Dr. Phil Shares: 8 Yoga Poses for Stronger Knees

8 Yoga Poses for Stronger Knees

Yoga can be daunting for those with knee problems. Unfortunately, that’s a lot of us, myself included. Below are the yoga poses I used to strengthen my knee after surgery.

Three years into my yoga career, I suffered a meniscus tear. Physical therapy, ice, and painkillers were not enough to ward off surgery. I had to go under the knife.

My bones and tendons blocked the doctors from seeing the exact location of the tear in ultrasounds, so exploratory surgery had to be performed before the surgeon could fix the problem. By the time they were done, my leg looked like it had been beaten with a meat tenderizer and my muscles and soft tissue were in a sorry state. Giving up my career as a yoga instructor was not an option for me, so I took the time to learn how to protect my knee by strengthening the muscles that support it.

Here are the exact yoga moves I practiced to strengthen and stretch my knees. However, make sure to always seek advice from your physician before beginning any exercise or rehabilitation regimen, especially if you have any unique or special medical conditions related to your knees.


5 Yoga Poses for Stronger Knees:

1. Supported Chair Pose (Utkatasana)

This pose will strengthen the quadriceps, hamstrings, and abductors. It also increases blood flow to the lower region of the body, which can help with fluidity of movement. Chair pose is typically practiced away from the wall, but that may require more strength than your knees are able to handle at the moment, so use the support of a wall if you need it. Place your feet hip distance apart. Lean your back up against a wall and slide down until your knees and ankles are parallel with each other. You can place your hands on your thighs or reach the arms towards the ceiling. Hold the pose for a few breaths then slide back up. Repeat several times. As your legs get stronger, increase the number of breaths you hold the pose.

Yoga for the Knees Chair Pose

2. Supported Bridge Pose (Setu Bandasana)

Bridge pose is a yoga asana that helps properly align your knees while strengthening your back, glutes, and hamstrings. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and walk your feet toward your bottom until you can just touch your heels with your fingertips. Step your feet out hip distance apart and place a block horizontally on the floor between your feet. This will help keep everything in place. Press into all four corners of the feet, the inside and outside edges as well as the heel and the balls. Draw your navel in toward your spine and press your lower back into the ground. Tuck your tailbone in and lift your bottom from the ground. Lift as high as you can without compromising your form (your knees should remain hip distance apart and parallel with the ankles). To get an added stretch in the chest, you can roll your shoulders under your body and interlace your fingers underneath you. Hold this pose for a few breaths then release the upper back first, then mid back, then finally lower your lower back and tailbone to the floor. Repeat a few times.

Yoga for the Knees Bridge Pose

3. Supported Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana)

Balancing poses can be very beneficial when it comes to building the muscles that help the knee. However, if your knee is currently inflamed, you want to avoid anything that will put this much weight on the joint. By using the support of a block, you can work on strengthening the muscles in this pose and stretching the hamstrings without putting stress on your knee. The first time you do this pose, use an empty wall and a block for support. Stand with your back to the wall and rotate your right foot so that the outside edge of the foot is parallel with the wall. Place the block in your right hand, bend your right knee, and shift your weight so you’re balancing on the right leg. Set the block on the floor a few inches in front of your right foot and press your right hand into it to help straight the right arm and leg. Rotate the left side of your body upward so that your back is either in alignment with the wall behind you or leaning on it. Your left leg should be lifted and parallel with the floor. Your left arm should create a straight line with the right arm. Hold for a few breaths and increase the amount of breaths as you get stronger.

Yoga for the Knees Half Moon Pose

4. Mountain Pose (Tadasana)

Mountain pose will teach you proper alignment that may help ward off new knee injuries and help you become aware of the muscles you need to engage to protect the knee. To get into the pose, stand with your feet hip distance apart, lift all your toes up, spread them wide, and then rest them back down on the floor. Press into the floor with all four corners of the feet to evenly distribute the weight of the body. As you press into your feet, engage your calf muscles. Engage the quadriceps and internally rotate your inner thighs to widen your sits bones. Tuck your tailbone in, and engage the glutes. Tighten your abs. Pull your shoulders back and down. Make sure your shoulders are stacked over your hips and ankles. Lift your chin and pull it back slightly so it is parallel with the floor. Relax the muscles in your face. Take several deep breaths and notice the muscles you have engaged to create proper posture. Hold this pose for approximately 10 breaths.

Yoga for the Knees Mountain Pose

5. Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)

A common problem with those who suffer from knee injuries or weakness is a strong vastus lateralis (the outer part of your quadriceps) and a much weaker, underused vastus medialis (the inner part of your quadriceps). Trikonasana is a pose that will strengthen the muscles that support the inner quad. Step your feet out in a wide stance so your left foot is parallel with the back of your mat and your right foot is turned out at a 90 degree angle, parallel with the inside horizontal edge of the mat. Bend your right knee so it lines up with the ankle and hip. Press into both feet and straighten the right leg, engaging the inner part of your quad and thigh. When this muscle is engaged, you will notice it is impossible to lock your knee. However, when you disengage the muscle, it will hyperextend and lock (you should avoid this). Reach your right arm straight down and rotate upward with the left side of your body. Line up your arms so they’re in a straight line and keep your core engaged. For support, you can place your right hand on a block, but be sure to keep the core engaged as you reach up to the sky with the left side of your body. Hold for a few breaths, disengage, and then repeat.

Yoga for the Knees Triangle Pose

3 Yoga Poses to Stretch The Knees:

It’s important to not only strengthen the knees but also to stretch them. You can make knee injuries worse if the muscles are so tight that they decrease movement fluidity. Here are 3 poses that stretch the knees and the supporting muscles without causing pain. Again keep in mind that each person is different and very few injuries are exactly the same, so make sure to seek advice from your physician before beginning.

1. Wide-Angled Seated Forward Bend (Upavistha Konasana)

Many of the poses that stretch your legs and hips tend to torque the knee in a way that can be quite painful for those who have knee weakness and pain. Konasana is a great pose that will stretch out the whole back of the body as well as the hips, inner thighs, and groin. To get into this pose, straddle your legs out in the widest stance you can comfortably place them. Flex your feet to activate the leg muscles. Place your hands on the ground forward in front of you and slowly walk them forward until you feel the stretch. Keep your spine straight and elongated throughout the stretch. If you find that your spine creates a C shape when you start to fold, place a blanket under the sits bones to lift yourself slightly off the floor. Hold this pose for 8 to 10 breaths. Follow it up by pulling the legs together and the knees into the chest.

Yoga for the Knees Seated Wide Angle Forward Bend

2. Easy Pose (Sukhasana)

Lotus is a common pose that that is held at the beginning and end of each yoga class and can be a real pain in the knee. So, instead of sitting with both feet in the crooks of your thighs, simply cross your legs and gently place one in front of the other. Keep in mind that the deeper the bend in the knee the higher the chance of pain, so you may not have a perfect crossed leg look. That’s okay. You also have the option of sitting on a blanket to make the pose more comfortable and placing blocks on either side of the knees. This pose will stretch your knees and ankles. Sit up tall and breathe deeply for about 8 to 10 breaths, increasing the amount of breaths as you feel more flexible over time.

Yoga for the Knees easy pose

3. Child’s Pose (Balasana)

This is a gentle knee stretch that can be intensified the closer you can move your bottom toward your heels. Props are necessary for those with tight, sore knees. Start on your hands and knees (with a blanket under the knees for protection). In the full, unmodified, pose you’d have your feet together with your toes untucked, knees separated so the belly can rest between the thighs, bottom sitting on the heels, and forehead on the mat with the arms extended out. Modify as you need. Consider decreasing the degree to which you part your knees. Use blankets behind the knees or on the heels. This pose can be held for 8 to 10 breaths and then increased slowly as you become more flexible.

Yoga for the Knees Childs Pose

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health Guelph

Dr. Phil Shares: Static Stretching vs. Dynamic Stretching: Which Should You Do?

warmup exercises dynamic stretching vs static

One of the biggest mistakes newcomers to fitness can make is skipping warm-up exercises before a workout. Not only is warming up valuable, it’s essential, delivering benefits beyond simply preparing your body for exercise, and extending to issues of safety and performance.

But older notions of the warm-up may compromise both, making it important to know the difference between active and passive warm-ups, static and dynamic stretching. Once you’ve settled on a workout program, budget properly for some warm-up exercises by incorporating the information below into your fitness regimen.

Static Stretching vs. Dynamic Stretching

When preparing to do any type of vigorous activity — be it playing a team sport, performing aerobic exercise, or lifting weights — you need to prepare your muscles for action. Traditionally, there have been two primary ways to do that: static stretching and active warm-up exercises.

warm-up-exercises-dynamic-vs-static-2Static stretching

This is what you probably did in your middle school P.E. class: gradually elongating a muscle and holding it for up to 30 seconds. Think side bends or the classic hamstring stretch, where you reach for your toes while sitting on the floor. The goal of these stretches is to release tension, making muscles more pliable and less susceptible to pulls and strains.

Dynamic stretching

Part of the larger category of active warm-ups, this type of preparatory activity involves movement-based stretching like bodyweight lunges and trunk rotations. Additional active warm-ups include sport-specific agility drills, sprints and shuttle runs, jumping rope, jogging, and other low-impact, light effort exercises. The goal is to prime the body for action, and it’s what smart trainers and coaches now recommend that people do not only before competition, but also before every workout.


The Benefits of Active Warm-Ups

Research has found that while static stretching can provide recovery benefits when performed at the end of a workout, it can hamper performance if performed at the beginning. That’s because it relaxes muscles, sapping strength, while reducing blood flow and decreasing central nervous system activity.

Active warm-up exercises — especially those that involve dynamic stretching — have the opposite effect, boosting blood flow, activating the central nervous system, and enhancing strength, power, and range of motion. As a result, they offer a host of both immediate and long term benefits.

Active warm-ups improve performance

A 2014 systematic review of 31 studies published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that active warm-ups encompassing such exercises as sprints and plyometrics can enhance power and strength performance. Meanwhile shorter, static stretching not only fails to provide such a boost, but may also reduce strength. A meta-analysis of 32 studies on warming up and performance in 2010 also found that doing an active warm-up before engaging in sports yields improved performance — in this case, by 79 percent across all criteria examined.

“I have even seen runners who are doubling up in distance events on the same day run their second event better than the first,” says Brad A. Roy, Ph.D., FACHE, FACSM, FMFA, executive director of The Summit Medical Fitness Center in Kalispell, Montana. “With adequate rest, the initial event serves as an enhanced warm-up for the second event.”

Even if you aren’t playing a sport every week — or competing in two running events in a single day — doing some dynamic stretching every time you lace up for exercise can help optimize your performance and fast track your results. It doesn’t matter whether you’re exercising in your living room, pumping iron in the gym, pounding the pavement, or hitting the links with your bros on a Sunday — priming your body for action will elevate your game and accelerate your gains.

Active warm-ups prevent injury

A 2008 study of roughly 2,000 soccer players in The BMJ found that a structured warm-up program that included running, jumping, dynamic stretching, and targeted exercises for strength, balance, core stability, and hip and knee durability decreased the overall risk of injury by 35 percent, and cut severe injuries by almost half.

Scientists at Northwestern University had similar results in their 2011 study of 1,500 athletes. They found that 20 minutes of strength, balance, plyometric, and other dynamic stretching exercises before practice yielded a 65 percent reduction in gradual-onset injuries, a 56 percent reduction in acute non-contact injuries, and a 66 percent reduction in non-contact ankle sprains. More recently, a 2014 review of studies published in Orthopaedic Nursing found that tailoring a warm-up to a specific sport led to the fewest injuries and best outcomes.

6 Quick Warm-up Exercises Everyone Should Do

Although a sport-specific warm-up is always preferable, the following dynamic stretching circuit encompassing a broad range of movements can help prepare your body for just about any athletic endeavor. Perform each move for one minute prior to working out or competing.

Shoulder Circle

  • Stand tall with your shoulders relaxed and your arms by your sides.
  • Slowly roll your shoulders in a circle (forward, up, back, down) for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat in the opposite direction.

Trunk Rotation

  • Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent.
  • Keeping your back straight (not arched), raise your arms straight out to your sides, and bend at the elbows.
  • Keeping your knees bent, pivot on the ball of your right foot as you rotate your torso to the left and invert the motion to the right.

Standing Hip Circle

  • Stand on one leg and raise the opposite knee to 90 degrees (your thigh should be parallel to the ground).
  • Keeping your knee raised, open your hip, making wide circles with your leg. Continue for 30 seconds.
  • Switch legs and repeat.

Leg Swing

  • Stand tall with your feet together and your arms out to your sides or gripping a stable surface for balance.
  • Shift your weight to your left leg and raise your right leg out to your side.
  • Swing your right leg parallel with your shoulders back and forth in front of your left leg. Continue for 30 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.


  • Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and your hands on your hips.
  • Keeping your chest up, shoulders back, core braced, and back flat, take a large step forward with your right foot. Lower your body until your front thigh is parallel to the ground and your rear knee is bent 90 degrees. (It should hover a couple of inches above the ground.)
  • Pause, and then reverse the movement to return to the starting position. Repeat, this time stepping forward with your left foot. Continue alternating legs.

Related: How to Do the Perfect Forward Lunge

Half Squat

  • Stand tall with your arms by your sides and your feet hip- to shoulder-width apart.
  • Keeping your back flat and core braced, raise your arms straight out in front of you as you push your hips back, bend your knees, and lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
  • Pause, and then push yourself back up to the starting position.

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health

Dr. Phil Shares: Foam Rolling vs. Stretching

Foam Rolling vs. Stretching

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Foam rolling has become the golden child of muscle relief. Walk into a big box gym and you’ll see people doing foam rolling exercises, or attend a group fitness class and you might use foam rollers before the warmup. Some studios even offer entire foam rolling classes.

This increasing knowledge and use of foam rollers is great, but it can make us forget about another important element of fitness—stretching. Both have benefits and both should be part of your routine.

Adding foam rolling and stretching exercises to your schedule may seem like a lot, given that it’s hard to do even a 30-minute workout most days. But thanks to the many benefits of foam rolling and stretching, doing both can give your body and workouts a boost, provided you do them at the right times.

Foam Roller Benefits

The primary benefit of foam rolling is to alleviate tension in the muscle tissue. “If you have any little restrictions like scar tissue, fascia, or trigger points, regular self-myofascial release can help release those adhesions and soften the tissue,” explains Debra Stroiney, Ph.D., professor of sport and exercise science at Gannon University.

Foam rolling does this, in part, by increasing blood flow to the area you are rolling. “When you roll your muscles, you are pushing blood away, and then after it wants to rush in,” says David Behm, Ph.D., university research professor, applied neuromuscular physiologist, and sports scientist at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

The combination of relieving tension and increasing blood flow provides benefits both before and after a workout. So grab your favorite foam roller, whether that’s a rumble roller or a foam roller, and get started!

Not exactly sure how to foam roll? Follow this guide for a break down of how to use a foam roller, and how not to use a foam roller.

Foam Rolling Pre-Workout

Foam rolling during a warmup literally warms up your muscles because of the increased blood flow. “Foam rolling is a whole-body thing,” Stroiney says, which prepares you for your workout.

Additionally, research shows that foam rolling for as little as five to 10 seconds increases range of motion, though rolling for longer leads to greater benefits. Plus, it provides these benefits without affecting performance during your workout, whereas static stretching before a workout can actually decrease power or performance, Behm explains.

And, despite the “hurts so good” reputation foam rolling has, it doesn’t need to hurt. On  a scale of one to 10, where one is no discomfort at all, and 10 is severe discomfort, rolling at an intensity of seven out of 10 gives the same benefits as rolling at an intensity of nine, Behm says.“You can roll moderately and still get the same effects,” he says.

Stroiney recommends doing five to 10 minutes of foam rolling as part of your warmup. Behm says rolling an area for 30 to 60 seconds is best, but listen to your body. If an area needs extra attention, focus on that and roll it longer.

Foam Rolling vs Stretching

Post-Workout Foam Rolling

Foam rolling after your workout also has benefits. Studies have found that foam rolling post-exercisereduces delayed-onset muscle soreness. “The increased blood flow helps bring nutrients to your muscle tissue, so you recover faster,” Stroiney explains. “The blood brings anti-inflammatory properties to the area, which may help you not be as sore later on.”

This may also help reduce the risk of injury, especially if you tend to have tight muscles or trigger points, providing release will help your muscles function better, she adds.

When you foam roll as part of a cooldown, take more time than the pre-workout foam rolling. Stroiney suggests dedicating one to two minutes to roll out each muscle group you used. “Think of it like if a professional massage therapist were doing a full-body release for you,” she says. “You are just doing a smaller piece of that.” Look at a massage therapist like a dentist, and foam rolling is like brushing your teeth. It’s a preventative task, and more convenient than a massage, which unfortunately doesn’t always fit your schedule and budget.

The Best Time to Foam Roll

Foam rolling isn’t only for the days you exercise. It’s also great to do on rest days. “Doing it on a daily basis isn’t going to hurt you. If anything, the people I know have felt better because of it,” Stroiney says. Since the increasing blood flow can help your muscles recover, it can be a huge for your recovery days.

The only time you may not want to foam roll is if you are injured. You could do more damage, so check with your health care provider before rolling an area that’s in pain.

Benefits of Stretching

The benefits of foam rolling and stretching overlap a bit, but the primary goals are different. “Whereas foam rolling is intended to release and regenerate the fascia and underlying muscles, stretching focuses on improving range of motion by specifically addressing tissue extensibility, training the body for the controlled elongation of muscles during movement,” explains Jessica Matthews, author of Stretching to Stay Young and senior adviser for health and fitness education for the American Council on Exercise.

In turn, stretching exercises lead to increased flexibility which may reduce your risk of injuries. “When you are better able to go through a full range of motion as your body is intended to, that leads to better movement patterns and quality, both during workouts and in everyday life,” Matthews says.

Stretching can be confusing, however, because there are two kinds of stretching exercises: dynamic and static. Dynamic stretching takes your joints and muscles through a full range of motion, such as trunk rotations, arm circles, and hip circles. Static stretching is passively holding a stretch. Each provides different benefits and is best performed at different times of your workout.

Pre-Workout Stretches

The intention of a warmup is to gradually prepare your body for the exercise that’s to follow. Because of this, dynamic stretching is most ideal pre-workout to increase your body temperature and heart rate. They can mimic movements or exercises in your workouts, Matthew says, like the standing hip hinge (pushing your hips back) as preparation for squats. This helps to prepare your nervous system and gets your brain-body connection going. Dynamic stretches should also stretch your muscles through movement, such as leg swings for the hamstrings, or walking quad stretches.

And studies show dynamic stretching is better than static before a workout to boost poweranaerobic performance, and acceleration and speed. Static stretching does the opposite. Research has shown that doing static stretches before a workout may reduce muscle strength by 24 percent and muscle endurance by 28 percent and also reduce jump performance and decrease speed.

Before a workout, five to 10 minutes of dynamic stretching is ideal, but as little as three minutes will do the trick, Matthews says. You should always do dynamic stretches for your ankles, hips, shoulders, and thoracic spine, as these areas are designed to be really mobile. Then, do movements specific to your workout. Think: Are there “rehearsal” movements you can do at half-depth and slower speed?

Foam Rolling vs Stretching

Post-Workout Stretches

After a workout is when static stretching comes into play. Your body is warm and your muscles are more pliable, which is an ideal situation for static stretching.

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) advises holding each stretch 10 to 30 seconds. Then, repeat it until you’ve held each stretch for an accumulated 60 seconds. That can seem like an eternity, so to make this easier, Matthews suggests using your breath. “Fifteen seconds is about five to six slow, controlled breaths,” she says. Move into your stretch and hold that position to the point of mild tension or slight discomfort for at least five breaths. Then repeat this four times.

Aim for 10 minutes of post-workout static stretching of all your major muscle groups, Matthews recommends. If that’s too much, “even one 15-second rep [per major muscle group] is better than zero,” Matthews adds. Naturally, hit the muscles you’ve just worked, but also think about what else you do throughout the day that could potentially create stiffness, impact your posture, and affect your movement quality. Stretch those areas too, such as the hip flexors, which tend to be tight since we all spend so much time sitting.

As a bonus, this can be very relaxing. “Static stretching can help alleviate physical tightness in the body, and pairing it with mindful breathing can help decrease psychological stress too,” Matthews says.

Stretching at Other Times

As with foam rolling, stretching shouldn’t be something you only do on workout days. The ACSM recommends stretching at least two to three days a week.

Dynamic stretching is great to do in the morning to prep your body into the day, or anytime of day to re-energize, Matthews says. Get up from your desk and do a few stretches during the afternoon to bust you out of your lull.

If you want to do static stretching, always warm up your muscles first. You can do this by foam rolling, dynamic stretching, or even taking a hot bath or shower. “It has the same effect on your muscles and tendons, making them more pliable,” Matthews says. “You can even create an evening ritual and do some static stretching after [showering] as you’re watching TV.”

If you have an injury, however, stretching that body part at anytime may not be advisable. “If your muscle is damaged, it’s trying to recover,” Behm explains, by scar tissue filling in the tears. “Stretching is pulling apart those tissues, plus if there is inflammation, your capillaries are damaged, and stretching may further damage those. Give them a few days of rest.”

When You Should Foam Roll and Stretch

Foam rolling and stretching are great alone, and they also make a great couple—if you have time, of course.

In a small study published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, adolescent athletes did foam rolling, static stretching, or foam rolling followed by static stretching. All three techniques increased ankle mobility, but combining the two lead to a greater effect. Similarly, a study by U.S. researchers of 40 adults found that doing both led to greater increases in range of motion in the hips.

If you decide to do both, follow the study protocols and foam roll before stretching. If you’re short on time, experts say to foam roll before your workout, focusing on particularly tight and tense areas of your body. Then post-workout, do static stretches since your core body temperature is increased and your muscles are warm. And if you’re ambitious, try foam rolling later in the evening, say when you’re Netflixing.

If you have time to do both before and after exercise, follow this formula: Pre-workout, roll tight or restricted areas to prep your body for the greater movements you’ll do in your dynamic stretches, Matthews recommends. Post-workout, foam rolling first, as it will help you stretch further in your static stretches.

The Takeaway: Foam Rolling vs. Stretching

There are benefits to foam rolling and stretching, and while it’s ideal to combine the two, you can often get by doing just one. You can roll at anytime of day, and will get the benefits before or after exercise. As for stretches, do dynamic stretches before a workout (ideally after foam rolling), and static stretches after a workout (again, ideally after foam rolling). By working these into your fitness schedule and your everyday routines, and chances are you see and feel a difference in your muscles and movement, inside and outside the gyms.


Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health

Dr. Phil Shares: Why The Tight Hamstrings, and What Can We Do About Them



Why Do our Hamstring muscles tend to tighten up  And more importantly, exactly how do you plan to loosen them up?

Well, you may be able to sprint 100 meters in under 12 seconds, or stay on cadence in 22 Minute Hard Corps without missing a beat, but there’s one movement that will humble even the fittest of fanatics: bending at the waist and reaching for the ground.

You want your fingers to reach the floor, but frustratingly, they probably stop short around your ankles, your shins, or even your knees. One reason for this may be tight hamstrings.

First things first. “Hamstrings” refers to the three muscles on the back of your thigh: the semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and biceps femoris. Physiologically speaking, tight hamstrings refers to the anatomical shortening of the muscle belly — the center or “meat” of the muscle, explains physical therapist Rob Ziegelbaum, D.P.T., clinical director of Wall Street Physical Therapy in Manhattan.

Because the muscle belly has been shortened, there’s increased tension on the tendons, he says. This leads to less flexibility in your hamstrings, and less range of motion in the surrounding joints — the hip and the knee.

How Do Your Muscles and Tendons Shorten?

Think of them like rubber bands. Like rubber bands, tendons and muscles come with different levels of elasticity, and this is mainly thanks to genetics. “Some people are born with limited elasticity in their muscles and are, therefore, naturally less flexible,” says Ziegelbaum.

Women, incidentally, tend to be more flexible in general than men, and young children are more flexible than most adults, he says. But everyone can train to improve their flexibility as part of a well-balanced training regimen, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.

Genetically speaking, muscle length, tendon length, relative muscle and tendon length, tendon attachment points, and skeletal segment length all can play a role [in how flexible you are], says exercise physiologist Janet Hamilton, C.S.C.S., owner of Running Strong Professional Coaching in Atlanta.

All muscles and tendons have the potential to become more elastic and supple. The key to any stretching program is regularity. “For example, a gymnast who constantly does splits on a balance beam will adapt in such a way as to have relatively more flexibility than a long distance runner who works at a desk for a living,” says Hamilton.

why do you have tight hamstrings-run-impost

How Can Running Cause So Much Muscular Tension?

One of the most common culprits for tightening those hamstrings? Running. “I often see long-distance runners who gradually lose flexibility in hamstrings and calves,” says Hamilton.

Why is running so rough? Well, researchers aren’t actually entirely sure. Hamilton’s guess is that it stems from weak gluteal muscles, since the glutes and hamstrings work in synergy to propel you forward over the ground. “If one member of the team isn’t contributing as much as they should, then the other member of that team has to contribute more,” she adds. “This potentially leads to overuse and might be to blame for what we interpret as tightness.”

However, tight hamstrings and their attachments are not limited to runners. Pretty much every athlete (amateur or elite) that trains for athletic performance but doesn’t stretch thoroughly and effectively post-workout probably has tight hamstrings. “During and after a workout, our muscles tighten up in part to protect our joints and in part because of the depletion of water since dehydration tightens muscles,” Ziegelbaum says.

It’s not just the type of physical activity you do that determines how tight or loose your hamstrings will be; it’s also what you do throughout the day. “Tight hamstrings are a result of this adaptive shortening. If someone sits at a desk for prolonged periods, knees bent, hamstrings contracted, the muscle effectively changes to the required length, which is shorter than that of a person who is standing or stretching regularly,” Ziegelbaum explains.

Tight Hamstrings Often Lead to Lower Back Pain

Well, the obvious scaremongering answer is that it increases your risk of an incredibly painful partial or full tear of the hamstrings. But the bigger problem, Ziegelbaum says, isn’t actually in your hamstrings, but in those surrounding muscles.

Hamilton agrees. “Things in the human body are intricately related to one another. Movement at one segment often depends on something happening at another segment. If your hamstrings are tight, that’s going to affect the biomechanics of the two connecting joints, the knee and the hip (knee pain and tight hips). Tight hamstrings are often associated with a whole host of injuries, including various low back pain syndromes, knee injuries, and even plantar fasciitis,” Hamilton says.

why do you have tight hamstrings-stretch-inpost

In fact, a study published in the journal Foot & Ankle Specialist, researchers found found that having tight hamstrings makes you nearly nine times as likely to suffer from plantar fasciitis. Yikes!

Plus, tight hammies can actually hurt your athletic performance. “Muscles that are ‘tight’ are often weak as well,” Hamilton says. “If a muscle is weak, you’ll have to recruit more motor units to accomplish a task, which may increase fatigue… and a fatigued muscle cannot produce force as well as one that is not,” she adds.

How to Tend to Your Tight Hamstrings

You can increase your flexibility by standing up and stretching more often. Even better, upgrade to a standing desk if possible — but make sure it’s set up ergonomically or you risk adding posture problems and neck pain to your ailments, Ziegelbaum warns.

Exploring more formal and lengthy mobility work like yoga or Pilates classes is always a good idea. At the very least, though, you need to be stretching pre- and post-workout, say these experts. A dynamic (moving) stretch routine before you start sweating can help maintain muscle elasticity during the workout, and a longer stretch afterward can help counteract the activity-induced tightening, Ziegelbaum explains.

“I often encourage my athletes to do a variety of drills in their warm ups, similar to what you might see the Olympic track and field athletes doing prior to competitions: skips, hops, high-knees — anything that mimics the motion you’re about to do — but at lower intensity,” Hamilton says.

The most effective stretches otherwise? Studies from the National Institutes of Health found that active stretches (long-held postures through full range of motion) can help increase hamstring length in just 6-8 weeks.

There are dozens of safe, do-anywhere hamstring stretches in many Beachbody programs. Try them after every workout or before bedtime. Try a few after your next big workout!

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health

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Prevent and Treat Summer Sports Injuries with These Tips

Summer is the season when many competitive athletes and weekend warriors’ are most physically active. Hospitals get busier as well, seeing an increase in sports-related injuries. Many of these painful problems can be avoided with some basic pre- and post-workout practices that keep athletes ready to play and help them recover after.

“During the summer months we see an influx of patients with injuries associated with increased activity level; too much, too soon, too fast,” says Dr. Phil. “We also see an increase in injuries associated with environmental illnesses like heat illness and dehydration”.

Repetitive Stress Injuries

A traumatic injury occurs at one time, such as when someone sprains an ankle, tears a muscle, injures a knee or breaks a bone. A repetitive-stress injury occurs when an athlete repeats a movement, such as a baseball pitch or a tennis backhand. Over time, a muscle or ligament or tendon begins to wear down.

Athletes should pay attention to nagging soreness in joints and be careful about pain relievers that can hide a serious problem. A visit to a qualified sports medicine physician can help pinpoint an overuse issue that’s causing pain. Treatment often includes adding strength-training exercises that target the specific area. Athletes can then meet with his or her coach and work on improving the throw or swing that’s causing the problem.

The Stretching Myth

Athletes might be surprised to learn that stretching a muscle and holding that stretch before activity not only doesn’t reduce the risk of injury, it actually impairs sports performance and can increase a person’s risk for an injury. Holding a stretch, known as static stretching, desensitizes muscles and decreases vertical leap and power for approximately 15 minutes. It’s OK to do this type of stretching roughly 30 minutes before activity or immediately following, but not right before a jog or volleyball match.  Examples of dynamic stretches are: skipping, jumping jacks, quick lunges, arm circles and light jogging. After every workout, practice, game or match, athletes should static stretch to increase flexibility and improve future performance.

Static stretching is helpful after a workout or game. “Cooling down and stretching after activity shows benefits for injury prevention, particularly after consecutive intense workout days in a row,” says Dr. Phil.

RICE Might not be Nice

For decades, athletes have used ice to immediately treat sprains and other injuries. The most common method of treating sports injuries today is the RICE method (rest, ice, compression, elevation). According to current sport researchers (including Dr. Gabe Mirkin, who coined “RICE” and that treatment in 1978), icing is actually the wrong way to go. Inflammation after an injury is a sign the body is working to heal the problem. When athletes ice an injury, they slow the healing process. The same happens when taking anti-inflammatory medications, such as cortisone shots or ibuprofen.

It’s OK to use ice to manage severe pain, but only for 10 minutes, followed by a 20-minute break, followed by another 10 minutes of ice and so on. Athletes should stop icing after six hours and visit a doctor if the pain persists. If pain lasts for more 48 hours, it might be a sign professional medical attention is needed.

Hydrate Properly

During the summer, people participating in hard physical activity should begin all exercise sessions well hydrated, recommends Dr. Smith. “If a person becomes thirsty during activity, he is at least one liter depleted of fluid and this is means he needs to hydrate.” An athlete should pre-hydrate with 17 to 20 ounces of fluid, two to three hours before exercise, and another 7 to 10 ounces of fluid 20 to 30 minutes before exercise, says Dr. Smith. If the activity last less than 45 minutes, water should be adequate for hydration. If the exercise lasts longer than 45 minutes, athletes should consume some post-exercise carbohydrates, either in a sports drink, energy bar, snack or meal.

Beware of Heat Exposure

Many people who get heat prostration don’t realize it and keep playing, eventually ending up in the hospital. On hot days, athletes should check themselves, their partners and teammates for signs of heat stress, such as bright red skin, a lack of sweating and cold, clammy skin. Wear light-colored clothes and hats that wick water away from skin (avoid cotton) and let skin breathe.

Safe Workout and Exercise Tips

Dr. Phil recommends the following tips to build a safe, enjoyable exercise program:

  1. Build Frequency – How often you perform an activity. Start 2-3 times a week and build from there.
  2. Increase Duration – How long you do an activity. Start with 20 minutes and build from there.
  3. Increase Intensity – How difficult your activity is. The recommended rate to increase the intensity of your program is no more than 10% per week.

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health

4 Ways to Increase Flexibility

You eat the right foods, drink the right drinks, and exercise regularly. In other words, you’re strong and healthy. There is only one hole in your overall good health. You’re as flexible as a piece of plywood. But there’s good news! You don’t have to stay inflexible your entire life. With the right steps, you can improve your flexibility, which will make life that much better.

Ready to get started building a more flexible you? Here’s how.


Roll Before

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For many years, it was common practice to stretch before working out. In recent years, folks have ditched that advice for something better: lightly performing whatever you plan to do. Going to run? Walk and then jog before getting into a run. For those who want to take their routines to the stretchy limit, it’s time to use a foam roller.

With a foam roller, you work to gently stretch your muscles before working them out, and better yet, you stretch them out safely. Essentially a massage for your muscles, foam rolling helps your muscles relax and stretch. This, in turn, allows your entire muscle to be worked out in the gym afterward and prevents an already tight muscle from growing tighter through your exercise routine. Once you knock out a little foam rolling, the time is right for a round of body-weight exercises or light activity before going full force.


Go All the Way

As you exercise, you can help your flexibility by working throughout your entire range of motion. Initially, you may have a harder time squatting your full range of motion, but sticking with it will allow your muscles to work all the way and will lead to their being more flexible.

To get to where you can squat or perform other exercises as deep as your body allows, you will probably want to reduce the amount of weight you use. As your body grows accustomed to going through a fuller range of motion, you can increase the weight and enjoy improved flexibility.


Stretch Afterwards

Your routine winds down, and your muscles feel tight and want to stay that way. Folks who are new to working out often enjoy the feeling. It lets them know their body has worked hard, and so they allow the tightness to remain as they leave the gym and return to their daily routines.

However, this is when your stretches become most important. By taking 10 minutes to slowly stretch, you can take a huge step toward your overall flexibility. A good post-workout stretch will focus on the areas worked during your routine, but will provide a little stretching for the entire body. You can also finish your stretching with more foam rolling if you have time, as this will help further your flexibility goals.


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When stretching for increased flexibility, you may be tempted to push it as far as you can. But don’t give in. Instead, you should relax and take the slow and easy-going path to flexibility. Going too far too fast will actually have the opposite result that you want, as your body will have to repair itself from small injuries that occur from stretching and won’t want to stretch further in the future. Instead, take your time and allow your body to ease into stretches.

Feel an uncomfortable burning sensation that actually hurts? That is not your body’s way of thanking you. Back off and stretch to the point of slight discomfort. Accept that you can’t increase your flexibility overnight, and you will make better headway than beating your muscles into flexible submission.
The Domino Effect
Regular exercise makes it easier to eat healthy. Just as healthy eating makes you more likely to exercise.

It’s the domino effect. When you begin to make a positive change in one area of your life other areas will soon follow.

Remember, while nutrition is vitally important for weight loss, true results are achieved through a combination of both nutrition and challenging, progressive exercise.
Quinoa Breakfast Bowl

You’ve probably heard of quinoa—it is hailed as a super food. It’s high in protein (12%-18%) and contains a balanced set of essential amino acids — this means it’s a surprisingly complete protein. It’s also high in fiber and iron. Quinoa is quite possibly the perfect thing to have for breakfast to start your day off on the right foot.

Servings: 1

Here’s what you need…
• ½ cup quinoa, cooked in water according to instructions on package
• 1 Tablespoon golden raisins
• 1 Tablespoon date pieces, chopped
• 1 Tablespoon pecan pieces, chopped
• Dash of cinnamon
• Dash of nutmeg
• Drizzle of pure maple syrup
1. Top cooked quinoa with raisins, date pieces, pecan pieces, cinnamon, nutmeg and a drizzle of maple syrup.
Nutritional Analysis: One serving equals: 344 calories, 5g fat, 59g carbohydrate, 6g fiber, and 12g protein.

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister @ Forward Health

8 Tips for a Healthy, Active Spring


After the winter chill is gone it’s nice to go for a walk without having to navigate snow banks, salt, or sleet. Everyone can benefit from taking advantage of the more healthful opportunities afforded, but the trick is to not overdo it. Getting your body used to a more active lifestyle takes some conditioning and common sense. Keep these tips in mind when you head out the door.

Use heat therapy to soothe muscles before and after exercise

Most people know that a heating pad or warm bath after a workout or slight injury can make a significant difference in terms of pain reduction and comfort. What is not so well known is that heat can play a preventative role, too.

  1. Applying heat before a workout session can minimize muscle strain. A study compared pain felt by exercisers who applied a heat wrap to their lower back before their workout session with those who did not. That treatment group rated their post-exercise pain as about 50% less intense as the group that only did stretching. Using commercial heat wrap products available in drugstores may be able to keep you comfortable and get you back to action sooner.
  2. Heat therapy calms muscles and prevents cramping. After a workout, muscles and joints are potentially dehydrated and, because they are attenuated (weakened), not as stable as when they have been resting. Applying a heating pad or wrap for 10 minutes or so while seated or lying down after a workout session or strenuous activity like spring cleaning can help muscles calm down and return to their normal state without seizing up.

Learn more about preventative heat therapy in Heat Wrap Therapy Can Reduce Post-Exercise Low Back Pain.

Stretch to release stiff joints and prevent injury

Whether it’s golf, tennis, gardening, or just walking, stretching is one way to keep you in action longer. Similar to heat therapy, a stretching session of five minutes both before and after physical activity can pay big dividends by keeping you healthy and preserving your motivation to stay active.

  1. Focus on the big muscles first. The quadriceps and hamstrings in your thighs are generally the largest muscles of the body and deserve special attention. That means stretching the back, front, and inner and outer thigh. It may seem a bit much, but you can’t really move without them so it’s worth the effort, particularly because they play a key supporting role for your back.
  2. Stretch the whole body. One approach to stretching is to concentrate on these muscles first, and then work up through the back, arms, and neck, and then down through the calf and ankle.

See Hamstring Stretches for a guide to treating this muscle well, and Sports Injuries and Back Pain for additional stretching tips.

Don’t shortchange your sleep

It can be difficult to adjust to the longer days of springtime, particularly with abrupt daylight savings adjustments. Sleep deprivation and insomnia are major causes of on-the-job injury, as well as other health problems since a tired body is a weakened body. How can you get the shut-eye you need?

  1. Have a sleep routine. Your body responds to routine on both conscious and unconscious levels. Going to bed at the same time, for instance, and only using the bedroom at nighttime can help switch your mindset into ‘sleep mode’.
  2. Make food and drink work for, not against, sleep. Sometimes it seems like there is a coffee shop on every corner. Caffeine has even been injected into bottled water. Moderation is the key, and most doctors recommend eliminating caffeinated drinks after lunch, assuming you turn in around 10 p.m. Java in the morning is OK. Have coffee in the evening and you may be in for a long night of counting sheep.

For more on sleep, consider these 11 Unconventional Sleep Tips.

Move away from your desk, couch, car or gardening stool

It’s all too easy to focus on a task only to look up and realize that you have been in essentially the same position for two hours. Your neck, your back, your arms—they all ache. Sitting too long in one position slows down blood flow to both appendages and your brain, so move them—because they are designed to move.

  1. Set a reminder to move every 20 to 30 minutes. Use your cell phone or watch to set an alarm. That will be your signal to get up and walk around the house or office, or fold a load of laundry, or take out the trash. It doesn’t matter what you do, really, only that you change position and use the major limbs in a different way.
  2. Do stretches at your table or in your cube. Maybe you don’t have the luxury of taking a little walk. No matter. Simply standing up and reaching your hands over your head and then trying to touch your toes may be enough to activate the blood flow.

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