Stretching your leg muscles for a strong back: The hamstrings

Some people act surprised when I tell them that tight thigh muscles can not only mess up their posture, but also injure their low back and their knees.  Until recently, scientists analyzed muscles by regions with total disregard to the fact that we, humans, are one unit. Problems with your legs and feet affect the upper body and vice versa.  Take a look at the pictures below.

The "plummer" posture

The J-Lo posture

We are all familiar with the shy-hips stance and way more familiar with the happy-butt stance, the ones that love to get noticed.  Sadly, both postures are incorrect and will lead to problems in the future such as early arthritic degeneration on your low back or your knees.

To determine which type of posture you exhibit at your hips, stand  facing sideways to a mirror.  Then look at the diagram that corresponds to your kind of posture and stretch the muscles identified on the diagram.   It is possible that you might have a neutral pelvis in which case you fit into neither of the categories.  Your leg muscles might or might not be tight.  Unless your joints are hypermobile, you should benefit from stretching anyway.

I will concentrate on the “plummer” posture (posterior pelvic tilt) for now since the stretches on my last post cover  most of the usual culprits (erector spinae and gluteus maximus) except the HAMSTRINGS.  The hamstrings are located at the back of your thighs.  They connect your sit bone to your   knee.  Tight hamstrings can cause a posterior pelvic tilt which, in turn, can lead to back and knee pain, hinder your walking and running biomechanics, and affect the way you stand among other things.

Hamstring Stretches

  • Lay on your back, bend one leg.
  • Lift the other leg and keep as straight as possible while you hold on to your thigh.
  • A better stretch can be achieved by using a belt and wrapping it around your foot and using the other end as a rope.  That way your shoulders can stay closer to the ground.

Alternate Stretches

You may use the wall to stretch your hamstring.  Try to find a door frame so that one of you can lift a leg on the wall and still allow your other leg to lay on the floor.  To intensify the stretch, you just need to bring your butt closer to the wall.

Standing Hamstring Stretch

This one you can do at the office or at the library without looking too weird.

  • Just prop one leg up on a chair.
  • Straighten your torso.
  • Now lean forward bending at your hip. DO NOT SLOUCH.
  • If you are doing the stretch correctly, you will only need to lean a few degrees before you feel the stretch.

There are more stretches, but these are the least complicated and target your hamstrings pretty well.  Always remember flexible hamstrings make happy backs and joyous knees.

NEXT POST:  Stretches for the front of your thighs.

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About nuchiro

I graduated from National University of Health Sciences in Lombard, IL in 2005 with a Doctor of Chiropractic degree. I have also been a certified personal trainer since 1999. I believe that Total Wellness, of which physical fitness is only a part, can be achieved relatively easily when people focus on attaining a harmonious balance in the different aspects of their lives. For an appointment, feel free to contact me at dr.veaz@nuchiro.com .
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