something about it. Practically that means a mix, but consistent mix , of gentle (and not so gentle) massage, skin rolling and pressure applied by your fingers, objects, cupping, or better still someone else.
This stuff goes under the heading of Myofascial Release.
It’s uncomfortable which is why few people use it or do it. Sort of like flexibility. You have to get used to that weird discomfort.
The problem is that medically, no one wants to be a muscle doctor. So it’s the orphan organ.
If you have enough flexibility to squat, why do you need more. Crucially, if you cannot squat well because of flexibility who cares. Most lift the weight anyway, and if they screw their back who cares!
Stretching is uncomfortable, boring, the evidence is very conflicted and many charlatans insist that flexibility is a “star gate” to spiritual well being and enlightenment. This obviously puts any right mind individual off stretching.
The bigger your flexibility tool kit, the better your flexibility training will go. So, it was fun to come across “Effect of Cupping Therapy on Range of Motion, Pain Threshold, and Muscle Activity of the Hamstring Muscle Compared to Passive Stretching” It’s a fascinating read.
Kim et al, set out to review the effects of cupping on flexibility. The conclusion was that cupping therapy has a positive effect on flexibility equal to passive stretching. Allegedly more convenient and easier to work on patients than passive stretching. Therefore, cupping therapy should be considered as another option to treat range of motion issues.
They tested this protocol: “Cupping therapy was applied to the hamstring muscle for 5 minutes in the cupping therapy group. The passive stretching group was treated with a passive stretching for 10 seconds and repeated 9 times”
This is the same result that Lacross, 2014 found. Cupping therapy may induce a change in flexibility (equal to passive stretching). Maybe cupping actually gets into the tissues! This depth of effect , allegedly, increases the neurophysiological activity at the level of nociceptors, the spinal cord, and other nerves, and ultimately leads to significant relaxation (Musial et al., 2013). Cupping has also been found to affect the body up to four inches into the tissues (Hanan and Eman, 2013).
So, yes to cupping. Its fairly cheap, quite safe and a good DIY thing if you make sure you are suitable for this treatment. Bound to be good for facebook and instagram photos. Get a cheapie set for £35
A great starting stretch, as, in simple terms, all you have to do is to plonk yourself down on the floor (bed, bench, loo) put the soles of your feet together, grab them, and lean forward from the hips.
Simply, pull your elbows to the floor, or lean form the hips to build the stretch which you’ll feel on the inside of your upper legs.
You’ll find that once you have held a stretch, it starts to ease off as the body gets used to it. This could be an opportunity to improve the stretch by pulling or maybe pushing your knees to the floor, or leaning further forward from your hips.
If you train in a leisure centre, you’ll be told to do this for 10 seconds. However, the modern evidence is that stretches need to be held (or accumulated) for up to 2 minutes and beyond. Start off gently and build time time in the stretch sensibly.
We will show you lots of variations to this stretch.