We all know having tight hamstrings is not good. In this article, I will share how tight hamstring impact the body and specific things we can do to help them out!
Here are 4 things people with tight hamstrings do:
- They don’t stretch at all, and the hamstrings keep getting tighter, which can cause poor posture and back, knee, and hip issues.
- They stretch statically with too much force, which only ends up switching on the body’s alarm system and tightening the muscle more to protect it. This is called the dreaded rubber band effect, where the hamstrings snap back into a tense position.
- They only do one hamstring stretch one way which gets only one area of the hamstring while the other parts stay tense.
- They don’t strengthen the hamstrings and glutes.
Here are a few essential things to consider when working with the hamstrings:
The hamstrings comprise three long and lean muscles at the back of the thigh. They are designed to stay taught because the tension acts like a spring, creating stability and power. The top of the muscle attaches to the sit bones, and the bottom attaches below the knee at the tibia, which means the hamstrings cross two major joints – the hips and knees. Therefore, tight hamstrings impact the biomechanics of both joints. Also, the hamstrings attachment at base of the pelvis influences the pelvis and lumbar spine position.
Tight hamstrings create two postural challenges in the body. First, they can pull down on the back of the pelvis, flatten your lower back, and compress your lumbar disk. Second, they cause your thighbones to push forward, creating a sway back. The hamstrings contribute to poor posture and low back issues in both cases.
Another issue with tight hamstrings is tight muscles are also weak muscles. Constant tension exhausts the muscle, making them less effective at doing their job. Tight hamstrings also never move into their full range of motion and lose power at the end ranges, which inevitably weakens the joint it acts upon (knees and hips).
In a simplistic view, our hamstrings have two main functions, one for each joint the muscles cross. At the hip, the hamstrings contract to cause hip extension, which moves the leg behind the body. At the knee, contraction of the hamstrings results in knee flexion, which bends the knee and propels the body forward when walking and running.
Why are the hamstrings vulnerable to injury?
First, they are long and lean muscles, so their slim structure is more vulnerable to injury and tears.
Second, the hamstrings are often weak and under-trained, and sometimes the quadriceps muscles take over during specific movements.
Finally, our buttock muscles (the glutes) are often weak because of all the sitting we do. The glutes shut off when we sit, and the hamstrings are chronically shortened for long periods.
All this leads me to critical hamstring do’s and don’ts!
- Do not stretch forcefully to prevent muscle tendon tears.
- Do not hold a stretch for too long – more is not always better!
- Do dynamic stretching by contracting and releasing the hamstrings.
- Do strengthen the buttock (glute) muscles.
- Do strengthen the hamstring muscles.
Here are some poses that can help:
Bridge pose. Make sure to contract the glutes and core together while firmly pressing down on the heels to make the hamstrings work harder.
Supine hamstring stretch with strap. Stretch the hamstrings after making them work, and only stretch for 30-40 seconds on each side.
Belly down single leg lifts. Use a 360 band to increase the work in the hamstrings and glutes.
Dynamic supine hamstring stretch with a strap. Add dynamic action by bending and straightening the knee 10x, then hold the stretch at 60-70% stretch for up to 30 seconds.
Dynamic runner’s stretch. Add pointing and flexing of the foot, also called ankle pumping, as this motion will stretch the back chain of the leg, including the hamstrings.
There’s much more to learn, but this is an excellent start to developing the knowledge, awareness, and techniques for mobile hamstrings and healthy knees, hips, and lower back. Learn how to get mobile and healthy hamstrings by registering in my new online 6-Week Hip Health Program.
Hip Health Program Links
Course Purchase https://momence.com/m/66613
Video Introduction https://youtu.be/eRtfI9rnx74
Hip Health July 10th Cohort https://momence.com/s/86900461
Sienna Smith C-IAYT, CAPP