Are your hamstrings tight and restricting your movement? Do you find that your hips are tight from too much sitting? Most of us are aware that spending too much time sitting isn’t good for our posture, but we aren’t sure how to correct it.
According to the Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands (SAID) principle, the body adapts to the stress we place upon it; in other words, your body will get really good at whatever you do. So if you’re a farmer and lift hay bales all day, you’ll get really good and strong at lifting hay bales.
If you’re anything like me, you spend a large portion of the day sitting down — driving, eating, at a desk with a computer, etc. — and the body gets really good at that. The problem comes when we ask the body to perform a task like a handstand, which has very different requirements than the sitting that the body has gotten really good at.
It can be even more difficult when you want to do things like a press to handstand, bridge, forward folds, or improve pike and straddle positions, which require much more hip mobility and hamstring flexibility. Your hips are used to the seated position, with the hip flexors in a shortened position, where they get tight and weak. As a result of this, they have an effect on the pelvis position, subsequently creating a postural imbalance which affects your hamstring flexibility and hip mobility.
The result of tightness and stiffness in the hip flexors from becoming ‘experts’ at sitting can create a tilt at the pelvis. This occurs when the front of the pelvis, where the hip flexors attach, gets ‘pulled’ downwards, and the back of the pelvis, where the hamstrings attach, has a resulting movement upwards, thus creating a tilting of the pelvis. We also have slightly different tilts at the pelvis naturally due to our slightly different genetic make ups. This increase in tilt, where the front (anterior) portion of the pelvis has rotated downwards, is called anterior pelvic tilt (ATP).
The result is that the hamstrings are placed on strength, as the back of the pelvis where they attached has rotated upwards. They feel tight and strained, which restricts movement. Stretching them further isn’t the solution, as they are already on a stretch because of this tilt. What we must do is address the root cause of the problem… those tight hip flexors!
So first and foremost, less extended periods of sitting will be a great start. Rather than only moving from your desk when you need the toilet for example, create a habit of standing and moving every 10 or 15 minutes just to get out of the sitting position. Or go one step further and get a ‘stand up desk’!!!!
We can also do something in our training and movement preparation to loosen off the hip flexors as well as mobilise the hamstring, which is covered in the series of video tutorials below. One other important factor to consider is that the tightness and reduced range of motion at the hips creates perceived stability (in that it’s more rigid). An essential part of increasing the range of motion at the hips and length in our hamstrings is to also create stability at the hip so that the brain is happy that we have strength and stability and can control the new range of motion we are trying to encourage.
So below is a series of video tutorials (from our lower body class in the virtual classroom) that takes you through a three stage process;
Here we use a foam roller to loosen the quads and IT band to allow the muscle and facial that’s got tight and stuck down to move and loosen followed by a stretch to target the quads and hip flexors.
Now that we’ve done something to loosen off those tight hip flexors we look at releasing the hamstring using a massage ball followed by and active mobility drills for the hamstrings to create length and mobile them.
Finally we look to have strength and stability in the hips and hamstring through the new range of motion we’ve created using a single leg balance exercise that will not only target your hamstrings but also your adductors and glutes.
Hope that give you some help and ideas of things you can do in your own training to release your tight hamstrings and hips.
Within the Virtual Classroom we’ve just launched a whole class focused on the lower body with more video tutorials like these along with a FREE squat assessment, weekly training programmes to follow as well as tracking your progress with problem solving assessments to keep you on track. All designed to help you with your training as best as we can.
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