What are your hamstrings and how many do you have?
First, let's get a visual image:
This is your pelvis. It sits at the base of your spine. Your 3 hamstring muscles attach at the base of your pelvis and below your knee on the inside and outside of the lower leg.
- By design, the hamstrings are 'tendenous' tissue. Meaning - they are dense and tough and accumulate un-healthy fascia easily.
- Because they attach to the pelvis, their health and flexibility determines the movement in the pelvis.
- When the hamstrings are full of dense and even scarred fascia, they stop moving. They can be 'frozen' in a short position, long position, twisted position, or a combination throughout each hamstring.
- Inflexible hamstrings hold the pelvis in a dysfunctional position.
- This creates poor alignment in the hip and knee joints, compression in the spine, and poor posture in the shoulders and neck.
- Creating an increase in hamstring flexibility and pelvis movement is foundational to having a body that moves and feels better head to toe.
Now, let’s talk about why traditional hamstring stretching is a bad idea.
During most forms of traditional hamstring stretching 3 things happen:
1. Micro tears form in the muscle. Your body's immune system responds to this by patching up the tears with fascia.
2. You are training your muscle to stay over-stretched and weak... and to not contract and be strong like it is designed to do.
3. You are over-stretching your ligaments and tendons and forcing biomechanical substitutions in your joints to achieve the range of motion.
What’s the right way to stretch your hamstrings and why you should do it every day:
Resistance stretching (the Bendable Body Method) removes dense fascia from your hamstrings - making them more flexible and strong. The muscle starts short with the muscles fibers and the muscle-fascia contracted into one another. When you add resistance before lengthening the muscles, you engage the fascia. As you lengthen with resistance the muscle-fascia tissue pulls apart at a 45 degree angle allowing friction and force to remove the dense accumulated fascia from the muscle. This is a subtractive technology. Dense, unhealthy fascia is removed or ‘exfoliated’ with every resistance stretch movement. Depending on the health of the fascia, significant force can be required to lengthen a muscle that is resisting.
How long will it take to loosen your hamstrings and why?
Sitting is a greater threat to public health than cigarettes. For the typical person, more than half of their day is spent sitting. And the average office worker sits a shocking 15 hours every single day. As your total sitting time increases, so does your risk of an early death. It only takes 20 minutes of sitting to create dense fascia in your hamstring muscles, so this is an area we advise you stretch on a regular basis.
We sit for many hours a day, starting at a young age. Every time you sit down, your hamstrings get injured in the form of little micro tears throughout the muscles. It's like they are over stretching repetitively and get mini-tears. Your body's immune system patches up the injury/tears with the only bandaid it has: dense fascia. So when you go to stand up, your hamstrings are less pliable and bendable and they in turn limit the movement in your pelvis. This reeks havoc throughout your body - ankles, knees, hips, spine, shoulders, neck, elbows, and even wrists.
So what can you do about this? Stretch every single day! The Mayo Clinic suggests moving every 30 minutes could reduce your risk of death from a sedentary lifestyle. The good news is that every Bendable Body hamstring stretch gets you moving AND targets your fascia to keep pain and stiffness at bay. We often set the timers on our phones to go off every 30 minutes as a reminder to get up, stretch, and drink water.
Here are the best stretches for your 3 hamstrings that you can do anywhere:
Start in a lunge position with target leg forward. Resist pressing knee and arm together and driving heal into hand to resist the fascia in the medial hamstring (back inside of thigh). Continue to resist while sitting hips back to stretch the fascia. Release the resistance and return to the start position. Try 3 sets of 10 repititions on both legs.
Start laying on your back with your hands interlaced behind the knee of the target leg and leg extended away from the body. Resist driving your leg into your hands to engage the fascia in the central hamstring (center back of thigh). Continue to resist while using your hands to draw your leg toward your torso to stretch the fascia. Release the resistance and return to the start position. Try 3 sets of 10 repititions on both legs.
Start with your elbows on the seat of a chair and both legs under your hips with a slight bend in the knees. Resist lifting the helping leg to engage the fascia in the lateral hamstring (back outside of thigh) in the planted leg. Be sure to keep your hips closed while you raise the helping leg. Release the resistance and return to the start position. Try 3 sets of 10 repititions on both legs.