Health & Body

Ask Deb: "What Is the Best Way to Stretch My Hamstrings?"


I have heard you say that tight hamstrings prevent full extension of the knees and that you prefer hamstring stretches in a standing position, rather than on the floor. Can you explain why?

The reason I prefer stretching tight hamstrings in a standing position is to isolate the stretch better. The problem with stretching on the floor is that if the hamstrings are tight enough, the dancer will be sitting on the backside of her pelvis in a slightly rounded position.

Let me describe it in a different way. We sit on the rounded rockers of the pelvis, affectionately called the sits bone by dancers and the ischial tuberosities by anatomists. When you roll on to the backside of the pelvis, your spine rounds forward into a C curve. In this position, your head juts forward and you've got an unhappy spine! The hamstrings, which attach from the tuberosities to below the knees, pull the pelvis backward in a seated position when they're tight, as I just described. I have worked with teenagers and adults who were unable to sit efficiently at their desks because their hamstrings were so tight.

When your hamstrings are tight and you're stretching them on the floor with that rounded spine, you won't feel the stretch underneath your legs, but more so in the lower-back area. This is why standing and resting one leg on a low surface, such as a chair, is a better position to stretch in. If you can easily sit upright on the floor, then floor stretches are no problem.

To your success,

Deborah Vogel

Director, The Body Series

Got a question for Deb? E-mail, and she may answer it in an upcoming web exclusive.

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