By Bill Bolster / October 15, 2016
Superficial Back Line Lengthening:
Anatomy is not as simple as origin and insertion. I consistently hear that “this muscle” is the reason for your hip instability, or “that muscle” is the reason you have back pain. This shows a gross misinterpretation of our anatomy. Although textbooks teach us anatomy from an origin and insertion approach, and even a “functional” approach (what each muscle does throughout certain daily moves), this is still a very isolationist understanding. Our tissues don’t work that way at all. There is a consistent flow from one tissue to another, anatomists have shown us that.
With that being said, this video demonstrates a way to lengthen one of the posterior myofascial lines (superficial back line). An important meridian that runs from the plantar fascia, up the posterior aspect of the body, and ends on the scalp. Back pain and discomfort, is far more likely a result of increased tension along this entire line. More tension causes increased pressure and abnormal force distribution into the joints along this line, including the spine, causing discomfort. Bending over at the waist and feeling “pressure” or “excessive tightness” in the low back, shows there is dysfunction along this chain.
In the video:
I flex forward until I feel the first sign of tension in the hamstrings and/or calves. At that point I’m actively flexing each thigh for roughly 5-10 seconds. I then flex forward again until I find a new end range of motion and repeat. The most important aspect of this exercise is the active hip flexion (lifting of the leg). The amount of available hip flexion during any activity is directly related to the ability of the hamstrings to lengthen. You will likely get to a point in which you can no longer lift your leg off the ground, thats ok. This gives you insight into where your limitations are.
In order to make long lasting change to our bodies, we have to remodel more than just the tissue.
Often overlooked, the nervous system is critical to tissue length, and must adapt. This exercise will help that.
Static stretching should no longer be the go-to method for better movement, doing little for joint position nor the nervous system. The newly acquired (meaningless) flexibility is unlikely to carry over to our daily activities.
This exercise shouldn’t be looked upon as a warm-up, as it can be taxing on the nervous system. Utilize these exercises on their own, or towards the end of a workout, twice a week.
P.S. Cramping in the thighs and hip flexors is normal. Enjoy!