When asked which part of your body needs to be stretched the most, many of you said your hamstrings. Here's a simple sequence to add to your stretching routine to lengthen those muscles on the backs of your legs.
You're asking and I'm answering . . .
Last week you answered another reader's question about weak quads and how to strengthen them. Well, I have the opposite problem — weak hamstrings. Can you help me whip them into shape?
— How to Hamstrings
If you, like me, spend a lot of time running (on the treadmill or outside) then you're definitely giving your hamstrings a nice workout, which is awesome. Keep in mind, though, that it is important to work opposing muscles in order to keep your body alignment and balance in check. This does not mean you need to start running backwards (unless you want to, of course). Instead, just be sure to work your quads (the hamstrings opposing muscle group) a few times a week and doing so should help balance out all the great running you're doing.
And in case you're wondering . . . a good, no fuss exercise that is a surefire way to work your quads is squats.
Need to open up and stretch those tight hips and hamstrings? Not only is this a wonderful sequence to start out with before moving onto deeper poses like backbends, but it's also a great way to warm up before or after a run, hike, or bike ride.
If you have been doing a lot of walking, running, biking or hiking this summer, chances are your hamstrings could use a good stretch. Here's a sequence of stretches to loosen up your tight hamstrings.
|Standing Forward Bend with Wrist Release - Place your hands on the mat, palms facing up with your fingertips facing you. Now step your feet onto your palms, pressing your toes into your wrist creases. If you can't reach your palms all the way down, just place your hands on your shins or feet.
Keep your legs straight and if it feels comfortable, you can bring your forehead toward your shins. Stay here for 5 deep breaths, or as long as you want. Then release your hands, press into your feet and return to standing.
|Wide-Legged Forward Bend - Now take your legs about 3 ft wide. Keeping your back straight, fold forward at the hips and reach for your big toes. Relax your shoulders away from your ears and think about drawing the crown of your head towards the ground. Work on shifting weight forward into your toes. Stay here for 5 or more breaths.|
Want to see the rest of the sequence? Then read more
We all know how important it is to stretch out our muscles, especially after a run, so here's a series of five stretches I like to do.
|Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch - From a Down Dog position (this is a great stretch for your calves too), step your right foot forward between your hands. Lower your left knee onto the ground (make sure it's a padded surface - fold up a towel or use a thin block if you're on bare floor). Bring your hands to your front knee, pressing your shoulders back to increase the stretch in the front of your left thigh.
Take 5 or more deep breaths, then plant your hands down, step your right foot back, then step your left foot forward and do the other side.
|Hamstring Stretch - Once again start in a Down Dog, then step your right foot forward about halfway between your hands and feet, so your feet are about 3 feet apart. Keep your torso low, and walk your hands back toward your feet. Place your hands on your front leg, ankle, or if you can reach, place them on the ground. Try to keep your front leg straight to stretch your right hamstring.
Stay for 5 or more breaths, then plant your palms, step your right leg back, then step your left leg forward and do the other side.
Want to see the 3 other stretches? Then read more
Looking for a way to beat the summer and workout at the same time? Well have you tried kayaking? I am not talking about white water river kayaking, but getting out on a lake, bay, or inlet for some paddling action.
If you live near water, or are planning to vacation near water, you should have an easy time finding a place that rents kayaks and all the associated gear. Or better yet, you can introduce yourself to kayaking on a guided nature tour. Do consider taking a lesson, to learn how to maneuver the boat as well as the very important skill - how to get in and out of your kayak while you're in the water. They are really easy to tip.
Chances are you will start off with a beginner kayak since they offer greater stability and are more difficult to tip over. If it's your first time, I recommend going out on a day that isn't too windy, so the water is less choppy.
What's so great about kayaking? To find out read more
Ahh, the Seated Forward Bend. You either love it or you hate it, but we can all agree that it's great for stretching out our hamstrings and lower back like no other pose. It's great to do before and after a run or bike ride, or if you've been standing for a long time.
- Sit on your mat with your legs extended straight in front of you.
- Reach your hands underneath your tush and pull the fleshy part behind you so your pelvic bones are grounded. This will help to tilt your tail bone up, so you get a deeper stretch in your hamstrings.
- Sit nice and tall, take a deep inhale and extend the crown of your head straight up away from your hips, elongating your spine as much as possible.
- As you exhale, bend forward over your legs, leading with your chest, and continuing to keep your spine straight.
- Place your hands on the ground next to your legs, on your legs, or grab onto your feet if you can reach.
- Keep your head lifted, or you can relax your head down towards your legs.
- Stay like this for at least 5 deep breaths. If you can stay longer, you'll begin to feel your lower back release and your hamstrings start to loosen and relax.
The seated forward bend is the pose I love to hate. It can feel extremely intense if your hamstrings are really tight (especially if you run or bike), so just be patient with your body. Continue to practice this pose as often as you can and you'll soon notice that it gets easier and you begin to love and need it more. If you are super tight you can try sitting on a yoga block with your legs out in front of you.
I am always looking for a way to do something new, fitness wise. At one point, step aerobics was the latest thing, but that time has since come and gone. You'll still find step classes in almost every gym, but they are not nearly as popular as they once were.
Enter Ramping. I know it sounds a little odd but ramping is very similar to step aerobics (in fact it was created by the very same person that created step aerobics) but it is requires a lot less impact on your joints because instead of stepping up onto a flat step or bench, you lunge on and off an adjustable-incline ramp (half-moon looking contraption pictured above) specifically designed for ramping. Ramping is great for really working your butt and hamstrings. Great for getting those legs short shorts ready this summer. Check out the ramping site online for more information as well as to find a class near you.
Are your ready for the next Yoga Challenge? The last one, Eagle pose, was all about balance, and this one is all about power and strength. That's why it's called Goddess.
Not only does this pose make you feel strong and beautiful, it helps to open your chest and hips. It also works your hamstrings and calves and the muscles in your gorgeous booty. When you strengthen the muscles in your thighs and lower legs, it helps to strengthen your knees as well. This pose involves your entire body, which is why I love it.
Be sure to get a friend to snap a picture of you doing it. Then go to THE YOGA CHALLENGE Group. If you're not a member yet, just click on the word "Subscribe," on the left-hand side. Then to post your picture, click "Create & Share," and then click on "Blog." Write a title, some keywords, upload your picture in the body (add some words if you want) and then click "Submit."
Here's how to get into Goddess:
- Begin at the front of your mat in Mountain pose.
- Step open to the right, so there are about 3 feet between your toes. Turn your heels in.
- Bend your knees and squat down, eventually bringing your thighs parallel to the ground. Your knees should be directly over your ankles, so adjust your feet if you need to.
- When you're ready, lift your arms up, bending your elbows so they are at 90 degree angles, opening your palms away from you.
- Stay here for 5 breaths, or more if you love it.
I can't wait to check out It's a STRETCH and see your amazing pictures.