You have 3 Hamstring muscles that run up the back of your thighs, the Semimembranosus, Semitendinosus, and Biceps Femoris.
Your hamstring muscles are responsible for knee flexion (pulling your heels to your buttocks) and hip extension (driving your upper leg backwards).
These important muscles also act as a fundamental braking system during locomotion so when you walk down a hill it is your hamstrings that are slowing you down.
Many people nowadays struggle with tight hamstrings.
Why are your Hamstrings Tight?
Before stretching your hamstrings it is important to ask why these muscles get tight in the first place. Like with most things, it is more important to address the cause of the problem rather than the symptoms.
Nothing in the human body works in isolation, everything is connected so when thinking about the hamstring muscles it is worth thinking about the rest of the body too and how the hamstring could relate.
Below I have listed 3 of the main causes of tight Hamstrings:
# 1 – Too Much Sitting Can Cause Tight Hamstrings
If you spend most of your time sitting then the legs remain bent for the majority of time.
When the legs are bent the hamstrings are slackened off. If you remain in this seated position for too long then the body will draw in the slack from the hamstrings.
Later when you come to stand and straighten the legs your hamstrings will feel tighter.
Your body is a master adapter, if you sit down all day your body will adapt to sitting!
I think you probably know the answer to this one already.
Spend more time standing up with your legs straightened. Set a timer on your computer and get up and walk around every 50 minutes.
We are not designed to sit down for long periods of time so don’t do it, you will never win!
To help actively lengthen your hamstrings and open up your lower back perform 5 Yoga Squats as often as possible.
Work on getting deeper into the movement as time progresses.
Here’s how to perform the Yoga Squat:
# 2 – Tight Quads Can Cause Tight Hamstrings
If the front of your thighs or Quadriceps are tight due to incorrect recruitment of your Buttocks and/or incorrect workout programming, then this can effect your Hamstrings.
Your Quadriceps attach to the bottom of the front of your pelvis, if these muscles are shortened then they will actively rotate your pelvis forwards lengthening the hamstrings.
So although your hamstrings may feel tight they may actually just be long and weak.
If this is the case then you would be better off stretching your Quadriceps and strengthening (not stretching) your Hamstrings.
If you did stretch your Hamstrings then you will make the problem worse because you provide yet more slack for the Quads to reel in.
Stretch your Quadriceps more often. Little and often is better then only once now and again.
A very simple Quad stretch that is often performed incorrectly involves taking hold of your one foot, while standing, and pulling your heel to your buttocks.
Once in this stretched position squeeze your buttocks tight and rotate the bottom of your pelvis upwards while keeping the knee pointing downwards.
To encourage your Quad stretches to stick perform a Hamstring strengthening exercise immediately after your stretch.
The bodyweight Single Leg Deadlift below is the perfect exercise to practice after your Quad stretch:
# 3 – Weak Core Muscles Can Cause Tight Hamstrings
Your pelvis is the muscle attachment site for both the front thigh muscles (quadriceps) and back thigh muscles (hamstrings).
Your Core muscles, including your abs attach to the pelvis too.
When you walk or run your pelvis needs to stay still and in control in order to provide a stable platform for your legs to operate under.
If your pelvis wobbles around, like it does on most sedentary people these days, then you risk injuring your lower back as well as other areas throughout your kinetic chain.
Good core muscles that activate correctly are vital for maintaining pelvic stability.
If your Core and Abs muscles are not doing their job correctly then your Hamstrings will help to stabilise your pelvis.
When the hamstrings are sharing the load with the core muscles they will not only tighten but also reduce their efficiency at what they are primarily designed to do.
Regular Hamstring injuries can be due to weak core and abs muscles!
Strengthening and improving your Core muscles and improving their ability to activate correctly will enable your Hamstring to get back to the job they where designed to do.
Just performing hundreds of Crunches or Sit Ups is not the solution here. You need to actively train your pelvis to stabilise during movement.
The Deadbug core exercise below is an excellent way to work on improving your pelvic stability during movement:
I show you exactly how to improve your Inner and Outer Core and develop your Pelvic Core Stability in my:
Stretching your Hamstrings may not be the solution for your tight hamstrings.
Like most things in life finding the root cause of the problem is more important than just attacking the symptom.
If you do suffer from tight hamstrings then you may want to consider your lifestyle, quad muscles and core muscles before embarking on a hamstring stretching program.
Do you suffer with tight hamstrings? Let me know more below…