I have a rocky relationship with hamstring stretching (see: the yoga butt incident of 2018). Unwinding the tight group of muscles running up the backs of your legs can make all of your everyday movements feel more effortless, but getting the hang of how can be tricky. That’s why I asked Donna Flagg, a dancer and stretching instructor at Broadway Dance Center, to coach me through proper techniques. Apparently, there are three things you should never (like, ever) do when you’re stretching your hamstrings.
“The world is divided into people who believe they were born inflexible and always will be, and those who stretch but don’t understand why their flexibility does not improve,” she tells me. If you find yourself struggling with forward-fold or (trying) to do the splits, then Flagg wants you to listen up. Simple as it may seam, tweaking your form just slightly can lead to big results.
Ready for smarter hamstring stretching? Watch out for these 3 common mistakes.
1. Don’t: Buckle foward
“In an effort to go farther and touch their toes, people bend their knees, making it more likely that they will touch the floor,” says Flagg. While nothing’s inherently wrong with that, the problem arises if you buckle and slacken the whole back of your leg. Meaning, your hamstrings won’t get stretched out and you’re compromising the health of your needs.
Do this instead: To keep your entire lower chain safe, contract the muscles around your kneecaps. This will engage your quads and keep your upper leg active.
2. Don’t: Tuck your pelvis under
Flagg says she often sees people with tighter hamstrings tucking their pelvis under, which shortens your hamstrings and keeps the whole upper-back section of your legs from getting stretched out.
Do this instead: “In order to stretch the top of the hamstrings, you have to stick your butt out and keep it out. That goes for standing and sitting positions,” says Flagg.
3. DOn’T: Flex Your toes instead of the entirety of your feet
“You’ll notice that people often flex their feet when they stretch their hamstrings, but because their hamstrings are tight, their feet find a way to cheat them out of the stretch,” Flagg explains. By this, she means that rather than flexing the foot at the ankle, they simply flex their toes, which does…. next to nothing.
Do this instead: “You have to flex with flat feet and leave the toes out of it,” says the dancer.
Want legs like a dancer? This workout will get you there:
Here’s what a dance cardio instructor eats in a day. And the calf-strengthening move you can do while brushing your teeth.