If you look for"hamstring stretches" in Google Images, you'll get a page full of illustrations most of which demonstrate whatI'mtrying to show you not to do in the accompanying video. This young man, for example, is mostly stretching his lower back and giving himself a crick in his neck. How you position your pelvis and spine makes a huge difference in the effectiveness of your stretching. I also hope to convince you that your hamstrings don't exist in isolation in your body and that to lengthen them effectively involves changing how you use them in daily life.
In the video, when I suggest having your weight more “forward on your feet,” I don’t mean there is no weight in the heels. I mean that the heel and forefoot—your entire footprint—is weight bearing. The reason I suggest that you roll down down into a position that is more forward on the feet in preparation for the hamstring work is that this practice instills a cooperative relationship between the core stabilizers and the hamstrings. It’s difficult to roll down and maintain yourself forward on your feet if your deep core stabilizers are lax. That’s why it’s so common to shift the weight behind the heels. By the same token, if you roll up without having engaged your core, you’ll almost certainly shift your weight back over your heels as you unfold your pelvis and spine.
Walking is a complex coordination, and both The New Rulesof Posture, and my video, HEAL YOUR POSTURE, attempt to clarify it. In the accompanying video, I try to demonstrate the reciprocal relationship between the hamstrings and the psoas muscles in walking. When the tail is tucked under, the psoas becomes short and tight, as discussed in my blog post called “Know Your Hips”. In this walking pattern, the hamstrings pull the leg into minimal extension, barely passing behind the body during push off. The body’s weight stays back on the heels, preventing the forefoot from being dynamic in pushing off. Because the hip does not extend fully, the psoas does not lengthen. So the ensuing hip flexion that should be accomplished by the reflexive action of the psoas is replaced by superficial hip flexion of the thigh muscles. The hamstrings have no opportunity to release because the thigh never achieves the momentum of a free swing forward. Daily hamstring stretches, even in the way I demonstrate here, will have little effect unless you can transform this walking habit pattern. The first step will be to find your spatial orientation, and there’s a blog post for that….see “Living in 3D.” Please comment below with your hamstring epiphanies. Here's your hamstring video: