Hamstrings - Range of Motion & Stretching
Hamstrings run up the back of the leg and flex the knee and extend the thigh.
The hamstring is actually three muscles -:
How Flexible Should You Be?Lie on your back. Another person gently lifts one leg straight up (while you keep your back on the floor). They should be able to lift it to 90° to the floor (ie at right angles).
If you try and do this for yourself you will get a different result because then you are working the leg at the same time. This way also enables you to spot any differences in flexibility between your legs.
The old "touch your toes" can give very misleading results. Range of motion can be affect by the tightness of your glutes or the flexibility of your back. So being able to touch your toes doesn't mean you have sufficient flexibility. And the other way, not being able to doesn't necessarily mean the problem is in your hamstring.
How Can You Improve Flexibility?
Two important rules:
- When stretching your hamstrings, you should feel the stretch in your hamstrings - that is at the back of the thigh - not behind the knee. This means, for many people, you stretch the hamstring on a bent knee.
- You cannot stretch a muscle that is working - that is "standing hamstring stretches" are going to be of little, if any use. The "traditional" toe touching is not only ineffective it is also potentially damaging (see here for more details).
All stretches should be on a warm body and repeat 2-3 times on each leg.
References:Calais-Germain, B. & Lamotte , A (1993), Anatomy of Movement, Seattle, WA: Eastland Press
Dalgleish, Michael, lectures and workshops 1997-2003
Gray, Henry, Anatomy, Descriptive and Surgical, 15th ed, Bounty Books, 1977
Stark, Dr Steven D, The Stark Reality of Stretching, 4th ed (rev),The Stark Reality Corp, 1999 (1997)
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