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Washer Woman, or how tight are your hamstrings?

I never thought that I would say this: I am OBSESSED with the #wundachair these days. Obsessed!!! Self practice on this marvelous apparatus two days in a row. Whoami? 3. #washerwoman or #hamstring1 is not an exercise I've always enjoyed. Truthfully, I loathed it, as I did the rest of the chair.


I've never been into sports or physical activity. I used to skip out of PE as much, as I possibly could. My parents tried, but they never forced my to sports, until I discovered fencing and later on golf. Yes, one might argue golf is not a sport. I digress. When Pilates found me, I was running a couple of times a week to keep my weight gain at bay, newly living in the country of Twinkies and Oreos. I was hooked immediately. I thought it was the best thing, right after Potato bread (Yes, I did eat that as well).

Jumping ahead:

During teacher training I felt like an alien because everyone was hypermobile and I couldn't touch my toes. Every exercise with an emphasis and need for long legs, me, not so much... For years I've been fighting with my hamstrings. Unsuccessfully. I also fought with other muscles, but I'll talk about that another time. Well, let's say, I made some small gains over the years but nothing really made a difference until I started to change my approach.


I don't like the terminology of hamstring 1 anymore. Hamstring 1 was sold to me as a hamstring stretch, but isn't it so much more, and when do we finally #stopstretching our poor hammies and start engaging muscles that would help facilitate the elongation intelligently?!?! I am surprised that in the movement industry I see almost a "tight shaming" happening. "What, that's all you've got?", "Oh, you are so tight..." (accompanied with a furrowed brow). Can we please stop making clients feel powerless over their own bodies? And who said that flexibility is such an asset? My teacher Lesley always said: "Containment contentment" and I am sure it was Irene Dowd who said "flexibility is a liability" and Brent Anderson drilled in our heads: "Injury happens in the end range of the muscle".

What is flexibility?

First we should distinguish between mobility and flexibility. I briefly spoke about hyper mobility above, really meaning ligamentous laxity. Tendons and ligaments are longer than they should be because of your genetic makeup, injuries, or years of working on your flexibility. Cue the ballet dancers, gymnasts, yogis... Ligaments stabilize joints, tendons connect muscles to bones. Both are made of collagen and have a very small range of movement. They should be taught, as a matter of fact. These long ligaments allow you to extend your elbows or knees beyond the "safer" range of motion. After all being gumby does not have many advantages. Too much ROM or mobility creates issues for stability and force production. Let's say you play tennis for 20 years with your hyperextended elbow. Every time you hit the ball, the force of the impact will most likely not be absorbed by your body, but guess what, your.... elbow.

How can we stop this?

First of all, know if you're hyper mobile. If you straighten your elbow and your forearm (way) behind your upper arm, or your knees are (way) behind your hip when you stand up straight, if your knees can touch the floor when you sit in an L-sit coupled with your heels lifting off, you ARE. Now it takes a considerable amount of awareness to know if and when you are hyperextended, especially while you're exercising. Now add the usual "faster, faster, faster" of the Cross fitter generation on top of it and you are not in control anymore. You're throwing your bones around and your muscles are going along for the ride, until something tears. That would be the worst case scenario, but what about a steady stretching practice? I've met so many yogis, for example, over the past years that always complain about their tightness and how they have to "go to yoga" because they are "so tight". Well, after 10 years of bikram, when do you see an improvement? I don't mean to pick on yoga, it's just such an easy example.

Tight people do pilates, flexible people do yoga

I am teasing... Don't we all pick what we like, especially if we spend our precious free time with it. If you are tight, chances are very high, that you don't seek out the yoga class that puts your body for 1.5hrs through hell. At least not for a long time. Bendy people love to do bendy things... Tight people... run... Or are they tight because they run...?

Anyway, back to the subject. How do we stop abusing our joints, cause muscles to be tight and unresponsive. A tight muscle (the feeling of tightness) is your muscle holding for dear life.

Cue: The nervous system

I also call it Mission Control. You don't f**k with it. It governs you, it keeps you out of trouble and does so by evaluating "am I safe, or should I run?" 24-7. Also called fight or flight. If all is well, we don't have to tighten muscles, we can just hang out. Another thing MC hates is: guess what, too much mobility. Ever sprained an ankle? That's a long ligament at its best. Not super functional. Now stretching your joints mindlessly will most likely result in some form of muscle elongation but also elongate tendons and ligaments. Unlike muscles the latter don't recoil. Stretch too much and they tear. That's why you most likely sprain the same ankle over the course of your life. The support is compromised and if your muscles are not strong and at the ready to support your joint, the next sprain is bound to happen. If you ever had surgery, let's say MCL/ ACL... chances are your hamstrings are creating a beautiful bandage to help stabilize the knee, at least until you got stronger around the joint and Mission Control gives the green light. Muscles are tight for a reason, not because you are inferior.

Now really, how can we stop this?

  1. Awareness.

  2. Better work. Becoming more mindful and responsive with our body work.

  3. Dial back the intensity.

  4. Stop stretching. Stop the non functional stretch, elongate and tone with strength in mind.

  5. Work SMARTER, engage the stretch, focus in lengthening with load and engagement

Now I know better... the stronger my quads, glutes, obliques and iliacus get, the more ROM am I getting. Still focusing on not hyperextending my knees like it's no ones business. It's a process but getting in touch with my iliacus was a game changer! Muscles hate being stretched, so why waste your time? It's all up to the nervous system anyway. Where is your nervous system holding you back? 💪🏼🦄😊💕 #pilateschair #pilates #stretchthroughstrength#risepilatessantafe #risepilates #strongwomen #strength #wellness#wholebodyhealth #fitfam #fitspo #fitlife #fitness #fitgirl#fitnessmotivation #fitnessinspiration #fitstagram #fitnessjourney#ittakestime #keeplearning #keepevolving #changeyourmind#changeyourlife

If you still have doubts about this theory, I am not alone and there are so many ore voices in the industry, saying the same thing...


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