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.
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.
Do you need to be more flexible? How flexible are you? What are your flexibility targets? It’s interesting ploughing through the flexibility literature looking for effective and reliable flexibility standards.
These following two photos are from the Men’s Gymnastics Coaching Manual and they give an “interesting” guide as to the possible levels of flexibility that would be gymnasts may need. Im not sure to what extent it should guide normal people, but, it’s an interesting, if depressing, place to start answering the question of ” how flexible” do you need to be.
The move that most people hate is the straddle. Some call this the middle split, others the side splits, others, names that cannot be published.
It is one of the key positions in gymnastics (along with others).
Just as a test, Im going to trial several types of Straddle development .
Before I start, for a matter of record on the floor with my legs wide apart , my straddle angle was 145 ( 31st January 2014)
35 Degrees to go.
The 1st thing I did was to lie on the floor with my bottom against the wall and let my legs open. After 2 sets of 30 seconds, I re-measured the angle and it was 160.
For the next 30 days , Im going to do 3 x floor holds of 1 minute trying to keep my heels down and edging my hips forward, and 3 sets of wall straddle. Static stretching (like this) is very unpopular in therapy circles.
so over the next 3 weeks, I laid on the floor, with my bum against the wall, and pulled my legs down.
On the 18th of February , after warming up and doing several 3 step run ups to a front tuck, my adductor popped. The damage was deep into its attachment to my pelvis. It was so painful that it took 6 days for the bruising to appear. Im still hobbling
So, stretching, especially if you are old, needs to be gentle…..