Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Move of the Month–Hamstring Stretches

Free your spine, your hips and your knees with a 3-in-one multi plane stretch of the Hamstrings
Can you touch your toes comfortably?
Is your pelvis tucked under and your buttocks and low spine flattened?
Can you stretch you knees straight when standing and walking?

One of the largest muscle groups of the lower body, the hamstrings, when tight and short, can negatively effect the health and function of the hip, pelvis, low spine and knee. Tight hamstrings are one of the leading causes of low back pain and hip dysfunction as they pull the pelvis down and under, making it difficult for the leg to swing freely and for the pelvis to be neutral.
The hamstrings are actually made up of three different muscles which run down the lateral, medial and center of the back of the leg. They attach at the bottom of the pelvis on the sitting bones and run down the back of the thigh, crossing over the knee and inserting on the lower leg bones. The Bicep Femoris inserts on the head of the fibula, while the Semimembranosis and Semitendinosis attach on the tibia. These muscles are responsible for flexing (bending) the knee, and extending the hip, plus small rotational movements at the knee. They become short and tight due to sitting with the knees and hips flexed all day, as well as sports that involve running which contracts the muscles repeatedly. Everyone can benefit from safe, slow deep hamstring stretches. Try the ones below and feel the difference.
Hamstring Stretches – 3 ways
Try these 3 stretches at home with a yoga strap, flex band or a towel to assist you. Remember to stretch the knee toward straight without hyperextending it and without feeling pain. Try to keep the pelvis down and neutral.
Position 1. Leg straight and up towards 90 degrees. Flex your foot and reach up from the back of the thigh and calf. Keep your head down and your shoulders back with core muscles engaged. Hold position for 5-6 deep, slow breathes.
DSC_0236-561
Position 2. Then from 90 degrees slowly draw the leg slightly across your midline and then slightly up towards the opposite shoulder. Be sure you have not rolled over on the pelvis and keep a strong connection in your core while you take 5-6 deep breathes feeling this in the outer hip and back of thigh/knee.
DSC_0238-563
Position 3 – Bring the leg back to center and then externally rotate the thigh bone so the toes point out and the heel turns in. From here start to open the leg out to the side while maintaining the opposite hip down on the floor. If there is a wall close by you can use the wall to press your foot into, helping to both stretch the inside line of the thigh and keep the pelvis neutral.
externally rotate thigh – open leg out to side with strap
DSC_0239-564
…or with a wall to assist in maintaining position.
DSC_0242-567
Repeat to the other side and feel a new sensation of length and mobility down the whole length of the thigh. For maximum benefit perform these stretches 3-5x a week.
Happy Hamstrings!