Categorized as: REST AND RECOVERY

The Benefits of Hamstring Flexibility and Pike Compression

Most adults are so inflexible in their hamstrings that they cannot even touch their toes. This is a serious deficiency, and one that is limiting them in a wide variety of movements. Moreover, the gymnastic pike position requires active compression of the hips, and a poor pike position will make press handstands, mannas, and many tumbling drills much harder to achieve.

First, the term “hamstrings” actually refers to a family of three distinct muscles. These muscles cross both the hip and knee joint, and thus are involved in both hip extension (“opening” the angle of the hip) as well as knee flexion (“closing” the angle of the knee). Problems arise when, due to a culture of sedentary living and lack of exercise, many adults move their hips through a full range of motion so infrequently that their hamstrings become excessively inflexible and tight.

Consider, for instance, a hanging leg lift. This is a basic beginner progression on the way towards L-sits and Mannas in the GymnasticBodies Foundation Series. When many trainees first attempt hanging leg lifts, they find they can barely lift their legs at all! Now this problem is two-fold: their anterior (front of the body) core muscles are too weak, and their posterior (back of the body) leg muscles and fascia are too tight. Fortunately, the GB courses have plenty of exercises and stretches to take care of both issues. Read More…

Sleep More For Fat Loss

In the world of fitness, everyone wants to know what to eat, and what to do in order to reach their goals. Let’s face it, the majority of people in the fitness world are interested in one thing, losing weight and looking good. Okay, maybe two things haha.

A recent topic of discussion amongst our members has been, “Did you see that article that said that not sleeping can lead to weight gain?” Let’s summarize this concept in a few points.

1) When you do not sleep, you are low on energy and when you are low on energy, your body begins looking for glucose (aka sugar) for energy to help you through the grueling tasks during your day. In order to get more glucose, you must eat more glucose, or your body will make it via gluconeogenesis. Gluconeogenesis is where the body will generate glucose from certain non-carbohydrate carbon substrates, usually protein, fat, or muscle, in search of glucose to produce energy.

2) In addition to searching for energy, your cortisol (stress hormone) is often high when striving to function on little sleep. Excess cortisol directly contributes to excess belly fat.

3) As a result, your body is looking to boost insulin to help bring down cortisol since the two oppose each other. As we all may know by now, sugar of course boosts insulin. Read More…

4 Hip Flexor Stretches to Relieve Tight Hips

The most common complaint we hear from our members is “my hips are so tight.” The response is always, “Here, try this hip flexor stretch.”

Why are everyone’s hips so tight?

Take a step back and think about where you spend most of your day. If you’re a young athlete, you probably spend most of your time at school or maybe work or practice and  even a little time at home, if you’re lucky. Now think about what position your body is in during those periods. I would bet that you spend most of your day sitting down. You may walk to class or run in practice, but the majority of your day is spent in a seated position.

So, who cares right? Wrong. Everyone has seen that little old man walking with a cane, hunched over almost to the point of staring at the ground. Do you think he always walked like that? I’d bet you he didn’t. Maybe he had an injury that never healed properly, or maybe after spending years and years in a similar position, his body became tighter and tighter until eventually he ended up bent over.

Repetitive motions over time can change the positioning of your body.

How?

When a muscle contracts, it shortens. Take the biceps for example. Without getting too technical, the biceps are attached at the forearm and shoulder. When your biceps contract, they shorten and bring those two points closer together. When you rest, the muscle returns to its normal length, and the two points move farther away. Constantly contracting your biceps over a long period of time would cause them to get shorter, even at rest.

Why Are My Hips Tight?

Apply the above concept to your hips. When you sit, your hips are in a “flexed” position. Therefore, the muscles that flex your hips are in a shortened state. You probably spend at least a third of your day sitting down. Think about how much time those hip flexor muscles stay shortened. A lot. Over time, they become tighter and tighter until you look like the old man in the picture. So unless you want to look like that, perform the stretches shown below. Read More…

Hamstring Flexibility – 6 Tips to Loosen Tight Hamstrings

There’s a few factors that contribute to a lack of hamstring flexibility, such as:

  • Truly tight hamstrings
  • Prior injuries
  • Decreased back/pelvis mobility
  • Overwork
  • Improper training

Let’s take a look at some of these factors and some strategies you can employ to improve your hamstring flexibility.

What Causes Tight Hamstrings and How to Fix Them

First of all, are your hamstrings really the problem?


For example, your calves (gastrocnemius muscles) cross the knee joint, so restrictions there can make keeping your knees straight harder than it should be.
This may seem silly or obvious, but just because you can’t touch your toes doesn’t necessarily mean your hamstrings are to blame for your limited range of motion. There can be quite a few structures in your “posterior chain” that are limiting your movement (especially if you have a job that requires you to sit or drive for long periods of time).

  • Also, the connections from your deep hip muscles (glutes, piriformis, gemelli, etc.) can affect the ease in which your pelvis tilts, thus affecting how you bend forward at the hip.
  • Another factor could be the tightness of the fascial interconnections between your muscle groups (picture this as your muscles being “stuck together,” and thus they don’t slide freely beside each other).
  • Then there’s joint restrictions at your lower back and pelvis, which can cause increased tension throughout your hips and legs. With these, people often feel much more freedom in their motion after doing exercises that limber up the spine (without stretching their legs much at all). Read More…

Saddle Yoga Pose

Benefits:

  • A deep opening in the sacral-lumbar arch
  • Also stretches hips flexors and quadriceps
  • Excellent for athletes and people who do a lot of standing or walking [1]
  • Stimulates the thyroid if the neck is dropped back
  • If the foot is, or the feet are, beside the hips, this becomes a good internal rotation of the hip.

Contra-indications:

  • If you have a bad back or tight sacroiliac (SI) joints
  • Knees can be tested too much here
  • Ankles can protest
  • Any sharp or burning pain here, you must come out!

Getting Into the Pose:

  • There are several options for coming into this pose. Start with simply sitting on the heels and notice how this feels. If there’s pain in the knees, skip this one. If your ankles are complaining, try a blanket under them or skip the pose. Lean back on your hands, creating a little arch to the lower back. Check in with how this feels. This may be it for you today! If you can go further, come down onto your elbows.
Alternatives & Options:

  • If this is too deep for the lower back, do the Sphinx pose.
  • You can also straighten one leg for Half Saddle. You can bend the straight leg and place the foot on the floor (note pictures). A deep variation is to hug the top knee toward the chest. That can get quite juicy. Read More…

WHAT MEDITATION AND MINDFULNESS HAVE TO DO WITH MENTAL TOUGHNESS

There is a tendency in the world of sports to be “tough” and put on a brave face no matter what, to push yourself through obstacles with force, and to keep yourself moving because the alternative of slowing down might mean that you’re “falling behind.” But the problem with that full-speed-ahead approach is that it’s bound to burn you out in the long run, and it’s not going to help you mature as an athlete.

Real Mental Toughness requires slowing down both physically and mentally.

Many of the techniques I teach, such as controlling your eyes and ears, staying focused in the NOW, and emphasizing the process over the outcome are a unique way of applying the concept of mindfulness to sports. But if you really want to grow as an athlete it’s helpful to understand the broader definition of mindfulness and apply it to life both on and off the field so that you can benefit in multiple ways.

So what is mindfulness?

If you’ve ever time-traveled in your head and got distracted with thoughts while your body was doing something on autopilot then that’s a good example of what mindfulness is NOT, and what it aims to address. When “the lights are on but nobody’s home” so to speak, you are not doing whatever it is you’re doing to your full capacity.

If you’re in practice and thinking about how you really need to win the next game, how embarrassed you are about some mistake you made in the past, or how you’re failing chemistry then your concentration will suffer because your body and mind are in two separate places. Mindfulness helps bring the two back together so that you have more focus, clarity, and are able to perform better. Read More…