I’m pretty sure we all know someone or may even be that person who always has a tight hamstring. Well, you can tell them to STOP Stretching their Hamstrings. Throughout this post, I’m going to explain to you why it might not be in fact your hamstrings that are tight. As well as showing you how to fix the problem and releasing your tightness once and for all.
What Is Causing My Tight Hamstrings?
It’s not as simple as if it’s not one thing, then it’s the other. However, there are a few common issues it could be –
- This might sound a bit backwards but your hamstring tightness could be a form of weakness. The lack of strength could compensate with other muscles such as your glutes and quads. This can happen the other way as well if you have weak glutes, your hamstrings could be compensating. If you are thinking “well I squat a lot so it can’t be this” The hamstrings have been found have very little activation in the squat and the movement is mainly the Quadriceps and Glutes. (READ – The Indestructible Squat – Part 1) COMING SOON
- You have some nerve irritation. Commonly coming from your lower back. If you have tightness around your back this can affect the nerve supply. Imagine someone was pulling on your ponytail, to stop it hurting you wouldn’t grab at the root, you would hold just below the knot. It’s like your nerve getting pulled and irritated it doesn’t stop by holding at the root but is holding just below with your hamstring. Your back is the hair root and your hamstring is trying to stop the pulling. This doesn’t always have to be the hamstrings though, it could also be the glutes.
- Lastly, it could actually be your hamstrings that are tight but realistically this is really unlikely to be the case unless you have a very sedentary lifestyle. This lifestyle normally leads to a large amount of time in seated positions paired with a slumped lower back and a shortening of the hamstrings.
How To Test your Hamstrings
Now we know some of the common causes, how do we find out which one it is?
There are two tests you should try – a Nerve Test and a Hamstring Strength Test. Both of which you can do at home, yourself.
This test is to help you differentiate whether it’s nerve irritation or in fact your hamstring. As the video shows below, you start out by laying on your back with one leg straight out in front of you while holding the other leg up behind the knee. While keeping your ankle flexed, pull this leg towards your chest until you feel your hamstring pull.
Now staying in this position, point your toes. If this changes the intensity of the stretch in your hamstring then it’s a positive test – there could be a nerve issue which is causing your hamstring tightness. As the hamstring doesn’t attach anywhere near the ankle joint, movement at the ankle joint shouldn’t affect the stretch in the knee.
Hamstring Strength Test
This is to test the strength of your hamstrings. Start laying on your back. Straighten out your legs as far as you can, while still being able to get your weight through the ball of your foot (to know you are in the right position you should just be able to lift your heel off the floor). Once in this position, proceed to take one foot off the floor while using your other foot to lift your bum up and hold. If you can’t hold this position for around 30 seconds, then it’s a positive test for hamstring weakness.
How Do I Fix It?
For this, I would always be targeting my exercises around two main areas; the lower back and the glutes, as these are common causes that will be affecting the nerve. As we need to get the individual joints of the spine moving better. The following workout shows some key exercises I recommended doing.
Hamstring Strength Issue
Sorry to break it to you but building up hamstring strength isn’t as simple as doing some hamstring curls. Your hamstrings are a multi-joint muscle, meaning they spread over two joints (Hip and Knee joint), with its primary movements being hip and knee extension. Not only this, but we need to make sure we use the hamstrings throughout their full range. These exercises are put together to cover all these areas.
How To Stop Hamstring Tightness In The Future
This is why the pain comes back – people fix an issue they are having and 6 weeks later, the same issue starts up again. A lot of the time it’s a combination of your job, lifestyle, how you move day-to-day, even what exercises you do in the gym that can cause the problem. This is where you need to have a deeper look and think about where in your day could the issue be coming from? For example, are you sitting for 8 hours a day? Or are you targeting all the right areas in your workouts?
This just means you need to do some exercises to rebalance the scales of normal function. If you are working in an office, see if you can get a standing desk or get up more regularly to have a walk and stretch. Maybe start doing some morning movements or add some mobility or strength exercises on to the end of your workout. Staying on top of issues like this is all about balance, keeping the scales of day-to-day activities and normal function even.
When we are in pain it is important to realise that where the pain is isn’t always where the root course might be. As we have talked about, the main issue could be within your lower back. Because the hamstring is hidden away at the back of the body, I think a lot of the time it can be neglected. We just train the beach muscles. However, it’s so important that the hamstrings are working correctly for normal function and movement. In the future, before going mental and stretching the cr*p out out of your hamstring, think about whether there be something else going on.
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