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
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 ElasticSteel.com).
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
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
- 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
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