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Leg Circles Part 2– Stretching the Hip Muscles for Higher Kicks

By Paul Zaichik

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of articles that focus on the hip joint and its muscles. This article discusses the application of extended length conditioning as part of leg circle exercises. Part 1 introduced leg circle exercises that isolate and stretch the hip joint muscles to produce greater freedom of movement.

In this article we will continue the discussion of the leg circle, and its impact on the performance of the hip joint. As you already know, the leg circle is a great exercise to stabilize and strengthen the joint of the hip. At the same time diligent practice of this technique leads to flexibility and functional isolation of the hip articulation.

A great complementary exercise to the leg circle is the All-Around Hamstring Force. This exercise is an extended length conditioning exercise and is one of EasticSteel's primary exercises.

Taking the name of the technique literally, the All-Around Hamstring Force strengthens the hamstring muscles in their extended length. In other words this exercises develops the strength in the exact range where the resistance to stretching begins to interfere with flexibility gains. Increasing strength in extended range of the muscle length, allows the nervous system to allow for deeper stretch.

It's always nice to hear, "wow, I don't believe this," when athletes first try the All-Around Hamstring Force and other extended length conditioning exercises.

To perform this exercise, begin by placing the band around your foot or your heel (this is a wide rubber loop of material available from Lie down on your back and extend the leg straight up. Keep the end of the bands in your hands. You can bend the elbows (Pic.1.) or extend both arms over your head. Move your leg toward the floor, on the outside. (Pic.2) Lower the leg almost down to the floor, next to the other leg. (Pic.3) Bring the leg up and over the opposite thigh/hip. (Pic. 4) Try to move the leg in a fluid circle.

Perform this exercise 5-10 times, and repeat the movement in the opposite direction.

Now that you know how to do the leg circles and the All-Around Hamstring Force, ask yourself the following question: Am I one of those people who can't touch my toes with my legs straight?

If you are, then you may have an underlining difficulty in one of the following areas:

- Weakness in the abdominals and/or front of the hip muscles.

- Lack of strength/flexibility in one or more of the following: lower back, gluteus, hamstrings, and calves.

I encourage you to try the combination of the core/hip conditioning exercises and extended length exercise such as illustrated above, to break the state of helplessness and finally achieve what you have been longing for.

Part 3

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About the Author:

Paul Zaichik is the founder of the ElasticSteel method of athletic conditioning. Although martial arts training was not allowed in Eastern Europe when he was a child, Zaichik trained in everything he could get his hands on -- fencing, wrestling and boxing. When he later added gymnastics, dance and track and field, he realized that while most athletes were flexible, they could not do full splits or bring their feet above their heads. In comparison ninety nine percent of the gymnasts and dancers can sleep while having their legs in a full straddle. When Zaichik took up martial arts in 1990, his former training allowed him to throw 6 o’clock kicks and do full splits on demand. This led to the development of a system which utilized many Eastern European stretching and gymnastic techniques to meet the needs of the modern martial artist. Zaichik supplemented his experience by obtaining both an undergraduate and graduate degree in Exercise Science and Nutrition. His research and expertise led to the creation of a system of techniques known as ElasticSteel. His website is

To find more articles of interest, search on one of these keywords:

stretching the hip joints,hamstring stretches, developing high kicks, karate kicks, stretching, leg muscle stretching

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