Updated July 13, 2016
The Seated Hamstring Stretch Method
An Safer, Better, Exercise to Help Reduce Back Pain
Virtually all cases of chronic lower back pain are accompanied by tight hamstrings. The pull of these tight muscles force the lumbar spine into a forward bent posture, the effects of which are especially felt during physical activity. Additionally, the overall mobility of the hip joints are affected.
What does proper hip mobility look like? Simply put, it is that your hips should act as the axis about which all movement occurs, rather than any level of your spine.
Short/tight hamstrings are a very common problem to have. Consequently, we should all understand the value of stretching our hamstrings.
Please Scroll Down for the Safer Hamstring Stretch
Common Hamstring Stretches Don’t Work and Are In Fact Very Risky
The problem is that the most common stretches (such as leaning over to touch your toes) which are commonly advised for tight hamstrings are detrimental and very risky when considering the integrity of the lumbar discs (especially the L5-S1). In fact, they may worsen any injury already present. Such stretches encourage you to bend your back in order to facilitate the stretch which can lead to lumbar disc injury and pain.
There are many possible choices for exercises which should be performed to address tight hamstrings. These exercises can effectively correct the lack of flexibility and mobility within your pelvis. It is important to select and follow a program that is protective of the lumbar discs when executing a hamstring stretch.
The following stretch is an excellent alternative that minimizes lumbar stress and lower back pain.
The Seated Hamstring Stretch below is a great exercise to help reduce this form of pain. It is Exercise #9 of the Progressive Exercises (See Table of Contents) which helps to reduce pain by:
- Encouraging you to preserve a safe posture (reduce lumbar disc injury).
- Maintaining both neutral lumbar and pelvic tilt posture (reduce spinal imbalance).
- Stretches your hamstrings safely, effectively and with greater control (reduce tightness).
- Strengthen and stretches the hips (improves hip mobility and pelvic tilt).
- Strengthens your abdominal muscles (improve lumbar support).
- Stretches your calve muscles (improve lumbar and pelvic posture, gait).
This exercise should be performed throughout the day, in the morning, afternoon and evening. Initially, it can be very difficult and uncomfortable to stretch your hamstrings. This seated hamstring stretch is a very safe way to stretch without injuring your lumbar discs. (It is important to have consent from your family doctor prior to any exercise routine such as the Seated Hamstring Stretch.)
There is an Advanced Hamstring Stretch (and variants of it) which are taught in the Challenge Exercises. The advanced/challenge version adds further strengthening and stretching required for recovery and protection.
Seated Hamstring Stretch
Step 1: Sit down on a soft carpet for comfort. Keep your back straight and bring your knees to your chest (Deep Squat Rest should be mastered prior to this exercise). Hold them with your arms and bring your belly area firmly against your thighs. Do NOT move to step 2 unless you are firmly and comfortably maintaining contact between your belly and thighs. Squeeze gently as though you are trying to hold a flat piece of paper in between.
Step 2: Hold your feet firmly with both hands. Make sure that you feel that your pelvis and lumbar spine are aligned and engaged with your thighs. Slowly extend your legs out but keep your belly against your thighs. This will preserve your lumbar and pelvic curve together. Maintain a grip on your feet.
Step 3: Extend your legs slowly inch by inch and as far and as comfortably as you can. Hold for 1-2 minutes.
Step 4: Rest and repeat.
Note: Your legs should be the only part of your body that moves during this exercise; your spine should not move! Initially, this is a very difficult exercise to perform correctly. In the initial stages, tightness and consequently shortened length of your hamstring muscles may prevent you from fully executing the movement. Over time this will improve.
Full leg extension if NOT necessary to receive the benefits of this stretch. If you can extend as far as indicated in the above image, your hamstrings will be sufficiently lengthened to provide lower back pain relief.
Don’t Just Stop at this Stretch Alone
A more advanced standing version of this stretch in the eBook complements this movement and helps to dynamically stretch the hamstrings further. It also protects the lumbar discs as compared to less safe, commonly taught, hamstring stretches which can cause disc injury and pain.
“On day one of your plan, I did the first half of stage 1 and my lumbar spine became unlocked for the first time I can remember. For a few hours, I knew what it was like to be pain free. “
“I have been doing these exercises for about a month now and even though my pain isn’t completely gone, it is a lot more manageable and I can already feel a decrease in the frequency of my pain as well as the symptoms.”
If you are tired of enduring this form of chronic pain, and are in need of a proven, structured, plan for pain relief: Search this site for more valuable help and Download the eBook to start today.