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Midline Stabilization Part 6: Hamstring Assessment by Kelly Starrett - CrossFit Journal

In ExPhysiology, Videos

February 17, 2009

Video Article

Midline stabilization is essential for effective functional movement. Kelly Starrett, of San Francisco CrossFit, explains the essential anatomy and physiology of it in this excerpt from his one day seminar at CrossFit Santa Cruz on November 9, 2008.

The midline is the entire spine, and its stability is dependent not just on the core, but also on all the prime movers of the body, including the hip, glutes, and hamstrings. Excessive tightness in any of the prime movers will affect the core muscles, often resulting in low back pain.

In this part 6, Kelly explains that the hamstring is a two joint muscle, and must be treated from both ends (knee and hip). He shows a few tools to assess hamstring length. A shortened hamstring is a brake on full range movement. Extending the length of the hamstring removes that brake and improves performance.

This is the sixth of a series from Kelly on the theory and practice of stabilizing the midline in functional movement.

5min 53sec

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28 Comments on “Midline Stabilization Part 6: Hamstring Assessment”


wrote …

So what should we do to lengthen our hamstrings?


wrote …

Which of the certifications is this lecture held at? If its not at one of them where can I find the Dates for the events with this lecture?


wrote …

More of this please.


Herm Blancaflor wrote …

Kelly, this is awesome stuff, boiled down for simpletons such as myself. I love the hamstring/hip flexor flexibility tests...easy and very indicative. From trainer to trainer, thank you.


wrote …

James, I am with you brotha! Where can we find dates and times for Kelly's Lectures? Very interesting stuff.


wrote …

This link is from the Wikipedia page on PNF stretching. It pretty much tells you everyone you could ever want to know :o about stretching and flexibility.

I have been doing the PNF type stretch on my hamstrings the last few days and I can already feel my hammys activating more!

Likewise in that I hope Kelly keeps submitting this kind of stuff to the journal.



wrote …

Great video, not just this one but the entire series with Kelly on midline stabilization. I especially like the visualization showing the impact of tight hamstrings on lumbar position in the bottom of a squat. I've always read about it, and understood it, but that visualization was really helpful.

Now to work on PNF not-stretching for my own tight hamstrings and hips.


wrote …

You don't lengthen your hamstrings, you move the contract-reflex. I'm guessing his talk about "contract-relax stretching" will be next. You can read about it in the article "Hamstrung" that he mentioned.


Thomas Stegelmann wrote …

Thanks - I just realized that I should be on his sitting on his bench. For this moths, it is all about stretching.


wrote …

Good info again, this is a great series of videos.


wrote …

Great info, much needed. Pointers on how an individual work on this by themselves would be appreciated.


wrote …

You guys should check out books on Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) used very extensively in athletics to increase active ranges of motion. All you need is an 8 foot piece of rope, you can stretch out by yourself. It is great as a cool down, very similar to PNF, but without the partner.


wrote …

Does Kelly Starrett do this seminar elsewhere or is this a part of the exercise phys cert???? He would be someone i'd like to sit in on!


wrote …

We've got some examples of contract-relax "stretching" coming. Hang tough.

The greater PNF model is a pretty serious means to facilitate better movement.
It was actually developed across the Bay in Vallejo of all things at the Kaiser hospital there where it still remains the center of instruction for the world.
Contract-Relax, Hold-Relax, Reciprocal Inhibition, Isometric shutdown stretching are all small pieces of the PNF model, much like saying the Thruster is Crossfit.
I was fortunate enough to choose a school that borrowed senior PNF instructor/therapists as our regular instructors, and to have spent a several days at the actual site in Vallejo treating people.

AIS is just reciprocal inhibition stretching repackaged and sold as a system. And it also works beautifully. AIS is modeled on the fact that contracting an agonist like the quad will inhibit the antagonist (hamstring). This was Janda's intention on his "psoas neutral" squeeze your glutes situp (Pavel too). It has been show not to work for the sit up but the same ideas do work for stretching. AIS/RI is very effective in small muscle groups like the shoulder complex. I personally think contract relax is more effective for the big muscles and is easier for that athlete to understand. And, it too can be done with a strap, by yourself.

Getting dogmatic about which model works best misses the point. We should have many tools to facilitate better mobility, performance, and recovery. And we should openly switch between them to elicit the best outcomes.

As for another seminar date? Glad to do it anytime/anywhere.

Thanks for your kind responses.



wrote …

Good commentary Kelly. I have used both with patients and athletes with success so I am with you on that, they both work. I just thought some people may be able to easily get some AIS info as well.


wrote …

Great work Kelly, To assist PNF, I would also recommend specific joint mobility work ala Z Health, to reset joint awareness. To target the hamstring look at talo-calcaneal mobility. Which means mobilise the Heel into inversion and eversion in a functional stance or position.


wrote …

Finally - this is the missing piece of my CF jigsaw. The metcons have transformed my capability for output. The weights have made me stronger. But I have always struggled with flexibility. Too often I've been held back in a WOD by tight hams and immobile shoulders. PLEASE, Kelly, build on this series. I am determined to go on and on for years to come and better my performance, but I have a horrible feeling that a lack of flexibility not only inhibits performance (which damages my ego), but is leading to a drip-drip degradation of form and causing wear-and-tear that will have lasting adverse effects. I would gladly sign up for a Flexibility / Mobility Cert BEFORE any other type. Coach said in his War College lecture that we see the greatest gains in that which we least like doing. Mobility / flexibility is that place for me. And it is for many who spend hours upon hours working hard at this sport of fitness. So please, please keep this coming, build on it and fight for your place at the table. This is very important stuff for longevity of athletic peformance and quality of movement for all of us. A detailed description of powerful prescriptive movements to build flexibility would be something I would laminate and carry around. It would make the single biggest difference to my fitness and capacity to keep going. I realise this now, many years after starting sports.

You're a very good public speaker. Looking forward to more.

Thanks and best regards.



Steven Caddy wrote …

Fantastic information in this series and awesomely presented.

Kelly, I love the way you package this stuff - your enthusiasm for it isn't just evident, it's infectious.


wrote …

Kelly, come by Potomac Crossfit right now!

Seriously though, this is absolutely lacking from my trainer brain. I knew I didn't like stretching, I had heard of PNF but didn't know anything about it, and was dealing with several clients with shoulder issues and telling them "Do more shoulder pass throughs".

I've gotten great insight from these vids, you've helped a ton of people K-star!


wrote …

Kelly said "Hulk Tail"

I love this series. I finally skipped the Doc office and went to the Rehab clinic where I got better. Everything I learned at the clinic is in this series. I wish it would have started sooner. Keep it up!


wrote …

I second Shane. I would shell out money for a Flexibility/Mobility seminar/workshop faster than for any other CF subject. Any coming to the East Coast area...?


wrote …

This was a very helpful six minutes of my life. Awesome stuff. I found the squat part very helpful as well. I was one of the guys turning my hips over right out of the gate. Thanks Kelly...


Great series of articles (and a very informative interview on CFR too). Can't wait for the rest of the series to help fix my hamstring issues; the simple diagnostic checks only confirmed just how bad my ROM is back there!


wrote …


This was really an informative clip, thanks for the simplicty with which it was delivered.


When trying to ascertain hamstring flexibility using the test you illustrated...Is the subject to be tested completely warmed up or is this done cold ?

I ask because if I am given 10 minutes of warmup and some light stretching my hamstring flexibilty is pretty good. Do it cold and I am a rigid as PVC. So when we test for true flexibility what is the best way to test.




replied to comment from Shane Rugby

My thoughts exactly Shane.. Flexibility is the biggest hinderance to my athletes as well as my own performance.
I need more of this series Kelly!


wrote …

Great job in making one of the most boring subjects in ExPhys (flexibility)very, very interesting! Just great work.
My question is that the majority of the men we train have the typical anterior pelvic tilt issues that are so prevelant with 30-40 something men that sit behind a desk or ride around in a car all day. Overstretched weak hamstrings, shut off glutes and quad dominant movement seems to be what we are seeing, if I'm understanding everything correctly. I've seen a couple of pretty good articles from Neil Rampe and Roberson that recommend strengthening the hamstrings, glutes, and abs while working to lengthen the hip flexors and quads. Looking at your series so far it seems that your focus is more on a properly braced strong midsection with supple flexible hamstrings, quads, abductors and calves. My question is do we need to focus any emphasis on strengthening the hamstrings and abs to counter the anterior pelvic tilt, or will an overall increase in flexibility along with continuing to get stronger at the "functional exercises" in crossfit do the trick? Thanks!


wrote …

An excellent series of lectures. I learned so much. Thank you.


wrote …

I Heart Starrett!!

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