Fitness Tips I Learned From Dance

balletdancerBeing fit should be fun!
Many of us might dread exercise instead of viewing it as an opportunity to have a good time, to enjoy taking care of our bodies, and to move for the fun of it. Dancers know that even though a dance class is a great workout, most of all, it is fun! Move to the music, shake your hips, and let your cares go!

Try it: Do whatever it takes to find a form of movement that you love to do. That might mean signing up for that zumba or kickboxing class or joining a softball team. Maybe it means you need to go walking and get some quality time with a friend you’ve been meaning to catch up with. It’s essential to find for yourself what puts the fun back in fitness!

Engage your core
Ballerinas and other dancers are ripped. Some don’t give dance credit for being a sport, but no one can argue that it is a great physical activity–ballet, too! Regardless of the pace of a song, dancers are working hard through every move. It’s what the audience can’t see that really matters; all muscles are engaged at all times. This idea transfers to all kinds of fitness–yoga, running, cycling, swimming, plyometrics, and all types of aerobic workouts.

Try it: If you spend 20 minutes on the elliptical or treadmill, take your workout to the next level by flexing your core muscles while you run. Focus on keeping your hips facing forward and controlling your midsection. Suck it in, and engage that core!

Good posture goes a long way
A dancer with good posture will always look better than a dancer who lets her shoulders slouch. Good posture–sitting up straight, keeping your chin up, pulling the shoulders back–is good for more than your spine. Of course, there are physical benefits to sitting up straight including reducing tension headaches and building stronger core muscles, but the psychological implications are there, too. Research appearing in the October 2009 issue of the European Journal of Social Psychology showed that students told to sit up straight while completing a self-evaluation scored themselves higher than students left alone to slouch, showing a positive correlation between good posture and self-confidence. Furthermore, good posture silently communicates to others that you are a confident person.

Try it: Pay attention to your body. If you are sitting at a desk, be aware of where you’re looking. Look higher and slightly lift your chin to give your posture a boost. Write it on a sticky note and put it just above eye level to remind yourself! If you’re hanging out with friends, don’t let that coffee shop couch get the best of your sitting stance. Elongate your spine. Your shoulders should be relaxed but not slouching. Your back, neck, and confidence will thank you.

Stretching is essential
Lots of people workout without stretching. Dancers wouldn’t dream of it. In an hour long dance class, stretching and warming up can take up 20-30 minutes! Stretching doesn’t just increase flexibility, it’s also improves circulation, balance, coordination, and even cardiovascular health. Stretching also improves recovery time after activity, and will help prevent injuries during.

Try it: After your workout warm-up and after your cool-down, stretch the muscles you’re exercising, holding each position still (without bouncing) for 15-20 seconds. It’s important to listen to your body and not force it to go further. The best flexibility comes from consistency, not the feeling of muscles ripping! It’s even important to stretch throughout the day when you aren’t active. When you’re at work, take short breaks to bend side-to-side with arms stretched overhead and to bend over to touch your toes. You may find periodic stretching will keep you from fighting productivity lows and the 3 o’clock Zzzs.

Do it “full out”
To dancers, doing a move “full out” means go big or go home. There’s no point in attempting a pirouette if you’re not going to give it your all; you’ll fall over! One of the biggest corrections beginning dancers receive is to let go, and open their arms. If the move is supposed to be big, make it big! Don’t hold back! This idea correlates to many types of fitness–calisthenics, aerobics, kickboxing, yoga, zumba. Hold that pose with confidence; sit into that squat all the way. Push yourself (within reason of course) and make your moves count.

Try it: The next time you workout, focus carefully on your body and its movements. Kinesthetic awareness helps you to feel the proper way to do a push-up or warrior pose. Do those movements c o m p l e t e l y, fully, and all the way, so that when you look at yourself in the mirror, your moves look like they belong on the cover of a fitness magazine!

Originally posted 2013-01-31 03:40:00.

Yoga and Spirituality

In the last 30 years, yoga has grown in popularity by leaps and bounds.  For many, yoga is a form of spiritual practice and meditation believed to bring spiritual healing, power, and connectedness.  Indeed, yoga has its roots in Eastern religion, and its movements were developed to help practitioners connect to the power of various Hindu gods.  While it’s somewhat surprising that science-minded Americans and Europeans would throng to this ancient religious practice, yoga’s focus on the body, its health benefits, and its superficial spirituality have combined to make it a particularly attractive way to escape the monotony and spiritual deficits of our technological society. Here’s the dilemma for Christians: as a spiritual practice yoga is rooted in asceticism/masochism and the lies associated with idol worship, but as a physical and mental discipline yoga has many proven health benefits.

So, is yoga something Christians should do?
Since, for followers of Jesus, there is no law but the law of love, the answer to this question is somewhat nuanced.  First of all, we have to keep in mind that God created the human body and the way it moves, as well as the things that benefit it.  No religion or system of belief has the right to monopolize the realities that affect human health.  If a particular stretch or movement is healthy for the human body, then it’s objectively healthy for the body, regardless of the beliefs attached to it (such as the belief that a particular movement has spiritual meaning).  We have the freedom to agree or disagree with such beliefs.

The real problem is not yoga’s stretches or exercises, but the beliefs attached to these movements and the false message of spiritual healing and human connectedness apart from Jesus Christ.  Healing and spiritual wholeness/connectedness can’t be achieved by our own human efforts or by doing the right poses.  Real healing comes from recognizing that all life comes from the One and Only God, revealed to us in Jesus Christ!

That being said, God created us to move, to enjoy his Creation, and to live freely, and I believe the movements embodied in yoga can be part of healthy movements and exercise for believers.  In my mind, the problem of doing yoga is similar to the problem addressed by the apostle Paul regarding eating meat sacrificed to idols. Paul advised the Corinthians that eating meat sacrificed to idols isn’t a problem for believers who are not held in the power of lies and idol worship, but that doing so could be bad for the consciences of those still entrapped in lies (1 Corinthians 8). In the context of yoga, a believer is free to practice the movements and stretches of yoga if he has a clean conscience.  However, believers who participate in yoga in a group setting might be inadvertently contributing to the power of lies in the lives of those who do yoga as a spiritual practice.

Each believer needs to seek the Lord for direction in this matter and follow his conscience.  Personally, I find that yoga stretches have been extremely helpful in reducing back, neck, and joint pain (which medical studies support).  There are also several yoga routines I do that provide an excellent workout and improve flexibility.  For those who have practiced yoga in connection with Eastern spiritual beliefs in the past, it might be too tainted to continue practicing as a believer.  For others, however, yoga can be a perfectly healthy and pure activity.  It’s also possible to find classes, such as at the YMCA, as well as instructional DVDs, that solely emphasize the physical health benefits of yoga, rather than the spritual beliefs connected to yoga as a religion.  In some places it might be more difficult to find yoga classes that aren’t influenced by New Age religion, in which case using an instructional DVD at home might be the best option.  At any rate, as believers we have freedom to live by the Spirit–the primary consideration is walking in love towards others.

References:

 

Originally posted 2013-01-07 05:49:00.

Soothing Exercises for Pregnant Women

Flexible pregnant woman. Soothing exercises for pregnant women may sound like a strange concept. After all, exercise is supposed to get the heart pumping and the blood flowing, right? Fortunately, not all exercises require you to move at a marathon pace. The soothing exercises listed below are designed to ease tension and get your mind and body a bit more healthy — a perfect formula for pregnant women looking to de-stress after a day spent preparing the nursery, staring at food labels to check for the most baby-friendly ingredients, or just aching for a little relief from daily aches and pains.

A soothing exercise for the muscles: Stretching. Gentle stretches can help relieve back pain, alleviate muscle stiffness and improve range of motion (which helps ready your body for your child’s birth) — making them a simple, effective and incredibly soothing exercise for expecting moms. Just remember to stretch slowly, breath deeply and never overextend yourself. You’ll not only experience greater flexibility and less muscle stiffness, but you’ll feel soothed, calmer and better able to tackle any new surprises that come in that particular trimester! 

A soothing exercise that can be done anywhere: Controlled Breathing. Studies have shown that controlled breathing can result in a calm, meditative state and help you cope with everything from pain to fear. Controlled or patterned breathing requires slow inhaling and exhaling that follow the same rate and depth. Find a quiet spot, clear your mind, and practice this soothing exercise until you find a breathing rate that’s right for you. It’s a great exercise for pregnant women in need of some simple, soothing relaxation.

A low-impact exercises that soothes and provides excellent cardiovascular benefit: Swimming. This safe, low-impact exercise supports joints, strengthens back muscles, and improves heart health. The feeling of being suspended in water can also provide tension relief and an all-over soothing sensation. Consult with your obstetrician for proper swimming guidelines to ensure the optimum safety for you and your baby.

Burn calories while relaxing by taking a walk. Walking is more than just a way to get from point A to point B. Studies show that walking for 30 minutes a day can improve your mood, help you feel better, promote longevity, tone your major muscle groups, and combat stress — all key to a happier, healthier you during pregnancy. When beginning any new exercise regimen, it’s important to start slow. Walk at a pace that feels right for you, and then gradually increase your walking time without exceeding your comfort level. 

A soothing exercise for pregnant women that does it all: Yoga. The movements involved in yoga combine patterned breathing, stretching and slow body movements for an all-over workout that keeps you strong and limber. Yoga also alleviates stress, soothing your mind and body. Consider taking a prenatal yoga class, specifically geared to meet the needs of pregnant women.

Exercises for pregnant women need not spell discomfort or exhaustion. Use the above soothing exercises to promote good health and better overall well-being.

Sources for “Soothing Exercises for Pregnant Women:”

Originally posted 2013-11-27 13:01:14.

All About Shin Splints

shin-splints

All About Shin Splints

Nothing scares a fitness enthusiast quite like the thought of getting injured. Due to this fear, developing shin splints is probably in the “Top Ten Things That Would Make Me Cry” list of anyone who loves engaging in physical activity. If overlooked, this nagging injury can elevate from very minor to debilitating pain in no time. Knowing how to avoid shin splints will keep you more consistent in the fitness game.

Prevention

Ben Franklin’s saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” holds very true when it comes to activity-related injuries. Injuries are obviously inconvenient and can set you back on the road to achieving your goals. Aside from your health, injuries will rob you of your time and money spent going to orthopedic doctors, chiropractors and/or physical therapists. Shin splints are a chronic injury as opposed to acute — this means they develop over time. Since chronic injuries are not abrupt they can always be avoided.

What are Shin Splints?

The medical name for shin splints is “medial tibial stress syndrome” — this means just to the inside of your shin bone is under too much stress, resulting in pain and inflammation. Over time the stress to the calf muscles forces it to pull away from the bone, severely aggravating the periosteum (the outermost layer of your bones).

The pathology of this injury starts with faulty biomechanics in the feet and ankles. This can be caused by genetic structural problems (flat feet), supinated feet (unusually high arches) calf tightness, or a slew of other less-than-desirable physical traits. Your feet are designed to evenly displace force, but when imbalances are present they act as roadblocks, redirecting more force toward one area. Most people develop shin splints soon after they start exercising following a break. This means the imbalances existed, but they did not notice due to a lack of physical activity.

Structural Balance

Whole body structural balance should be employed in every exercise program. This means a healthy dose of mobility, stability, flexibility and balance work should be prescribed alongside strength training. Proper biomechanics are of the utmost importance while executing exercises and stretches. Incorporating foam rolling, mobility drills and static stretching can nearly guarantee that you will stay shin splint-free. 

Foam Rolling

I could go on for days about the benefits of foam rolling (instead of listening to me rant, check out Kenny Hager’s informative foam rolling article). In regards to shin splints, balancing the tension of your lower leg muscles and other connective tissue is the most important thing. Roll each gastrocnemius – calf muscle – back and forth with as much pressure as possible without causing pain. Also roll out your anterior tibialis – the font of your calf, just outside your shin bone, and peroneal muscles – the outside of your calf. Normally 10-20 rolls per muscle is sufficient, and can be used prior to, and after strength training. The most important part of foam rolling is consistency; one bout of foam rolling will not fix your problems. It has to be a habit.

Flexibility

Tight calves are very common among the active population. Overtraining, injury and/or faulty biomechanics can all contribute to tight calves. To test your calf tightness, sit down with your legs straight out in front of you. Loop a belt or towel around the ball of your foot and pull back toward your body. Do you feel tightness of the back of your calf? If so, add this stretch to your post-exercise routine. Hold the stretch 20-30 seconds for three repetitions on each leg.

Mobility

While testing for calf flexibility some of you will not feel calf tightness; instead your ankle will feel “stuck.” This represents a lack of joint mobility (often misconstrued as muscle tightness). Limited mobility means that the small bones in your ankles are not articulating together the way they should. The half kneeling ankle mobility drill is a great start for those of you lacking mobility.

Start in the half kneeling position – on one knee with the opposite foot in front of you. Gently rock your weight forward, pushing your knee toward and past your toes. Hold a dowel directly in front of your big toe to guide your movement. Unlike static stretching, you should not hold mobility drills. Rock gently to the point of being “stuck” and then rock back to neutral. Do this 10-20 times on each ankle prior to strength training. To increase difficulty, perform this drill without shoes, making sure your arch does not collapse. An alternative is to wear minimalist shoes, which have been shown to help you disperse weight more evenly.

Sources:

Originally posted 2013-10-31 11:19:06.

The Benefits of Using a Foam Roller

How to Use a Foam RollerLooking for a way to loosen, massage, elongate, and maintain problematic muscle tissue areas? You may want to invest in a foam roller. With a technique that closely imitates massage therapy, a foam roller can substantially benefit your muscle health and performance. And it isn’t a pain to haul around. Designed as a cylindrical foam tool, it is light and portable enough to take on your next exercise excursion.

Alleviating Tension and Elongating Musculature
Muscles that are subjected to frequent bouts of strenuous activity may develop trigger points, or areas of muscle knotting and tautness. These inflexible sites can cause localized pain in a specific anatomical area, or generalized pain throughout an anatomical region. But irritation and muscle discomfort are not the only problems trigger points can cause. Muscle movement is also inhibited, limiting one’s range of motion and ability to move freely. Muscles that are particularly susceptible in the lower body include the Gastrocnemius and Quadriceps muscles.

In looking at the physiology of trigger points, it makes sense that the gentle pressure of a foam roller will loosen the surrounding tissue, increase circulation and blood flow, lessen pain, and relax the problem area. For instance, applying light, pulsing stress to the medial portion of the Gastrocnemius will release some of the pressure and tightness in the trigger point, allowing slackening in the muscle and increased mobility.

Purposes of Foam-Rolling

  • Lessened pain: Foam rolling applies direct pressure to muscle adhesions, allowing them to loosen, heal, and ultimately decrease the amount of tenderness and irritability experienced.
  • Increased circulation: Foam rolling can augment circulation to your muscles, increasing the amount of nutrients and oxygen they receive.
  • Speeded recovery: Muscle scarring is the result of recurring muscle tears, and left alone can eventually lead to injury. In a fashion similar to a massage, foam rolling can break down the scar tissue, bringing healing and growth to muscle tissue.
  • Improved flexibility: Rigid muscles are loosened by this simple technique, bolstering range of motion and muscle maneuverability.

Suggested Methods for Use

  • Self-massage: As its name makes clear, rolling the roller is a popular and effective technique. Moving it back and forth while simultaneously applying pressure to an isolated area is the equivalent of a tissue massage. The rhythmic movement adds to muscle relaxation, and gives the entire body a general feeling of comfort. Lengthier muscle groups in the lower body lend themselves well to this method.  
  • Bodyweight: One’s bodyweight can be used to massage posterior regions that would be difficult to self-massage otherwise. For example, it’s common practice to rest one’s leg on top of a foam roller, using the arms to stabilize the body, while simultaneously rolling back and forth on the roller.  Using bodyweight also allows the application of increased pressure to a tense area.  
  • Pre and post-workout: Using a roller prior to a fitness session can increase the readiness of your muscles, warming and preparing them for the workout. As a post-workout technique, foam rolling can improve nutrient flow to deprived muscle tissue.
  • Consistent and abbreviated use: Adding foam rolling as a component of your daily routine will allow you to realize the results outlined above. Focus on isolating problematic areas on a daily basis, making this practice a consistent part of your exercise session.

Recommended Products:

    

Sources: “Roller-Massage Increases Hamstring Range of Motion,” found on PubMed; “Acute Effects of Self-Myofascial Release Using a Foam Roller on Arterial Function,” found on Pubmed; “An Acute Bout of Self-Myofascial Release Increases Range of Motion Without a Subsequent Decrease in Muscle Activation or Force,” found in The Journal on Strength and Conditioning Research.

Originally posted 2013-09-04 11:49:01.

Back Pain Part II: The Facts

Side plankTo recap from Back Pain Part I, eight out of ten people suffer from back pain. That’s a lot. Yet, in a world of misinformation, it can seem impossible to find reliable advice when it comes to back pain. The mainstream, the new age, and even science have led us astray time after time. What’s important is helping those in pain find relief by getting down to the facts:

Anatomy
Your spine is a miraculous network of layered soft and dense connective tissue. Each layer has a purpose and needs to be protected. Spinal anatomy from the inside out is as follows:

  • Spinal Cord → relays signals between your brain and the rest of your body
  • Vertebrae → bones from your skull to your tail bone. Each vertebra has a perfectly shaped hole which the spinal cord passes through
  • Intervertebral Discs → Squishy pads between each pair of vertebrae that lubricate your spine and allow ease of movement
  • Ligaments → Connect each vertebra to the bone above and below it. Four ligaments – left, right, front and back – protect and stabilize each segment of your spine
  • Tendons → Attach vertebrae to surrounding muscles, allowing your spine to move
  • Muscles → You have three main layers of muscle that make up your abdominal wall: the transverse abdominis, internal and external obliques. Lesser talked about core muscles include: paraspinals, quadratus lumborum and diaphragm.

Tissue Quality is of the Utmost Importance
The human body is designed to function perfectly, and like most things good and perfect, we imperfect humans find ways to mess it up. We feel back pain when our nerves send pain signals, which occurs when something impededs the perfect synergy throughout the spinal column. The imbalance could be a fractured vertebra, a herniated or ruptured disc, a sprain, a strain… the list goes on. The moral of the spinal anatomy story: be kind to your tissue and it won’t retaliate. Some of the most effective ways to protect your tissue are counterintuitive, but your spine will thank you.

Keep Back Stretching to a Minimum
This is normally the hardest habit to break. When you hurt an area of your body, instinct tells you to stretch. Dr. Stuart McGill, a low back pain rock star from the University of Waterloo, shows in his book “Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance” that stretching your back initially causes pain relief because stretch receptors are stimulated, easing the pain signal. Unfortunately, this temporary pain relief can cause long term damage. Once your muscles reach their furthest point of stretching, the stretch will begin to pull on your connective tissue — tendons and ligaments. My old anatomy professor likened stretching muscles to stretching rubber bands – they are pliable and return to their original length easily. On the other hand, tendons and ligaments are more like plastic grocery bags. They will stretch, but once they do, they do not return to their original length easily. Spine stretching is not the devil, but you need to be very careful about how often and how long you stretch your back.

Stability and Endurance Are Key
In the course of my work in physical therapy I’ve come to disdain the word “strength.” Don’t get me wrong, I love strength training, and I think everyone should partake in it.  But in a post-surgical setting, I’ve come to learn that strength training is not an important factor for spinal health. After surgery the body needs to reactivate muscles. Surgery is very traumatizing and the nervous system often does not communicate well with the muscles in the injured area. The principles that apply in a post-surgical situation also apply to reducing back pain in general.  To promote a healthy spine and reduce back pain, consider implementing these steps (with the approval of your doctor):

  • First concentrate on activating lazy muscles. After surgery, the usual advice is to voluntarily tighten the muscles of the injured area. The same goes for core training. You must learn to contract all of your core muscles simultaneously. You can accomplish this by practicing bracing: lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Simply contract your abdominals and all surrounding muscles. Most people have the tendency to flatten their lower back into the floor while do bracing. Do not flatten your back. You want to brace with a normal lumbar curve. This will protect all of the tissue in and around your spine. Hold bracing for ten seconds for five repetitions. Maintain normal belly breathing throughout.
  • Once you are comfortable with bracing, move onto more difficult stabilization exercises like bird dogs and side planks. While executing these exercises maintain normal spinal alignment and brace hard. If you apply bracing to every exercise, you’ll see nearly instant improvements in many lifts.

Strength has little to nothing to do with decreasing back pain. It is a catch phrase to say “strengthen your back!” McGill’s research has demonstrated that strengthening the muscles around your spine have no positive improvement on pain. Stability and endurance training, however, are both shown to have significantly reduce back pain.

A Final Note
I would never say that a Child’s Pose or a crunch will kill your back, but I personally recommend stretching and stabilizing the midsection in different ways. A good alternative to the Child’s Pose is the Cat/Camel. The Cat/Camel will take your spine throughout its full range of motion, but due to the fact that you do not hold the extreme ranges, you will not experience tissue damage.

Also the term “endurance” is often misunderstood in fitness. Most people believe that doing a five minute plank is considered very impressive endurance. It may be impressive, but it’s impossible to maintain good form for that long. When it comes to increasing spinal endurance, McGill recommends doing many sets of shorter repetitions with short breaks. For example, instead of doing a plank for a minute straight, do six sets of ten seconds with a three to five second break in between each set. This will allow you to brace very hard and never lose form. Fear not, the minute-long endurance benefit is still there.

Sources
All of the references in this article are from Stuart McGill’s “Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance.” It’s an amazing read for anyone who is interested in this subject. If you would like supplemental readings, look up Gray Cook, Mike Boyle, Mel Siff, Craig Leibenson, and Shirley Sahrmann. McGill is a researcher so he looks at everything from a lab setting. These individuals are strength coaches, physical therapists and chiropractors so they have their own very unique ways of applying anatomical principles.

Originally posted 2013-09-02 19:44:58.

All About Tight Hamstrings

Tight hamstrings can be a… well, pain in the back of the legs. Thousands, if not millions, of people are plagued with tight hamstrings. The causes of tight hamstrings are often misunderstood, and the wrong protocols for stretching are often employed. Tight hamstrings, or improper stretching, can lead to further damage, including strains and tears. Hamstring strains are an unbelievably nagging injury, and can put you out of competition, or stall serious gym sessions, for quite awhile.

Anatomy
Your hamstrings are very large, predominantly fast-twitch muscles on the back of your thighs. Hamstrings attach at the lowest point of the pelvis, and travel down your legs, finally settling just below the knee. Due to the muscle’s position, your hamstrings control knee flexion — moving your heel toward your behind — and aid in hip flexion — pushing your hips forward. Aside from helping you bust out killer dance moves, your hamstrings’ fast-twitch muscle fiber make up help you run fast and jump high.

Tight Muscles
In order for a muscle to truly become tight, it must remain in a shortened position repeatedly for a very long time. A large percentage of the population has truly tight hip flexors — which run from your spine, cross your hip and attach to your thigh — because they spend too much time sitting. In a seated position, your knees are flexed, but your hips are not extended; this shouldn’t cause the hamstrings to fully shorten. Avoid sleeping with your thighs straight down from your torso with your knees bent; this causes a full hamstring contraction and can lead to tight hamstrings.

Muscles contract in small sections that span the length of the muscle called sarcomeres. As a muscle shortens and becomes inactive, it loses sarcomeres. Shirley Sahrmann, a legendary physical therapist and author of multiple textbooks, has conducted research that showed that stretching truly tight muscles will only result in 10-15% of your possible maximum length. Sahrmann showed that strength training throughout a full range of motion is much more effective at adding sarcomeres to a muscle.

Protective Tension
The scientific name for tight muscles is “shortened” muscles; this is a much more fitting term because the muscle itself often has nothing to do with its length. Muscles are simply contractile proteins; they cannot think, and only do what your brain instructs them to do. As you sit and read this, your brain is sending millions of signals throughout your body, gathering information and returning it to your brain to make decisions. Your brain is regulating your heart rate, digestion, body temperature and the length of many of your muscles.

Your brain recognizes instabilities throughout your body, and tries to protect these fragile areas by limiting mobility. Muscles are easy for the brain to control via the neuromuscular junction. If you lack core stability, your brain recognizes the high risk of spinal injury and tightens surrounding muscles — in this case the hamstrings. Physical therapist Gray Cook and others believe that by restoring core stability, the hamstrings will receive the message to lengthen on their own. In the words of Greg Roskopf, founder of the Muscle Activation Technique, “muscle tightness is actually a secondary symptom of muscle weakness.”

The Grid Foam RollerAdhesions
If you have experienced a previous hamstring strain or tear, you probably have adhesions and scar tissue built up in the injured area. These wounds will limit your range of motion and appear to be tight muscles. Connective tissue damage can be seen in the muscle itself, or the fascia — the dense connective sheath around the muscle. If you believe you have adhesions or scar tissue, focus on self myofascial release like foam rolling, or receive manual massage to restore your range of motion.

The Take Away:
Knowing the cause of your hamstring tightness will allow you to treat the condition properly. Ironically, stretching is very seldom the key to fixing the problem, but it is a good idea to incorporate light stretching while addressing the main problem. In my time working with patients in physical therapy and clients in the gym, I have come across more protective tension issues than anything else. I was plagued with chronically tight hamstrings, and gained about 30 degrees of extra hamstring range of motion in four weeks by focusing on restoring my stability. Stretching was an afterthought, and it paid off in the end. Chalk another one up for core exercises.

Related Products: Foam roller

References: Muscle Motion: Muscle BoundCharlie Weingroff: Shirley Sarhmann Workshop Day 1 NotesGray Cook: Expanding on the Joint-By-Joint ApproachEric Cressey: 5 Reasons You Have Tight Hamstrings

 

Originally posted 2013-08-03 10:49:36.