Jan. 31, 2005 - Looking for the best hamstring stretch? You may want to try a lying-down version. If you don't have a trainer to watch your form, here's a plan:
Lie down on your back on the floor. Leave one leg flat on the floor while placing the stretching leg on a wall. Position yourself close enough to the wall, so that as you bend at the hip to stretch the hamstrings, you feel a stretch along the back of the raised leg. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, and repeat three times.
The lying-down hamstring stretch is less tricky but just as good as the more popular hamstring stretch done while standing. The news was reported recently in the Journal of Athletic Training.
Stretching helps build flexibility, so you may want to use the lying-down hamstring stretch in your workouts. You are sticking to that get-in-shape resolution, right? If not, no worries. It's never too late to make a fresh start.
Improving flexibility might make daily life easier on your body. For athletes, poor hamstring flexibility has often been linked to injuries of the low back and lower extremities, say the researchers, who included Laura Decoster, ATC, of the New Hampshire Musculoskeletal Institute.
The two types of stretches faced off in an experiment by Decoster and colleagues. Participants were 29 healthy men and women in their mid-20s. They were assigned to practice one or the other hamstring stretch.
Participants got one-on-one instruction. They did a total of nine stretching sessions in a group setting (three sessions per week for three weeks). In each session, they held their hamstring stretch three times for 30 seconds each.
Stretching Technique Matters
For the standing stretch, participants stood facing a table. They stood on one leg while propping their other leg on a table. With their hips square, looking straight ahead, and back straight, they bent at their hips to stretch their hamstrings.
For the lying-down stretch, a doorway frame came in handy. By lying in a doorway, the door frame helped support and stretch the hamstring. Moving the body closer to the door frame increased the stretch.
Participants' hamstring flexibility was measured before and after the study. Both groups showed similar improvement.
The lying-down stretch might be easier to do on your own, say the researchers. With your back on the floor, hip alignment is more likely to be correct than with the standing stretch and may require less supervision. It may be more effective for independent programs.