The 6 Stretches Everyone Who Sits at a Desk Should Be Doing

The 6 Stretches Everyone Who Sits at a Desk Should Be Doing

If you run| bike| or are deskbound all day| your hamstrings could use some extra love and length. It not only feels good to stretch this commonly tight area| but hamstring flexibility is also important for the health of your back| hips| and knees. Here are six easy and essential stretches that target the backs of your legs. To avoid injury| it’s best to do them at the end of a workout| when the muscles are warm.

| Tipover Tuck Hamstring Stretch

This stretch is good for your hamstrings and also loosens tight shoulders.

  • Stand with your feet hips-width distance apart. Interlace your hands behind your back. Keeping your legs straight| bend at the hips| tucking your chin| and bringing your hands over your head.
  • Relax the back of your neck and if the stretch is too intense| release your hands| placing them on the backs of your thighs| and soften your knees. Hold for 30 seconds and slowly roll up to standing.

| Scissor Hamstring Stretch

Easy to do anywhere and safe for injured backs| this hamstring stretch is great if you’re really tight.

  • Stand with your feet together. Step your right foot back about two feet and bend forward from your hip joint| keeping your back and both legs straight. After holding for 30 seconds| switch sides.

| Standing Hamstring Stretch

If the previous stretch isn’t deep enough for you then try this variation. It’s perfect for doing on a bench after a run in the park.

  • Prop your left heel up on a surface that is a little lower than your hip such as a chair or bench. Flex your foot.
  • To increase the stretch bend forward toward your flexed foot| by creasing at your hips. Hold for 30 seconds and switch legs.

| Modified Hurdler Stretch

This basic stretch is perfect for targeting one leg at a time| and is great for those with really tight hamstrings.

  • Sit on the floor and straighten your left leg in front of you. Bend the right knee| placing the sole of your right foot against your left inner thigh.
  • Fold over your left leg| keeping your back straight. Hold for 30 seconds| then switch legs.

| Forward Bend With Rounded Back

This stretch targets both hamstrings as well as the lower back.

  • Sit on the floor| extending both legs straight out in front of you| legs together.
  • Fold your torso over your thighs| gently rounding the back but keeping the legs straight. Hold here for 30 seconds and then sit up.

| Reclined Hamstring Stretch

Here’s a relaxing way to stretch one hamstring at a time.

  • Lie on your back. Raise your left leg as high as you can keeping your pelvis flat on the ground. Hold your lower thigh and encourage the leg to move toward your head. Flex your foot to stretch your calf too.
  • To deepen the stretch| place a yoga strap or towel on the ball of your foot and use your hands to pull the strap toward you. After 30 seconds| switch legs.

2016 Goal: How to Do the Splits

2016 Goal: How to Do the Splits

If you’ve always wanted to do a split, you need flexible hips and hamstrings. Practice these nine stretches, and you’ll soon be on your way.

For more stretching options, do check out our video with yoga poses that will help you master the splits.

| Tipover Tuck

This relaxing stretch is a great way to begin stretching both hamstrings at the same time while also increasing flexibility in your lower back. You’ll also get a nice stretch in the chest and shoulders, which won’t help with doing splits but will definitely feel good.

  • Begin standing with your feet hips distance apart. Bring your arms behind you and interlace your fingers right below your sacrum (back of your pelvis). If you can, press the heels of your palms together in a double fist. Actively pull your hands away from your shoulders to increase the stretch in your chest.
  • From here, lean your chest forward and lift your hands up overhead as you fold your torso toward your thighs. Keep both legs straight. Make sure you’re lengthening through your spine by reaching the top of your head toward the floor.
  • Stay like this for five breaths, and when you’re ready to come out, actively press into your feet, engage your thighs, and slowly lift your torso back up to a standing position.

| Head to Knee

Here’s a stretch to work one hamstring at a time. You’ll feel this in your lower back, too, and it’ll also begin to open your hips.

  • Sit on the floor with both legs extended in front of you. Bend your right knee and pull the sole of your foot against your left inner thigh.
  • Reach your right hand to the outside edge of your left foot so you can stack your torso directly on top of your left leg. Bring your left hand to the arch of your left foot. If you can’t reach your hands to your foot, then reach out as far as you can, resting your chest on your left thigh. Remember, the point here is to stretch your hamstrings, hips, and lower back, not to touch your foot.
  • Stay here for five breaths, relaxing your shoulders away from your ears. Then do the other side.

| Seated Straddle

Here’s another great pose that will stretch both hamstrings and your lower back. Since your legs are separated, it focuses more on the part of the hamstrings closest to your bum.

  • Sit down with your feet about three to four feet apart (not as wide as you can go). Reach back with your right hand and move the flesh of your right bum cheek away from you, and then do the same with your left. This will help your pelvis ground more firmly so you can stretch your hamstrings more effectively.
  • Sit tall, reaching your head away from your hips, and draw your belly and ribs in. Keep that length as you begin to fold forward at your waist, sliding your hands down your legs or on the floor in front of your head.
  • Go down as far as you need to feel a stretch in your hamstrings, but you don’t want to feel pain. Hold for five breaths.

| Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch Against a Wall

Flexible hamstrings aren’t the only thing you need to do a split. Flexible hips and hip flexors are also a must, so try this stretch using a wall.

  • Fold up a towel and place it about eight inches away from a wall.
  • Kneel down and place your left knee on the towel and your toes against the wall.
  • Now place your right foot on the ground in front of you, and lower your hips until you feel a stretch in the front of your left hip. Make sure your right knee is directly above your ankle.
  • Place your hands on your front knee to help keep your torso straight. Stay like this for five breaths. Then slowly release and do this stretch on the other side.

| Lizard

This hip flexor stretch will stretch you even deeper.

  • Begin on your hands and feet in Downward Facing Dog. Step your right foot forward between your palms, as if you’re going to come into Warrior 1, but keep your hands on the ground.
  • Lower your left knee to the floor and release your elbows to the floor if you can. Either rest your hands palms facing down on the mat, or bring your hands together in prayer position.
  • Continue to squeeze your right knee toward your body and keep your gaze in front of you to encourage your hips to lower toward the floor.
  • Hold here for five breaths, and then repeat on the left side.

| Sage

Here’s a way you can gently use your upper-body strength to help your legs move into split position.

  • From Downward Facing Dog, step both feet together so your big toes are touching. Move your right hand over to the left six or so inches so it’s at the upper center of your mat.
  • Step your right foot forward two inches, and plant the sole of your right foot firmly on the mat so your toes are pointing to the left.
  • Then roll over to your right side and lift your left hand off the mat, coming into a Side Plank. Lift your left leg up bending your left knee and hold on to your big toe with the first two fingers and thumb of your left hand.
  • Stay here balancing, or work on straightening your left leg completely. Try to keep your shoulders, spine, and hips in one straight line, and gaze toward your right toes. Stay here for five breaths, trying to keep your core strong and the pose steady.
  • Release hold of your left foot and place your left hand back on the mat. Move your right hand back where it was near the top right corner of your mat. Separate your feet so you are in a top of a push-up position. Take a vinyasa and come back to Downward Facing Dog. Then do this pose on the other side.

| Standing Split

This vertical split is great practice before doing a horizontal split. It will target the standing leg’s hamstring while also stretching your hips.

  • Begin in Standing Forward Bend. Inhale and shift weight into your right foot and your palms. Lift your left leg up as high as you can. Tuck your chin and draw your torso toward your right leg, breathing deeply and relaxing the shoulders away from the ears.
  • Stay here for five breaths, then return your left leg to the floor. Stay here for a complete breath, and repeat this stretch with the left foot on the floor.

| Standing Hand to Big Toe A

Here’s a more intense vertical split that allows you to use your upper-body strength to stretch your hamstring even more. Keep your lifted leg straight in order to effectively target the muscles in the back of the leg.

  • Stand with your big toes touching. Put all your weight into your left foot and lift your right foot up. Bend your knee so you can hold on to your right foot with both hands. Keep your left leg straight.
  • From here, work on straightening your right leg. Then if it’s easy, pull your right thigh in toward your belly so your toes are pointing straight up.
  • Try to lengthen through your spine, and tuck your tailbone in so your torso is in line with your standing leg. Hold for five breaths, then slowly release your right foot to the ground. Repeat this stretch on the other side.

| Supported Split

Before trying out a full split, doing this stretch with a block is a great way to ease into it.

  • Sit on a mat and come back into Lizard. Sit up and shift your weight back, bending your left knee and straightening your right leg.
  • Place a block or rolled-up blanket under your right hamstring. Then start to inch your left foot away from you, coming into Split. Allow all your weight to be supported by the block or blanket. If it’s too much of a stretch, make your support a little higher.
  • Hold for five breaths here, and then do this stretch on the other side.

2016 Goal: How to Do the Splits

2016 Goal: How to Do the Splits

If you’ve always wanted to do a split| you need flexible hips and hamstrings. Practice these nine stretches| and you’ll soon be on your way.

For more stretching options| do check out our video with yoga poses that will help you master the splits.

| Tipover Tuck

This relaxing stretch is a great way to begin stretching both hamstrings at the same time while also increasing flexibility in your lower back. You’ll also get a nice stretch in the chest and shoulders| which won’t help with doing splits but will definitely feel good.

  • Begin standing with your feet hips distance apart. Bring your arms behind you and interlace your fingers right below your sacrum (back of your pelvis). If you can| press the heels of your palms together in a double fist. Actively pull your hands away from your shoulders to increase the stretch in your chest.
  • From here| lean your chest forward and lift your hands up overhead as you fold your torso toward your thighs. Keep both legs straight. Make sure you’re lengthening through your spine by reaching the top of your head toward the floor.
  • Stay like this for five breaths| and when you’re ready to come out| actively press into your feet| engage your thighs| and slowly lift your torso back up to a standing position.

| Head to Knee

Here’s a stretch to work one hamstring at a time. You’ll feel this in your lower back| too| and it’ll also begin to open your hips.

  • Sit on the floor with both legs extended in front of you. Bend your right knee and pull the sole of your foot against your left inner thigh.
  • Reach your right hand to the outside edge of your left foot so you can stack your torso directly on top of your left leg. Bring your left hand to the arch of your left foot. If you can’t reach your hands to your foot| then reach out as far as you can| resting your chest on your left thigh. Remember| the point here is to stretch your hamstrings| hips| and lower back| not to touch your foot.
  • Stay here for five breaths| relaxing your shoulders away from your ears. Then do the other side.

| Seated Straddle

Here’s another great pose that will stretch both hamstrings and your lower back. Since your legs are separated| it focuses more on the part of the hamstrings closest to your bum.

  • Sit down with your feet about three to four feet apart (not as wide as you can go). Reach back with your right hand and move the flesh of your right bum cheek away from you| and then do the same with your left. This will help your pelvis ground more firmly so you can stretch your hamstrings more effectively.
  • Sit tall| reaching your head away from your hips| and draw your belly and ribs in. Keep that length as you begin to fold forward at your waist| sliding your hands down your legs or on the floor in front of your head.
  • Go down as far as you need to feel a stretch in your hamstrings| but you don’t want to feel pain. Hold for five breaths.

| Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch Against a Wall

Flexible hamstrings aren’t the only thing you need to do a split. Flexible hips and hip flexors are also a must| so try this stretch using a wall.

  • Fold up a towel and place it about eight inches away from a wall.
  • Kneel down and place your left knee on the towel and your toes against the wall.
  • Now place your right foot on the ground in front of you| and lower your hips until you feel a stretch in the front of your left hip. Make sure your right knee is directly above your ankle.
  • Place your hands on your front knee to help keep your torso straight. Stay like this for five breaths. Then slowly release and do this stretch on the other side.

| Lizard

This hip flexor stretch will stretch you even deeper.

  • Begin on your hands and feet in Downward Facing Dog. Step your right foot forward between your palms| as if you’re going to come into Warrior 1| but keep your hands on the ground.
  • Lower your left knee to the floor and release your elbows to the floor if you can. Either rest your hands palms facing down on the mat| or bring your hands together in prayer position.
  • Continue to squeeze your right knee toward your body and keep your gaze in front of you to encourage your hips to lower toward the floor.
  • Hold here for five breaths| and then repeat on the left side.

| Sage

Here’s a way you can gently use your upper-body strength to help your legs move into split position.

  • From Downward Facing Dog| step both feet together so your big toes are touching. Move your right hand over to the left six or so inches so it’s at the upper center of your mat.
  • Step your right foot forward two inches| and plant the sole of your right foot firmly on the mat so your toes are pointing to the left.
  • Then roll over to your right side and lift your left hand off the mat| coming into a Side Plank. Lift your left leg up bending your left knee and hold on to your big toe with the first two fingers and thumb of your left hand.
  • Stay here balancing| or work on straightening your left leg completely. Try to keep your shoulders| spine| and hips in one straight line| and gaze toward your right toes. Stay here for five breaths| trying to keep your core strong and the pose steady.
  • Release hold of your left foot and place your left hand back on the mat. Move your right hand back where it was near the top right corner of your mat. Separate your feet so you are in a top of a push-up position. Take a vinyasa and come back to Downward Facing Dog. Then do this pose on the other side.

| Standing Split

This vertical split is great practice before doing a horizontal split. It will target the standing leg’s hamstring while also stretching your hips.

  • Begin in Standing Forward Bend. Inhale and shift weight into your right foot and your palms. Lift your left leg up as high as you can. Tuck your chin and draw your torso toward your right leg| breathing deeply and relaxing the shoulders away from the ears.
  • Stay here for five breaths| then return your left leg to the floor. Stay here for a complete breath| and repeat this stretch with the left foot on the floor.

| Standing Hand to Big Toe A

Here’s a more intense vertical split that allows you to use your upper-body strength to stretch your hamstring even more. Keep your lifted leg straight in order to effectively target the muscles in the back of the leg.

  • Stand with your big toes touching. Put all your weight into your left foot and lift your right foot up. Bend your knee so you can hold on to your right foot with both hands. Keep your left leg straight.
  • From here| work on straightening your right leg. Then if it’s easy| pull your right thigh in toward your belly so your toes are pointing straight up.
  • Try to lengthen through your spine| and tuck your tailbone in so your torso is in line with your standing leg. Hold for five breaths| then slowly release your right foot to the ground. Repeat this stretch on the other side.

| Supported Split

Before trying out a full split| doing this stretch with a block is a great way to ease into it.

  • Sit on a mat and come back into Lizard. Sit up and shift your weight back| bending your left knee and straightening your right leg.
  • Place a block or rolled-up blanket under your right hamstring. Then start to inch your left foot away from you| coming into Split. Allow all your weight to be supported by the block or blanket. If it’s too much of a stretch| make your support a little higher.
  • Hold for five breaths here| and then do this stretch on the other side.

Holy Hot! Yoga Sequence to Do Your Tight Pants Justice

Holy Hot! Yoga Sequence to Do Your Tight Pants Justice

Whether sporting leggings with sneaks or high heels, here’s a 14-pose yoga sequence to make your tight pants proud.

| Wide Squat

  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips. Bend your knees and lower your hips toward the ground.
  • Bring your palms together at your heart center, and firmly press your elbows against the inside of your knees, helping to open the hips even further.
  • Shift weight into the heels, lengthening the crown of the head up toward the ceiling, holding for five deep breaths.

| Extended Wide Squat

  • Release your hands to the floor, walking them away from you as you press your belly toward the floor.
  • Relax your head, staying here for five breaths.

| Half Bound Wide Squat

  • Walk your hands back to the feet, and lower your right shoulder in front of your right knee. Wrap your armpit around the knee as you reach your right forearm around your lower back with your palm facing away.
  • Reach your left arm toward the ceiling, bend your elbow, and bring the back of your left hand to your lower back.
  • Touch your fingers together if you can and if they’re close enough, hold your left wrist with your right hand, with the left palm facing behind you.
  • Hold for five deep breaths, gazing over the left shoulder.

| Balancing Bound Wide Squat

  • Bring your gaze forward, and rock your weight from side to side to gain enough momentum to rise up while holding your knee in the bound position. Rock right, left, right, and as you rock left, push into the left foot to straighten the leg and rise to stand. If you lose hold of your right leg, wrap your right arm around it again once you feel stable. If this is too difficult, just clasp both hands around your right knee.
  • Gaze over the left shoulder for five breaths.

| Flamingo

  • WIth your arms holding the bind around your right knee, slowly hinge at the hips, folding forward as far as you can. If this is too difficult, release your hands to the floor, keeping the knee bent.
  • Hold still, breathing for five breaths.

| Extended Hand to Big Toe

  • Pressing into the left foot, rise up with your bent right knee, and release your arms. Hold the right big toe with the first two fingers and thumb of your right hand, and bring the left hand to your left hip.
  • With the left leg straight and the torso stacked over the pelvis, straighten the right leg out in front of you as much as you can.
  • Enjoy this stretch for five breaths.

| Dancer

  • Bend the right knee, swing it behind and kick it away as you lean the torso forward, holding onto the arch of your right foot.
  • Draw the belly toward the spine, staying here for five deep breaths.

| Eagle

  • Release hold of your foot, lift the torso as you swing your right knee forward. Wrap it around your left thigh, and tuck the right toes around your lower left leg.
  • Cross the left elbow over the right then bring your palms together.
  • Hold like this for five breaths, lifting the elbows as high as you can, gazing at the hands.

| Crouching Eagle

  • Keeping the legs and arms crossed, bend the knees to squat down and lower the torso, resting your right elbow on your right knee.
  • Hold for five breaths.

| Eagle Warrior 3

  • Keeping the elbows crossed, uncross the knees, and kick your right leg behind you, bringing the torso parallel with the floor.
  • Actively extend the arms away from you, and engage the abs for five breaths.

| Bent Standing Split

  • Bend the right knee and fold forward. Lower the right hand to the floor and hold the right toes with your left hand.
  • Pull the knee as high as you can to intensify the quad stretch, holding for five breaths.

| Lunge

  • Kick the right foot behind you, bending the left knee, and releasing the hands to the floor.
  • Hold this lunge position for five breaths.

| Burning Lunge

  • Lower your torso, and reach your left arm underneath your bent left knee. Interlace both hands in front of your left ankle. Keep all the weight in your legs, resisting the urge to lean into your hands. If this is too hard for your thigh muscle to hold (it’s an intense move!), then rest one or both hands on the floor.
  • Breathe deeply in this low lunge for five breaths.

| Kneeling Quad Stretch

  • Lower the back knee to the floor.
  • Pull the foot in toward your right hip, holding the top of the foot with your right hand.
  • Rest your left forearm on your left thigh, staying here for five breaths.
  • Release the back leg, and step your right foot forward to meet the left, coming into a Wide Squat. Now repeat this sequence on the left side.

Holy Hot! Yoga Sequence to Do Your Tight Pants Justice

Holy Hot! Yoga Sequence to Do Your Tight Pants Justice

Whether sporting leggings with sneaks or high heels| here’s a 14-pose yoga sequence to make your tight pants proud.

| Wide Squat

  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than your hips. Bend your knees and lower your hips toward the ground.
  • Bring your palms together at your heart center| and firmly press your elbows against the inside of your knees| helping to open the hips even further.
  • Shift weight into the heels| lengthening the crown of the head up toward the ceiling| holding for five deep breaths.

| Extended Wide Squat

  • Release your hands to the floor| walking them away from you as you press your belly toward the floor.
  • Relax your head| staying here for five breaths.

| Half Bound Wide Squat

  • Walk your hands back to the feet| and lower your right shoulder in front of your right knee. Wrap your armpit around the knee as you reach your right forearm around your lower back with your palm facing away.
  • Reach your left arm toward the ceiling| bend your elbow| and bring the back of your left hand to your lower back.
  • Touch your fingers together if you can and if they’re close enough| hold your left wrist with your right hand| with the left palm facing behind you.
  • Hold for five deep breaths| gazing over the left shoulder.

| Balancing Bound Wide Squat

  • Bring your gaze forward| and rock your weight from side to side to gain enough momentum to rise up while holding your knee in the bound position. Rock right| left| right| and as you rock left| push into the left foot to straighten the leg and rise to stand. If you lose hold of your right leg| wrap your right arm around it again once you feel stable. If this is too difficult| just clasp both hands around your right knee.
  • Gaze over the left shoulder for five breaths.

| Flamingo

  • WIth your arms holding the bind around your right knee| slowly hinge at the hips| folding forward as far as you can. If this is too difficult| release your hands to the floor| keeping the knee bent.
  • Hold still| breathing for five breaths.

| Extended Hand to Big Toe

  • Pressing into the left foot| rise up with your bent right knee| and release your arms. Hold the right big toe with the first two fingers and thumb of your right hand| and bring the left hand to your left hip.
  • With the left leg straight and the torso stacked over the pelvis| straighten the right leg out in front of you as much as you can.
  • Enjoy this stretch for five breaths.

| Dancer

  • Bend the right knee| swing it behind and kick it away as you lean the torso forward| holding onto the arch of your right foot.
  • Draw the belly toward the spine| staying here for five deep breaths.

| Eagle

  • Release hold of your foot| lift the torso as you swing your right knee forward. Wrap it around your left thigh| and tuck the right toes around your lower left leg.
  • Cross the left elbow over the right then bring your palms together.
  • Hold like this for five breaths| lifting the elbows as high as you can| gazing at the hands.

| Crouching Eagle

  • Keeping the legs and arms crossed| bend the knees to squat down and lower the torso| resting your right elbow on your right knee.
  • Hold for five breaths.

| Eagle Warrior 3

  • Keeping the elbows crossed| uncross the knees| and kick your right leg behind you| bringing the torso parallel with the floor.
  • Actively extend the arms away from you| and engage the abs for five breaths.

| Bent Standing Split

  • Bend the right knee and fold forward. Lower the right hand to the floor and hold the right toes with your left hand.
  • Pull the knee as high as you can to intensify the quad stretch| holding for five breaths.

| Lunge

  • Kick the right foot behind you| bending the left knee| and releasing the hands to the floor.
  • Hold this lunge position for five breaths.

| Burning Lunge

  • Lower your torso| and reach your left arm underneath your bent left knee. Interlace both hands in front of your left ankle. Keep all the weight in your legs| resisting the urge to lean into your hands. If this is too hard for your thigh muscle to hold (it’s an intense move!)| then rest one or both hands on the floor.
  • Breathe deeply in this low lunge for five breaths.

| Kneeling Quad Stretch

  • Lower the back knee to the floor.
  • Pull the foot in toward your right hip| holding the top of the foot with your right hand.
  • Rest your left forearm on your left thigh| staying here for five breaths.
  • Release the back leg| and step your right foot forward to meet the left| coming into a Wide Squat. Now repeat this sequence on the left side.

Here’s Why Your Hamstrings Are Always Tight

For years, I’ve been plagued by tight hamstrings. No matter how often I stretch the backs of my thighs or how often I attend yoga, these bad boys are always sore the day after a tough workout and unforgiving in my first Standing Forward Fold of class.

Source: POPSUGAR Studios

Founder of the Pilates hybrid workout Burn SF, Lisa Corsello, reassures me that tight hamstrings are one of the most common ailments her clients complain about at her studios. The cause of the issue is often problematic self-diagnosis, since quite often “where we experience tightness or pain isn’t necessarily where it originates.” Commonly, what we refer to as tightness across the back of the legs has very little to do with the backs of the legs. This pain can be alleviated by stretches that target not only the hamstrings, “but the psoas, hips, lower back, glutes, and calves” as well.

Certified personal trainer and POPSUGAR Fitness host Anna Renderer also holds a master’s degree in clinical exercise physiology. Anna explains that when the hamstrings aren’t experiencing a full range of motion, they become shortened ¡ª this is especially true if you’re sitting most of the time! Without this full range of motion in the hamstrings, there’s a “reciprocal effect of tight hip flexors” which affect your calves and hamstrings. When your hip flexors are tight, it causes a pelvic tilt that causes tightness in the lower back, and a tight lower back often results in tight hamstrings.

But it goes beyond the hip flexors. Pilates extraordinaire Brooke Siler ¡ª celebrity trainer and author of The Women’s Health Big Book of Pilates ¡ª says it’s essential to make sure the “Pilates powerhouse muscles (glutes, inner thighs, but mainly abs)” are doing “the lion’s share of the load.” This way, the hamstrings don’t have to support the pelvis on their own. Poor pelvic position from weak abs puts unnecessary strain on the hamstrings, and many women (like me) experience a feeling of “tight” hamstrings that refuse to loosen up.

Brooke says the moral of the story is to “strengthen your Pilates powerhouse (abs, glutes, and inner thighs) and stretch your hip flexors before going after your poor victimized hamstrings!”

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography

Here’s Why Your Hamstrings Are Always Tight

For years| I’ve been plagued by tight hamstrings. No matter how often I stretch the backs of my thighs or how often I attend yoga| these bad boys are always sore the day after a tough workout and unforgiving in my first Standing Forward Fold of class.

Source: POPSUGAR Studios

Founder of the Pilates hybrid workout Burn SF| Lisa Corsello| reassures me that tight hamstrings are one of the most common ailments her clients complain about at her studios. The cause of the issue is often problematic self-diagnosis| since quite often “where we experience tightness or pain isn’t necessarily where it originates.” Commonly| what we refer to as tightness across the back of the legs has very little to do with the backs of the legs. This pain can be alleviated by stretches that target not only the hamstrings| “but the psoas| hips| lower back| glutes| and calves” as well.

Certified personal trainer and POPSUGAR Fitness host Anna Renderer also holds a master’s degree in clinical exercise physiology. Anna explains that when the hamstrings aren’t experiencing a full range of motion| they become shortened ¡ª this is especially true if you’re sitting most of the time! Without this full range of motion in the hamstrings| there’s a “reciprocal effect of tight hip flexors” which affect your calves and hamstrings. When your hip flexors are tight| it causes a pelvic tilt that causes tightness in the lower back| and a tight lower back often results in tight hamstrings.

But it goes beyond the hip flexors. Pilates extraordinaire Brooke Siler ¡ª celebrity trainer and author of The Women’s Health Big Book of Pilates ¡ª says it’s essential to make sure the “Pilates powerhouse muscles (glutes| inner thighs| but mainly abs)” are doing “the lion’s share of the load.” This way| the hamstrings don’t have to support the pelvis on their own. Poor pelvic position from weak abs puts unnecessary strain on the hamstrings| and many women (like me) experience a feeling of “tight” hamstrings that refuse to loosen up.

Brooke says the moral of the story is to “strengthen your Pilates powerhouse (abs| glutes| and inner thighs) and stretch your hip flexors before going after your poor victimized hamstrings!”

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography