If you’ve ever been to Physical Therapy for low back pain or an injury, I’m certain you’ve been told that you have tight hamstrings.
But, did you know there’s a better way to stretch these muscles than simply bending over and touching your toes?
There’s one thing that you must keep in mind when stretching your hamstrings.
You shouldn’t round your back!
Think about it…
When you bend over to “stretch your hamstrings,” how much are you stretching your hamstrings and how much are you stretching your back?
This straight legged, rounded low back position is what everyone cautions you against when performing deadlifts, RDLs, and other low back exercises.
All you’re doing when you stretch this way is reinforcing a position that most experts would agree isn’t healthy for your low back.
So instead of stretching your hamstrings AND your low back, try these two stretches. They will better target your hamstrings while keeping your spine in a neutral position.
Is any one method better?
According to research the means of static stretching (in pics above) were more effective in producing an increase in hamstring flexibility over a 4-week period than PNF stretching (check out the video below) and active stretching.
Additionally, the research suggests that a significant difference in hamstring flexibility cannot be achieved in 2 weeks of the protocol. Differences were seen in 4 weeks.
What’s the protocol?
Simply holding a static hamstring stretch (specifically in the position shown in the 2nd picture above where I’m on my back) for 30-seconds each leg 3 times a week!
When you effectively stretch the hamstring by “isolating” the muscle group as I demonstrate in the pictures above, it doesn’t take a lot of work to produce statistically significant results.
But, be sure to stick to the 30-second time limit.
Most research has shown a decrease in muscular force production with longer duration stretching.
For instance, one research study looked into the effects on power when holding hamstring stretches for different lengths of time. The researchers concluded that a decrease in maximal voluntary contraction of the hamstrings did not occur when static stretches were held for 30-seconds.
The researchers also found there to be similar improvements in flexibility when compared to a 60-second stretch. However, this longer duration resulted in a significant decrease maximal voluntary contraction.
So, in a nutshell, when holding a static stretch, do so for 30-seconds.
If you hold the stretch for 60ish seconds, you will experience a decrease in power output at your hips.
Obviously, this is not something you want before you wrestle.
Davis, D., P. Ashby, K. McCale, J. McQuain, J. Wine. The effectiveness of 3 stretching techniques on hamstring flexibility using consistent stretching parameters. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 19(1), 27-32. 2005.
Ogura, Y., Y. Miyahara, H. Naito, S. Katamoto, J. Aoki. Duration of static stretching influences muscle force production in hamstring muscles. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 21(3), 788-792. 2007.