Tip: Stop Doing the Standing Hamstring Stretch

This popular stretch can do more harm than good. Here's why, plus a much better alternative.

Sloppy Stretching and Low-Back Pain

Nothing is more predictable than the sloppy bent-over standing hamstring stretch. People kick their foot up and round their spine to reach over and grab their toe, thinking they're doing something healthy. In reality, they're predisposing themselves to several orthopedic problems, mainly lower back flare-ups or even injury.

The average person perceives a sensation of "tight" hamstrings due to the oldest test in the books – the toe touch. The thought is that if you can't touch your toes, your hamstrings must be tight. Sounds reasonable, right? Not quite.

The ability to touch your toes depends on the functional length of the hamstring complex and a host of other factors. Here are two:

  1. The ability to control and stabilize pelvic position into anterior and posterior tilting.
  2. The active and controllable range of motion at the segments of the spine that'll allow you to achieve a forward flexed curvature that doesn't look like you're going to break your midsection in half.

If you suck at the toe touch, and have focused on your standing hamstring stretching every day for months with no results, then drop it. Be smarter about the methods you're using.

Use the supine 90-90 active hamstring stretch. You'll have the ability to stabilize the spine and pelvis in a neutral position against the floor. This will let you engage the hams and quads so you can take the neural parking brake off your body's functional range of motion by facilitating motor control enhancement.