Stretching to lengthen the muscles is often touted as a good way to reduce pain and lessen the chance of injury.
Unfortunately, improper stretching can actually cause pain and increase your chance of injury.
One of the most common forms of stretching the hamstrings and the lower back is well known for its ability to worsen the issues that it is intended to relieve. Want to learn which stretch you should avoid and what you can do instead? Keep reading to learn more.
The Hamstring Stretch to Avoid
You probably learned this hamstring stretch in gym class and have been stretching in this way ever since. Essentially, this hamstring stretch involves you sitting on the floor with both your feet straight out in front of you. Then you bend over and try to reach your toes. Sound familiar? That’s probably because it’s the way you stretch your hamstrings!
Unfortunately, this position, in which the chest is pressed toward the thighs, puts a significant amount of stress on the lumbar spine and can actually put pressure on the ligaments and disks in your back and cause or worsen chronic lower back pain. It might even lead to nerve injury.
A Better Way to Stretch
Avoiding this particular stretch doesn’t mean that you can’t stretch out your hamstrings and increase your flexibility! The key to healthy hamstring stretching is reducing strain on your lower back and stretching one way at a time.
There are multiple ways to do this, so consider trying a few and choosing the one that works best for you to add into your stretching routine. A variation of yoga’s warrior pose is one of the most popular ways to safely stretch the hamstrings and it can increase your balance and core strength, too.
Essentially, balance your weight on one foot and lean forward, bracing yourself on a chair, table, or other sturdy surface. Then, pull your other leg up behind you, bending at the knee. You should feel the stretch in the leg that is supporting your weight.
Another way to stretch your hamstring safely is to sit on the floor with one leg out and the other curled in. Then lean forward, but instead of bending your lower spine, simply keep your back straight. Finally, you can also try lying on your back, raising one leg and using a towel or elastic exercise band to pull it toward you.
When to Stretch
Although many people do their stretching routine right after they get out of bed, stretching with cold muscles can actually increase rates of injury. Instead, it’s best to stretch after some other kind of activity, like a jog or a brisk walk.
If you don’t typically do any vigorous aerobic activity in the morning, it might be best to save your deep stretching for later in the day, when you’ve been moving around or have time to fit in a thorough workout first.
Which hamstring stretch do you find to work best for you? Share your experience in the comments section!