Leg Circles Part 3 - Using Reciprocal Inhibition To Assist
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
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.
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.
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