By Louise Drysdale, Physiotherapist
Dancers of all ages participating in all genres of dance present in clinic with tight hamstrings, sore hamstrings, torn hamstrings and hamstrings that just can’t get into the splits or move like they once used to. Sometimes this is because of a memorable injury experience and sometimes “it’s just always been that way”.
Here are some important things to remember when tuning your “strings”:
- Your hamstrings start at your sit bones and run all the way down to the back of your knee. They attach to the very top and back of your shin bone or tibia.
- You have three hamstrings and each has a slightly different angle of pull/ job to do. These are biceps femoris, semimembranosus and semitendinosus.
- If you are still growing, your hamstrings are probably still growing too. This means your hamstring flexibility will vary over these years and that’s very normal.
- If you have torn your hamstring, it is always important to see the physio for guidance with regards to return to dance/ exercise and stretching.
- If you have one hamstring that is more flexible than the other, it is worthwhile seeing a physio to investigate why this is so (it could be for several reasons) and work out the best way to balance it out.
Best way to stretch hamstrings:
- For healthy but tight hamstrings, my best fool proof hamstring stretch is lying on your back and using a towel or a band with no stretch to bring one foot slowly closer to your head. Keep the hips square (don’t hitch the hip). You may need to bend the non- stretched knee up underneath you to keep your hips square. A slight bend in the stretched side is also fine as long as you can feel the stretch in the back of your thigh.
Best way to strengthen hamstrings:
Sometimes we forget to strengthen our hamstrings, especially as dancers place more emphasis on long hamstrings. Try bridging (pelvic lifts) with your feet on a chair, or a dipping bird. There is nothing wrong with a hamstring curl resisted by theraband, machines or ankle weights. See your physio to work out which is best for you.