One of the keys to core stability, minimizing low back pain, and powerful walking is being able to maintain a neutral pelvis throughout the day. If you're dealing with tight and/or weak hamstrings though, it's impossible to get yourself into a neutral pelvis position.
Due to excessive time spent in chairs, most of us have developed BOTH tight and weak hamstrings. The hamstrings are a large muscle group that runs up the back of the thigh, attaching just below the knee and to the base of the pelvis. This tightness of the hamstrings pulls your pelvis into a tucked position, rendering your core useless and putting excessive compression on your low back. Not a happy situation for your back or pelvic floor!
Our favorite way to lengthen the hamstrings is to do a standing forward bend. This is a stretch we've all seen before, but also has a lot of potential for some compensations we want to avoid. Most mistakenly believe the goal of this stretch is to touch the toes... However, as we demonstrate in the video it's possible to touch your toes while bending forward without lengthening your hamstrings at all!
Today we're going to teach you how to do a standing forward bend that will actually lengthen your hamstrings so you can unlock your pelvis.
The Setup: Get yourself a chair and some books or yoga blocks and position yourself in front of a mirror. As usual, we recommend taking your shoes off to get the maximum benefit of this exercise. Position yourself with your feet in alignment and stand as close to the seat of the chair as you can. Focus on maintaining your foot alignment throughout the exercise.
To do the standing forward bend: In the video, we demonstrate what a typical compensation looks like. Because the hamstrings attach to the base of your pelvis, we want the motion to come from the pelvis rather than the spine. Avoid rounding your spine throughout the exercise (which is what your mirror is for-observe yourself throughout) and instead tip your pelvis forward while hinging around the hip. Keep your spine stable as you tip forward, and keep shifting your weight back behind your heels. STOP when you reach a point where your pelvis begins to tuck. It might take a few slow attempts with observation in the mirror to identify this point. Place your hands on the seat of the chair for stability. If your hands don't reach the seat of the chair yet, use your blocks or books to stack to a height comfortable for you. Hold about 30 seconds and repeat throughout the day. To come out of the stretch, pull your upper body up with the backs of your thighs.
One of the best things about this exercise is that it's accessible to you anywhere, anytime. It makes a great standing break if you work at a desk. Give the standing forward bend a try for a few weeks and let us know what you learn!