Monday, April 28, 2003 - Physiology
Muscle Lengthening Exercises (Part 3 of 6)

- By: Ross McKinnon, PT

The tests and exercises described should be performed with the help of a physiotherapist to achieve maximal benefit. 

ANTERIOR THIGH MUSCLES LENGTHENING
Each muscle lengthening exercise should be performed 3x30 seconds twice daily.  Each stretch should be held to the point of minimal to moderate tension without discomfort. The athlete would assume the above mentioned testing position.  The athlete is then asked to recruit the inner unit stability muscles while performing the stretch.  The athlete can focus on different muscle group by bending the knee, adducting the thigh or lowering the leg to the floor.  In this example the right leg is being stretched.

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HAMSTRING LENGTHENING
The athlete would assume the above mentioned testing position.  The athlete is then asked to recruit the inner unit stability muscles while performing the stretch.  The athlete can then contact the quadriceps to perform a stretch or utilize a doorframe for a static stretch.  It is important that the lumbar spine does not flatten or rotate during the stretch.
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PIRIFORMIS
The athlete would position their leg as in the test position above using their arms.  The athlete would then attempt to stretch their opposite extremity away from their body.  This will laterally tilt the pelvis and provide a stretch to the piriformis muscle.

ADDUCTORS
The athlete would position themselves as per the testing procedure.  The athlete would then stabilize through the inner unit recruitment focusing on the lateral abdominals and lower the leg to the side.  A stretch should be felt in the inner thigh if tight.  The athlete should hold the stretch for 30 seconds 3 times.
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RECTUS ABDOMINUS
The athlete would position themselves as per the testing procedure.  The athlete should then fully exhale; the athlete should then extend the spine to the point of restriction keeping the gluteal muscles contracted.  At the point of maximal spinal extension the athlete is instructed to breathe slowly and deeply expanding the lower ribs.  The athlete will complete slow breathe cycles for 30 seconds for 3 repetitions.  Remember to extend through the entire spine and not just the lower lumbar spine.
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GASTROC STRETCHES
The athlete should position themselves facing the wall.  The leg to be stretched is positioned behind the other leg.  The athlete must keep the foot to be stretched forward with the heel on the ground.  The athlete then ensures that the arch of their foot is maintained and leans forward at the ankle towards the wall.  If an athlete tends to overpronate then it is even more important for the athlete to maintain the arch of their foot at they will otherwise ‘give’ in the midfoot and arch.  The soleus muscle of the calf can also be stretched by slightly bending the knee of the calf to be stretched.

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WHOLE BODY STRETCHES
I have also included some general whole body stretches using a physiotherapy ball.  The idea with these stretched is to stretch the continuum of muscle and connective tissue of the kinetic chains.  These stretches should be performed gradually and gently for 30 seconds each repeated three times.

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Ross McKinnon is a former ski racer now working as a physiotherapist at Rutland Physical Therapy in Kelowna, BC. His interests include improving an athlete's performance through the use of specific exercise. For further questions he can be contacted at or at . Ross provides individual evaluations to help improve performance and prevent injury.

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