By Coach KB

(If you are new to the POINT Gym and Kitchen blog and want to learn what the Movement Minute Challenge is all about, check out the introductory post here.)

Another MM about stretching... What in the heck is it about stretching?!! Everyone is obsessed with the notion that if they feel “tight” in an area they should “stretch” it. Tight hips... tight shoulders... tight hamstrings… and the inevitable question of the best stretch for that particular body part. Here are two more experts that say that stretching (flexibility/mobility/range of motion) is not about length; it’s about strength! Today I will briefly discuss Anne Tierney and Steve Sierra’s Ki-Hara Resistance Stretching method (Ki-Hara defined below), which focuses on eccentric training to balance muscle groups.

It is pretty common knowledge (among body-nerds) that muscle imbalances cause a lot of the sensation of “tightness.” In the Ki-Hara method the muscles are being simultaneously lengthened and contracted (eccentric strength training). The idea is that, instead of relaxing into a stretch, you contract your muscle so you develop strength through that range and you don’t over-stretch the connective tissue. The coolest piece I got from this interview was the illustration that, if you have the “flexibility” to get into the splits, for example, but not the strength to fire your muscles at their end-ranges enough to get out of the splits the same way you got into them, then you actually have a damaged muscle that isn’t working properly. Similarly, if you can do a negative (eccentric) pull-up (starting at the top and lowering down) but not a regular pull-up, there is an imbalance.

How do I eccentrically strengthen my muscles during stretching? Great question! The answer is this week’s Movement Minute. Here are three short videos on how to use the Ki-Hara method stretch/strengthen our favorite… the hamstrings! Take at least one minute per day this week to go through each.

Medial Hamstring
Central Hamstring
Lateral Hamstring

*This Movement Minute was inspired by Episode 22 of the Liberated Body podcast.

Ki: the circulating life energy that in Chinese philosophy is thought to be inherent in all things

Hara: The vital centre of the self, the focus of existence. The hara designates the part of the lower abdomen and pelvis region located one and a half inch below the navel and one and a half inches inward toward the spine. This point also happens to be the body’s central axis (centre of gravity / balancing point). Energy (chi/ki/prana) is stored in the hara where it is heated before spreading throughout the body - hence a warm glowing feeling.