By Elizabeth Towe

Are your hamstrings tight? Most people can answer a definitive yes or no right away. If you are not sure, but you have reoccurring pain or tightness (even low level) in your back, hip, knee or lower leg it could be directly related to tight hamstrings; especially if you spend extended periods of time sitting on a daily basis. Try this quick check: Lie on the floor on your back with both legs straight.  Lift one leg up and stop when you feel the muscles on the back of your leg tighten or you have to bend your knee.  If you don’t make it up to 80 degrees then you have some work to do!  Here’s a dynamic stretch that can help gain some range of motion and functionality.

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  1. Start by standing and gently bending forward so your hands reach toward your toes.  Notice how far you go easily.
  2. Get a 2×4 piece of wood or anything that can serve to put a lift under the heels (we use a folded up blanket in this example).
  3. Start by putting the folded blanket under the heels so that the forefoot is still in contact with the floor.  Fold forward at the hip joint, keeping the back flat, knees straight and contracting quads. Place your hands on something at the height that the fingertips reach when you are bent over (a short stool or yoga blocks). This is your starting position. Alternately you can hold onto your shins at the level where you easily reach.
  4. From the starting position squat down (your heels come off the floor) with a relaxing inhale. As you exhale, return to the start position, leading with your pelvis (heels on blanket, hands on yoga blocks, knees straight).
  5. Repeat this movement with the rhythm of your breath 10x.
  6. For the second part of the stretch put the blanket under your forefoot with your heels on the ground.  Repeat the same movement, squatting as you inhale.  Let your heels lift as you squat down. Repeat this 10x.
  7. Return to the forward bend you did at the start & notice how easy it is to now go further.

As you gain more length in your hamstrings you should notice increased accessibility to the core muscles of your hip and pelvis for strength and stability.

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Elizabeth Towe is a runner and a cyclist and the owner of Balanced Movement Studio in Carrboro. She graduated from East Carolina with a degree in exercise and sports science and has been personal training for over 20 years. Her ultimate goal for all of her clients is to help them realize and achieve the optimal quality in their life – and to remember to have fun doing it.