When you touch your toes, your hamstrings put on the brakes to save your nose!

There is so much noise around tight hamstrings causing back pain – but it’s a joke! Saying tight hamstrings cause low back pain is like saying seatbelts cause car accidents. If you drive dangerously then a seatbelt needs to be super tight, because it is what holds you in the seat, allowing you to drive more recklessly and still feel safe. When you bend (and by bend, I mean bend poorly, i.e. starting the movement with your lower back instead of your hips), then your hamstrings really are your seatbelt. When you bend from your back your centre of gravity moves forward, so you need something which is going to stop you from falling over. Enter, your hamstrings and calves. When you bend from your lower back you actually need tight hamstrings: by being tight/ short they can have a stability function. Meaning that when you bend, tension will be taken up by those hamstrings, instead of immediately going to your back. So if you stretch your hamstrings and don’t change how you move you will take away your brakes – this would be crazy! You are bound to hurt your back (not to mention, face plant and break your nose!).

So what do you do?

Don’t stretch! Change how you bend: improve your lumbopelvic rhythm, bend from your hips and let your centre of gravity move backward. As you do this you will use your hips, use your glutes, activate your core and actually naturally stretch your hamstrings. It will give you better glutes and a stronger core – changing this movement pattern will change your body!

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