With all the sitting at the computer that we tend to do, it’s easy to feel tight in the hamstrings, lower back, and neck. But just stretching alone will not alleviate these pains. If we are feeling tight and inflexible, usually it’s an alignment problem. You can do these simple exercises to restore your proper alignment.
1. Static Back - Lie on your back and drape your legs over a couch or chair. You want the hips and knees to be right angles, so adjust the height of the chair so that you achieve that position. Relax your arms out to the side. Relax all of your muscles. Stay in this position for at least 5 minutes.
This exercise helps the spine and pelvis eliminate rotation by using the floor as a horizontal reference.
2. Assisted Hip Lift Position - Begin on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Cross your left ankle over the top of your right knee. With the muscles of your left hip, open your knee as indicated by the arrow in the picture below. Hold this for 1 minute then switch sides. The purpose of this exercise is to unilaterally rotates the femur in the hip joint while stabilizing the pelvis, spine, and shoulders, which improves range of motion and flexibility.
3. Cats and Dogs - Get on your hands and knees. Your knees should be directly under your hips. Your wrists should be directly under your shoulders. Switch back and forth between the “cat” and “dog” positions.
Cat:Tuck your chin to your chest. Bring your shoulder blades apart from each other. Round your spine up. Rotate the pelvis back.
Dog:Bring your head up. Pinch your shoulder blades together. Arch your entire back. Roll your pelvis forward.
4. Counter Stretch - This is the only exercise that I’m giving you that directly stretches the hamstrings. The reason is that you need to create alignment first, and then stretch. Here’s how you do Counter Stretch: Stand with your hands against the wall about shoulder level. Back your feet up until your legs form a vertical line. Adjust your hands so that your upper body forms a horizontal line. Have somebody check your form, because it is easy to be out of alignment and not know it. Keep your thighs tight and try to put an arch in your lower back. Spread your fingers really wide on the wall. Hold for 1 minute.
There you have it. Four simple exercises that will get your alignment better, and in turn will help with your flexibility.
Chris Janke-Bueno is a personal trainer in San Jose, CA. To schedule a consultation call (408) 883-4442, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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