As originally seen in “Bodyfit” – May 2013
Dilini Ratnayeke asks:
I’m a dancer and also do lots of rowing. During the day I have an office job and sit for long periods of time. But, no matterhow often I train, I continuously have tight hamstrings – how can I improve my flexibility?”
The reality is that sitting in a chair forces your hamstrings to shorten. Improving the flexibility of any muscle group takes regular practise and the correct combination of exercises, stabilisations and dynamic and passive stretches. If you are weight training regularly, be sure to have a balance of quad (front of leg) and hamstring (back of leg) movements. I suggest you downplay the hamstring work for a few months. Still working with them, but less and with different moves to your normal routine. Avoid old fashioned machines where you isolate the muscles to a single (such as knee) joint action. Instead perform bridges on the floor and hamstring drags on a Swiss ball. These bring more core stabilisation (abs and back) into the movement, allowing for more strength through your back. What this means for you, is that your hamstrings won’t be able to pull your pelvis down, but be balanced more by the back muscles that pull your pelvis up. Even strength between these muscles creates a neutral balance where the hamstrings don’t take over.
Include Pilates, yoga and both passive (non-moving) and dynamic (moving) stretches in your repertoire. Another tip is to have regular Thai and/or deep tissue massages. They’ll keep your tissues supple through the stretching and release of pressure points which can cause tightness.