How to Stretch Your Tight Hamstrings, Safely

How to Stretch Your Tight Hamstrings, Safely


Hi, welcome to MelioGuide. I’m Margaret Martin. Today we’re talking about the importance of
flexible hamstrings. It’s nice to have flexible hamstrings. But when it comes to osteoporosis, it’s critical
to have flexible hamstrings. And why is it critical? If I try to bend to pick something up and
my hamstrings are tight, so here I am, going to go through the range of motion of my hamstrings. At this point, my hamstrings are saying to
me that’s it. If I want to pick something up there I have
to bend from somewhere else. So I might increase the distance between my
knees, go down into a deeper squat, and then I can pick something up and just barely because
I have fairly moderately tight hamstrings. So I can get there. Pick something up safely using knees, hips,
and keeping that little arch in my back. If your hamstrings are tight, and so my range
of motion, if I’m lying on my back, I can pretty much get my foot almost to the ceiling. If you have less than that, then you’ll be
able to bend. And at about somewhere between here and 90
degrees, your hamstrings back here are going to be yelling at you and saying, “That’s it. I can’t give you any more range.” Their job being attached to the pelvis is
to try to allow you to have that range of motion. But if they’re tight, then your option is
to bend from your knees. At some point, if you still have to pick something
up from the ground and you’re going, “That’s it. That’s as deep as I can get,” the rest of
the bend ends up coming from your spine. And with osteoporosis, that’s a really dangerous
thing basically because you’re just putting much more load on the front of the vertebrae. So, the rest of today’s blog is going to be
about how to stretch. Some of us have to stretch our calves before
our hamstrings, how to stretch the lower part of the hamstrings, the upper part of the hamstrings,
how to stretch if you’re a little bit tight, moderately tight, and if you just are happy
with where you’re at and you want to maintain your hamstrings. So here’s a little test you can do at home
in order to test your hamstrings. You’re going to lie flat on the mat. You’re going to bend one knee. This is not critical for stretching your hamstrings
but it is important in regards to keeping your back safe. If you’ve had any back pain or you’ve had
a herniated disc, I’m going to suggest you also put a little rolled towel in the small
of your back. In order to test your hamstrings, lift the
flexibility of your hamstrings. You’re going to lift this leg. You’re going to feel muscle tightness here
because these are the muscles that are lifting your leg along with your hip flexors. And you’re going to see how far you can lift
your leg before your back starts to flatten. If your back is flattening, either pushing
it into the roll that’s beneath you or you feel that little arch that you started with
is gone, that is the limit of your hamstring flexibility. So if I was going to measure this angle for
myself, I would…and if I was in the clinic, I would have to measure it with a straight
leg behind me. But roughly I have about 80 degrees of hamstring
flexibility. Ideally, for everyone, I would love all my
clients to have 90 degrees because then you could bend and move much more easily without
worrying about your back. So, say you do the stretch and say you start
to get tight anywhere in this range. If you’re not feeling it here but rather you’re
feeling it lower down as in the calf area, that’s where you need to stretch first. The hamstring and the calf muscle cross one
another behind the knee. Tightness in the calf muscle is going to limit
your ability to get a full stretch of your hamstring. So how do we stretch our calf? For some people, just simply pulling their
toes up towards their nose and releasing and pulling and releasing is efficient. It’s a lovely thing to do first thing in the
morning. If it’s at all uncomfortable for your knee,
some of us hyperextend the knee, you can place a pillow and just have your heel just over
the pillow and point and flex and point and flex. The pointing is not important for the flexibility
of the calf, but it’s a lovely way of keeping the front of the ankle flexible as well. Once you do not feel a stretch with your toes
pulling inwards like this anymore, then I suggest that you loop a bathrobe belt or any
type of soft belt around your foot. And it’s going to be much more comfortable
if you have a shoe on. It’s going to keep the rope in place and you’ll
feel less pressure on your foot. But for purposes of today’s video, I’m just
going to have it at about the ball of the foot, because if you have it in the arch,
you’re not going to feel that pulling, that extra stretch. So elbows stay by your side. Shoulder blades stay tucked. You stay long through the back of your neck. You point and you flex. You point and you flex. Inhale and exhale, continuing your breath,
you make the muscles so the muscles of your feet are doing 90% of it. So my foot’s pulling my toes towards my nose. And that last little pound or two of pressure
is the rope that’s doing it. So don’t make the rope do all the work. Make your foot do the work. This is what we refer to as active isolated
stretching. By actively contracting the muscles in the
front, you’re then getting an act of relaxation of the muscles behind. So that’s a lovely way to get more flexibility
in the calf. Part two is once you’ve loosened up the calf,
and that might just take 30 or 40 repetitions or might take two days of 30 or 40 repetitions,
then you’re going to stretch what we call the distal hamstrings, the lower hamstrings. Now, there’s a couple of options here. Those people that are very flexible and want
to maintain their range of motion, they can simply use the rope all the way up and all
the way down, because once you have your foot pointing towards the ceiling, there’s much
less effort to hold your leg there than holding your leg here. So I’ll give you options for those of you
that are tighter. But anywhere between 90 and above, using the
rope is very comfortable. So that’s to work your distal hamstring. In order to get the part of the hamstring
closer to the sit bone or the ischial tuberosity, then what you’ll do is keep the knee straight
for the entire stretch. You’ll go all the way down. Take your breath in and exhale coming all
the way up, keeping the elbows to your side, keeping the shoulders tucked, inhale down
and exhale up, inhale down. And you can play with which hand feels best,
one hand frees up. You can keep in contact with it as it frees
up. You make sure you keep your knee nice and
straight. See if you like that one or the other or alternate. It doesn’t matter. And again, when doing active isolated stretching,
each stretch is held for one to two seconds. So it’s not a long stretch. My leg muscles are doing 90% of it. And then at the end, I’m giving it a little
extra stretch. I’m going to demonstrate this for individuals
who are moderately tight and then very tight. So here’s a strategy you can use if you are
very tight, having…if you have access to a ball, this is very nice. As you roll the ball out, you straighten your
knee and you feel a nice stretch or should feel a stretch in the hamstring. Inhale knee towards chest and exhale as you
straighten. If you find that your flexibility is improving,
you can hang on to the ball a little bit closer so that as you should straighten, you’re a
little bit higher. So you’ll play with what type of pant works
best or not, no pant…just so that you can catch the ball and just get a little bit more
flexible. So I find the ball… Then if you moved your foot down the ball
and rolled out, then you would be going an inch or two less high. You’re wanting to make sure that your knee
gets straight. That’s the critical part in order to ensure
that you’ve stretched the hamstring. If you’re moderately tight and the ball isn’t
challenging you anymore, then using a doorway works really well. So if you’re no longer challenged by the ball
then moving in close to a doorframe works very well. The distance that you are from the doorway
will allow you to adjust to the flexibility that your hamstring evolves to. So I’m going to start roughly six to eight
inches from the wall. So I’m sideways to the wall, my butt is sideways. My knees are pointing perpendicular to the
wall I’m going to use. And I’m going to use the doorframe because
it’s going to allow me as I get more flexible to straighten the opposite leg. Some of you might like to wear socks to slide
up the doorframe. So once again, a little support in the small
of your back or being aware just to keep that arch neutral so that when you slide up, that’s
your cue that that’s the limit of your hamstring. Wrap it in and exhale you slide up the wall. Feel that stretch behind and back down. So inhale and exhale and inhale as you slide
down and exhale. As you tighten these quad muscles, the brain
is told to relax the hamstring. You can keep those shoulders tucked back. You can stay long through the back of your
neck and just gentle stretch. If you need head support, by all means, use
the head support that you need. But as in the posture guide of exercise for
better bones, aim to keep the least amount of head support to support your posture that
you’re looking to have. So sliding up and down. You might do 20 or 30 of these. And then as you feel that you’re getting more
flexible, you have two options. One would be to get closer to the wall. The other would be to straighten this leg. As you straighten the opposite leg, it puts
more tension through the pelvis. And the same lengthening here will feel more
intense. So that’s especially nice. And although I mentioned that the rope was
really nice for people that are ready flexible, if you’re reaching 90 degrees, you can get
in right close with your buttock and then roll onto your back from here. And as you get really in close, then this
is just a really nice place to be. After you’ve done your active isolated stretching
which was the on and off for one to two seconds, in any of the positions, whether it’s using
the ball or extending your leg up against the wall at 90 degrees, or 40 degrees, wherever
you feel your limitation, you can then just relax. And if you choose to relax, you are looking
for an intensity of about 4 or 5 out of 10 because this…our muscles and our fascia
just want to release and relax. But if you’re stretching and you’re like,
“Whoa, I really feel that stretch, it’s so intense,” your body is just going to fight
it. So position yourself in a position…or an
angle that allows you to be just really comfortable with it. You’ll often see this in a yin yoga class. And as the minutes pass, you can then slide
the opposite leg down. You can scooch yourself a little closer to
the wall. For individuals that are very flexible, they
might even place a bolster behind the leg just to allow a little bit more lengthening
through the hamstring. You can add your chest opening, lengthening
through the back of your head and neck, so any of these things that just are going to
allow you to reach your goals of moving safely,of keeping your spine safe and your hamstrings
flexible. Bring your knees together remembering to roll
onto your side as you come up. I’m Margaret from MelioGuide. Thanks so much for tuning in.

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