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The straddle is a stretch commonly used in yoga, but it's also used by athletes to improve the flexibility in their hips, back and legs. The activity does stretch the hamstrings, but it can be tweaked slightly to make it more effective at targeting the hamstrings. Avoid bouncing to try and stretch farther when doing the straddle stretch, as jerking movements aren't effective at improving flexibility and can cause muscle strains.
The straddle stretches primarily a group of muscles at your inner thighs, including your adductor brevis, adductor longus, adductor magnus, pectineus and gracilis. In addition, as you lean forward, you stretch your erector spinae muscle in your lower back. The straddle position does elongate your hamstrings at the back of your upper thighs slightly and therefore does stretch them.
To correctly perform the straddle stretch, sit on the floor or an exercise mat with your legs extended and held out into a V-position. Sit tall so that your back and neck are straight and elongated, and set your hands on the floor between your legs. Keep your back and knees straight and your toes pointed upward throughout the entire stretch. Contract your abs to protect your spine and then bend forward at the waist, sliding your hands forward and away from you. Continue down as far as you can until you feel the stretch at your inner thighs, hamstrings and lower back, and then hold that position for about 30 seconds. Slowly come back up to an upright seated position and then lower into your next repetition.
Targeting the Hamstrings
While straddles do elongate the hamstrings, you'll feel most of the pull at your inner thighs and lower back. To more efficiently stretch the hamstrings, bring your legs in together so that they're touching each other. While keeping your back straight, bend forward at the waist and slide your hands on the floor just outside your legs. Continue down as far as you comfortably can and then hold that position for about 30 seconds.
A commonly used alternate version of the straddle stretch is the side straddle. The version of the stretch will more efficiently target the hamstrings, while also stretching the obliques and lower back. From the seated V-position, lift your arms out to your sides so that your elbows are bent to 90 degrees and your fingers point to the ceiling. Contract your abs and then bend sideways to one direction, dropping your shoulder toward your thigh. Continue down until you feel a stretch, and then hold the position for about 30 seconds and come back up and tilt in the other direction,