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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

A Targeted Approach to Hamstring Stretching

The hamstrings are made up of four muscles.  Depending on the way we stand and move, one or more of these muscles can become overly tight.  In a standard hamstring stretch, this one particularly tight hamstring muscle might not get the attention it needs because all four muscles will share the stretch.  The stretches below will show you how to isolate the stretch on each group, and shift the hamstring stretch further away from the knee.

The four muscles of the hamstrings involves the bicep femoris (short head), bicep femoris (long head), semimembranosus and semitendinosus.  The bicep femoris group is located laterally while the semi's are located medially.  Knowing the anatomy and general location of the muscles is key to knowing whether you've focused the stretch where it matters.

We'll get more specific below, but in the meantime, here's a brief rundown of the stretches.  Notice how the foot is positioned relative to midline and how rotation is needed to isolate each side of the hamstrings.
Hamstring flexibility is required in many functional movements, but more so in the Hip Hinge.  The hip hinge is a movement we use in daily activities like picking up laundry, gardening and tying shoes.  In cycling, it allows the spine to maintain neutral during the aero position.  If a client comes to me with below average hamstring flexibility, it will be difficult to prevent the spine from slumping or flexing, and the lower back will fatigue quickly as a result of constantly fighting the tight hamstrings.
Since the semimembranosus and semitendinosus is located on the medial side of the thigh, this stretch will be focused on the inside of the thigh!  Just make sure the foot and the thigh are both internally rotated!
Although this stretch will also hit the long head of the bicep femoris, the short head of the bicep femoris will get more of the attention because the knee is locked.
We tend to only stretch the hamstrings in a locked position, so most clients I see tend to need this stretch the most!  It's crucial to keep the back in neutral before pulling the hips back.  This will not only protect the spine, but focus the stretch further away from the knee and into the muscle belly of the long head of the bicep femoris.

Follow me on Instagram for more free exercise tutorials and everything fitness! (@VincentVergaraFitness).  Schedule a Skype or private session (Indy) by e-mailing or call/ text 260.797.2256

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Ratings of Perceived Activation (RPA Scale)

I would like to introduce my method for measuring muscle activation, a Ratings of Perceived Activation Scale.  I developed this chart to help manage problematic areas that need to be addressed.  It also helps my clients provide feedback regarding their ability to consciously activate certain muscle groups.

By assigning a number to a client's muscle activation, a map of their muscle activation can be made. This makes it easier to focus on establishing muscle activation in areas that need it the most.

Example Client:  Cyclist complaining of quadricep fatigue, difficulty breathing, knee and lower back pain.
RPA Map: 
  • Quadriceps: 10 
  • Gluteus Maximus: 3 
  • Rectus Abdominis: 10 
  • Pectoralis Major: 8
  • Middle trap/ Rhomboid: 4
  • Back extensors: 5
A quad dominant pedal stroke stresses the patellar tendon.  By working on muscle activation protocols to increase glute activation specifically for the bike, knee pain diminishes.  Increasing back extensor activation helps the cyclist maintain an anterior pelvic tilt, keeping the lumbar spine neutral to eliminate the low back pain.  By stretching the chest, the cyclist begins to reverse the neural inhibition at the mid back, improving posture and increasing chest expansion for deeper breaths.

Vincent Vergara holds a degree in Kinesiology and multiple certifications from the American Council on Exercise- Personal Trainer, Fitness Nutrition and Sports Conditioning.

For personal training or coaching inquiries, please contact Vincent at or cell 260.797.2256.