We talk about the hamstrings a lot. That’s because this muscle group is instrumental in pretty much every sport (not to mention life in general) — and because ya’ll are complaining about them all the time. Here’s the thing: The way we most often see athletes eff up this pose is by failing to maintain a neutral spine. When you bring your leg up into the air, notice how that side of your waist wants to shorten, as if the hip of your extended leg wants to creep up toward that shoulder — NO! Instead, gently engage your core by drawing your navel down and your front ribs together, and use those muscles to press the hip of the lifted leg forward even as you focus on stretching your hammies.
Also noteworthy: If you feel the stretch in the back of your knee at any point during the sequence, be sure to bend that knee a bit more — this will help ensure that you’re stretching your hamstring muscles and not straining other soft tissue around your knee.
Try it: Reclined Hammy Time
This short sequence will help you hit reset on stiff hammies by stretching the entire back of your body, and help restore a sense of balance. You’ll need a belt, tie, or towel. Hold each stretch for 10 deep breaths.
Step 1: Leg Up
- Lie flat on your back.
- Lasso your right foot with your strap and straighten your leg toward the ceiling, finding an angle where you feel a stretch in your right hamstring.
- Flex your right foot and press up through your right heel, without locking the knee.
- Walk your hands up the straps until your arms are nearly straight, shoulders on the floor, or take any other grip you like that allows your arms and shoulders to relax.
- Straighten your left leg to the floor so that it lines up with the left hip.
- Gently engage your core and use those muscles to move your right hip forward away from your right shoulder to maintain a neutral spine — if that feels tough, try bending your left leg and setting that foot back down to the floor.
Step 2: Leg Open
- Take the straps into your right hand and lower your right leg to the right, keeping your left leg heavy on the floor.
- Gently pull your right foot toward your right shoulder, while continuing to resist the right hip's urge to creep toward your right shoulder.
- Flex your right foot and press out through the heel.
- Place your left hand on your left hip as a reminder to keep that hip, leg and shoulder heavy on the floor.
Step 3: Leg Across
- Lift the right leg back up to center and take it across your body to the left — just a little, until you feel more stretch on the outside of the leg, around the glute/outer hip/IT band area.
- Slightly rotate your right foot to the left and you might also feel it in the outer ankle/calf.
- Keep the right hip heavy on the floor, and keep moving that hip away from the right shoulder.
Repeat the sequence on your left side, then put your Legs Up The Wall to allow both sides to length in unison...