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Leg Circles Part 3 - Using Reciprocal Inhibition To Assist Stretching

By Paul Zaichik

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of articles that focus on the hip joint and its muscles. This article discusses on a third exercise where you tense your quadriceps and hip flexors when doing leg circles in order to relax the hamstrings.Part 2 focused on 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.

This is the third exercise in the sequence. I call it the Elastic Exhale. Although not as fancy as the first two, the Elastic Exhale provides the body with a unique perception of how Reciprocal inhibition assists in stretching.

This technique is effective when a number of conditions are met. The most basic condition requires no significant support or opposition to the free movement as far as gravity is concerned. The other is associated with potential joint mobility. And the third has to do with the ability to hold the contraction of the muscle groups, while the antagonist can relax and stretch. If you are going to do all three techniques in a sequence, I would advice to start with the Leg Circles followed by the All-Around Hamstring Force, followed by the Elastic Exhale.

The execution of the latter requires no large movement. There is no assistance from the arms or the elastic band. Simply lift your straight leg up. Keep both hips as well as the small of the back in contact with the floor. Tense your abdominals.

As you inhale let your abdomen expend, as your naval raises toward the ceileng. Do not move the leg on the inhale. Pause for a comfortable amount of time. On the exhale, pull your naval down, toward the spine. As you are exhaling tense your quadriceps and hip flexors (front of the hips). By the principle of reciprocal inhibition, you hamstrings will relax and the stretch reflex will be inhibited. Repeat a few times on each side. With practice you will notice that you are able to flex the hip joint slightly while you exhale.

This reciprocal inhibition exercise will teach you how to control the stretch reflex, developing functional flexibility as a result.

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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

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

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