Technology these days has us sitting in front of a computer, tablet or phone all day, and it also has us sitting in transportation like a car, train, plane or all of the alike. The problem with this is most of the time we do not correct the muscle imbalances that can occur with sitting for too long in our day-to-day lives. There are many musculoskeletal structures that can be placed into an imbalance with chronic sitting, but for the sake of this write-up, we will be focusing on the hamstrings.
The hamstrings are located on the back of your legs just underneath your gluteal muscles. There are many different reasons why they can become tight but here is one technique you can try to decrease the tension in them.
This is a contract/relax technique that is also known as proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF). This is a technique you can use almost anywhere in your body to increase mobility in your muscles and joints and therefore increase your range of motion (ROM).
What you need:
a) A mat to lay on
b) Yoga strap, towel or rope
How to do the stretch:
- Bend down from a standing position to reach for your toes and test to see how far you can reach. Can you get to your thighs, shins, ankles, toes? Remember where you can reach as you will be testing this again after the contract/relax stretch.
- Lay comfortably on your back on your mat, and place the yoga strap around the middle arch of one foot.
- Now lay with both legs straight on the ground and use your arms to pull the leg you have wrapped with the band up so that your leg is straight in the air. Only pull it up high enough that you feel a comfortable stretch in the back of your leg (you can feel this in the bottom and top of the back of your leg or one or the other). The other leg stays laying straight on the ground.
- Hold this stretch for 10 seconds. Breathe through the stretch, it should feel like it’s starting to relax near the end of the 10 seconds.
- Once the 10 seconds is over, now contract your leg into the rope as if you are pushing your leg to the ground without it moving, and hold this contraction for 5 seconds. You’re only pushing about 5 pounds of pressure into the rope – do not push as hard as you can into the rope. Just enough that you are getting the muscles contracting.
- Once the 5 second contraction is done, pull the rope and your leg closer to your body to another and new comfortable stretch. Now hold this new stretch for 10 seconds and follow it with another 5 second contraction.
- Repeat 4-5 times, then proceed to do the same stretch and process with your other leg.
- Stand back up and measure how far you can reach for your toes again to feel the difference in your range of motion.
Give this a try the next time your hamstrings are feeling tight!
Here is a video on how to do this from my Instagram account: