Looking around classes there are a fair few people who look like they have tight hamstrings so here are some tips on how to improve your flexibility in that area. Why? Because tight hamstrings can lead to lower back pain! So get stretching if this applies to you.
How to test if your hamstrings are tight:
This can be done by lying on your back with one leg outstretched along the floor and and lifting the other leg, foot towards the ceiling. As soon as the pelvis starts to tilt backwards and the back flattens to the floor stop. The leg should go to about 80 degrees. If it is less than this then the hamstrings are tight and short.
Whats the problem with having short hamstrings?
As well as being vital in sports such as football and running, it can become a major contributor in maintaining or causing back pain. Some kinds of back problems are not resolved until the hamstrings are got back to adequate length. It is also worth noting that hamstrings can get shorter as a consequence of back problems as well, thus producing a viscous cycle.
Causes of actual short hamstrings
Long hours sitting / driving.
Tension. People often hold their legs tensely, normally unconsciously. Signs of this are habitually putting feet back under chair when sitting, or holding knees tightly together.
Back problems. This is because the hamstrings are trying to stabilize the back.
Lack of core strength where the hamstrings take on the role of attempting to stabilize the trunk.
Poor coordination and habitual movement patterns. Using the hamstrings in hip extension (leg moving backwards) rather than your gluteal (bum) muscles.
3 Stretches to do:
- With band- lie on the floor in neutral. Slide 1 leg away along the floor, then put the band around your other foot and lift that leg into the air, foot to the ceiling. Use the band to get a food stretch down the back of the thigh. Push against the band for 15 seconds and then let the leg come slightly closer towards you to increase the stretch.
- Stand with your foot on the back of a chair, on a windowsill or on a Worktop, find the right height surface to get that stretch.
- Lie on the floor with one foot against a door frame, knee bent. Now press your heel into the door frame for 3 breaths and then slide your leg up door frame to get the stretch. Shuffle nearer the door frame to get a better stretch.