365 Ways #317–Proper hamstring stretching

#317--How do you stretch your hamstrings? By bending over and touching your toes, I bet. Well, if you sit for work, you may want to take a different approach to get your hammies to loosen up. Being seated places the lumbar spine into flexion, essentially reversing it's natural lordotic curvature. Stuck in this position for eight hours a day and you're probably what's called a "flat back".

Ideally, a person should have between 30-35 degrees of lumbar curvature. "Flat backs", as you may have guessed, have less. Often this is due to weak lumbar erectors and short, tight hamstrings--both a common result of the seated workplace environment. So when one of these lordotically challenged people bends over to touch their toes, they are exacerbating this dysfunction by further lengthening of the lumbar spine.

Additionally, stretching muscles involved in what's called a "force couple" causes the long, weak muscles to be lengthened. The short, tight ones don't benefit. Applied to the "flat back" in the toe touch position, you have the weak lumbar erectors being stretched while the hamstrings remain habitually short and tight. You're making the imbalance worse! The easiest way to remedy this problem is to take the back out of the equation. So lie on your back and use a rope or a belt around your foot to lift it toward your head and stretch the back of the thigh. I'd also suggest using a small, rolled up towel opposite your navel to maintain whatever lumbar curvature you still have. After all, tummies are supposed to be flat--not backs!

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