PT on the Net Research

Limited Back Flexibility


Question:

I have a client who has really bad back flexibility; it is like his lumber spine has none at all. When he bends over, this part of his spine stays rigid. I have him performing hamstring exercises, but are there any other exercises he could do?

Answer:

Hamstring tightness is very common with many of the clients that we train. The most obvious choice for exercise prescription in this case is to have your clients stretch their hamstrings. When clients stretch their hamstrings (or any other muscle) regularly and do not see long term changes in flexibility, then as trainers we must recognize that there are other underlying causes behind the tightness. An alternative thought process is to consider the opposite muscles from those that are tight. In this case, we would consider the muscles that move the body into the position that the hamstrings are resisting (i.e., the muscles responsible for trunk flexion). Typically hamstring tightness is secondary to weakness in the hip flexor and abdominal regions. The hamstrings tighten up as a protective mechanism, to prevent the body from moving into an unstable range (trunk flexion). By increasing the contractile characteristics of the hip flexors and abdominals, this will allow the hamstrings to relax, since they no longer feel the need to "protect." The best way to increase contractile capabilities of the muscles involved in trunk flexion would be to have your client perform isometric contractions in the position of trunk flexion. In this case, the client would be in a seated position, actively flexing forward until tension is felt on the hamstrings. At this point, the trainer should have the client perform low load isometrics in this position, continuing to flex forward against the resistance. The client should perform six isometric contractions, holding each isometric for six seconds, with 10 seconds rest between each repetition.These concepts follow the foundational thought process of Muscle Activation Techniques (MAT). For more information on this concept, please visit www.muscleactivation.com.