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Resisting stretch


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OK, I have a question about stretching that has been confusing me lately.


Is increasing RANGE of stretch the same as training out the muscle's tendency to resist the stretch? I feel like my hamstrings are getting longer and I have more range of movement, but the knee straightening isn't as "easy" as I'd like it. With pied dans la main, would doing repeated ronde de jambe movements help? Any ideas? I already do a lot of stuff where I flex the muscle really hard against my hands or something, then relax and stretch it. There's a fancy name for this type of stretch that I forgot. It's given me more flexibility, but not the sort of easy free leg that I want. Are there different points along the hamstring muscles which need to be trained independently? I feel like I'm getting a lot of range...I can do a full spilt front back, but the resistance I get when I want to straighten my knee isn't getting easier. It's almost like the bottom of the hamstrings like to hold on for dear life. I can straighten my leg, but there's some fighting there.... and No Way is it going up in a developpe when gravity enters the equation.


I hope that's not too confusing. I'm really tired :rolleyes:

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Sorry, lampwick, but I'm totally confused. :rolleyes:

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I'm confused too. :blink:


Can you describe which position(s) or movement(s) you're trying to improve through stretching the hamstring?

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Guest Tiger

I think that I understand what lampwick is asking. I would say that the passive range of a stretch is no indication of how much resistance you feel when doing the stretch. To improve this, you need to do more movements that use maximum flexibility. One example would be to developpe, then use your hand to raise the leg higher, then try to lower the leg as slowly as possible. It sounds like you have done a lot of PNF stretches for your hamstrings. This is good for developing passive range, but you must move through that range with strength and control if you want to be able to use it.


As for the knee straightening, take a close look at your calves. This is an ongoing battle for me. All the time in releve tightens up the calves, and then we spend all our stretching time on hamstrings. After a while, the calves can stay tensed all day long. My belief is that this is not overcome by hard passive or PNF stretching of the calves. That causes further tension and lactic acid buildup. Instead, I believe that best solution is to increase the frequency of stretching the calves. You can still do some more serious stretching after class, but light calf stretches throughout the day can work wonders. This goes for all types of stretches, but especially for calves.

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Demi plie stretches the calf muscles. However, I was under the impression that the quadriceps and hamstrings have to do with straightening the leg, not the calf.


PNF stretching is certainly effective. However, it is well known that serious injury can EASILY occur through improper PNF stretching technique. For this reason, I never advocate PNF stretching outside of the normally accepted ballet exercises, PERFORMED IN THE CONTEXT OF A BALLET CLASS. I would certainly never suggest over the Internet that someone engage in PNF stretching unsupervised.


Passive stretching techniques are generally considered to be safe, and they are also effective. They may take longer than the 2 months required to achieve full flexibility with PNF stretching --- but it takes a lot longer than that to develop the strength and skill needed for ballet anyway.


My guess is that neither flexibility nor strength is the major factor limiting the height of your extension. I would work on other more fundamental things --- placement, efficiency of movement, isolation, integration, etc --- and observe the extension gradualling getting higher over time, in a natural way.


Following is "Everything You Wanted to Know about Stretching":


In the sections on Isometric and PNF stretching, not how many times the word "risk" and "risky" is used.

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Guest Tiger

Yes, demi plie stretches the calf muscles, and that is why we do so many of them in class. But, they stretch lower on the calf, closer to the achillies tendon. I am suggesting that the opposite (higher) end of the calf can be a factor in straightening the leg. You can't stretch the upper part of the calves (near the tendon that inserts just below the knee) if the knees are bent (as they are in demi plie). I saw another thread recently about straightening the legs which had a lot of good suggestions about this. This was just another idea to consider which wasn't previously mentioned.

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can you describe which position(s) or movement(s) you're trying to improve through stretching the hamstring?


Lots. Developpe, grands battements, grands ronde de jambes, leaps, etc....



OK. What I'm confused about is why the muscles don't release easily in a stretch. I can do a pied dans la main,but there's a point where it's almost straight where there's some resistance to the straightening. I can straighten it all the way, so why the resistance? Why won't it easily open? It seems like the muscles are flexible enough...they just fight me at the point where it's almost straight.


I see some people stretch and the leg just looks like it's opening up easily and I don't know why mine won't do this. My leg goes just as high, but it doesn't look like it opens up as easily. I have to fight for it a bit.


I was just wondering if this is a different type of flexibility.

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Are these positions to the front, side or back?

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Front and side mostly, but arabesque penchee hits a wall as well because of tightness in the standing leg hamstrings.


I think Tiger expressed my conundrum. I'm going to re-phrase as a question.


[iS] the passive range of a stretch [ANY] indication of how much resistance you feel when doing the stretch?


Two people, Sally and Molly, can do a full split front back. Sally feels more stretch in her hamstring when she does the split, but manages without too much discomfort. Molly plunks right down. Is Molly more flexible?


Do you need strength to overcome the resistance in the muscle, say in arabeque penchee, or do you build less resistance to the stretch in the muscle? Or both?

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What an interesting question :lol: I don't know enough about the issue, but I've been thinking about stretching esp. in ballet class lately.


I go to classes with a friend who has done gymnastics as a child and has an impressive range of motion in most directions. I'd probably call her flexible because of that. However, when we stretch in class, it seems that her muscles don't stretch as pleasantly and nicely in the stretches we do. Instead, she stretches easily up to a point and then each additional inch has to be fought for. My range of motion is pitiful in comparison, but the "end-feel" of the stretches is nice and well, stretchy.


The Molly-style flexibility, easy and loose, would probably be nice to have... but it feels easier to *improve* flexibility when you are working against resistance. When flexibility is more of a problem than strength, it feels as if improving the passive stretch in hamstrings, say, directly improves extension as well. Of course, most of us also need to improve strength to hold that extension at what would be stretch-wise comfortable height, and the extension never (?) reaches the extent of passive stretch.


Like Tiger said, it may also pay off to stretch the surrounding muscles: the gastrocnemius, gluteals, the adductors and the tensor fascia latae... my PT told me to stretch the gluteals carefully and often so that the hip flexors won't have to work as hard to extend the leg. Loosening the ischial nerve within its sheath (?) was also recommended to me -- apparently this will also make unfolding the leg easier. Dunno enough about the physiological side of this, anyway, but I'd recommend a visit to dance-oriented PT to anyone interested in stretching as efficiently as possible... it's helped me a lot.


Sorry for the rambling :innocent: I hope someone more knowledgeable will correct me on the facts, too.

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