Tight hamstrings are a pain in the butt… or the back… or the knees.. or all of these! Let’s see how we can solve these issues.
The most effective stretches for tight hamstrings are the ones that you are willing to do 🙂
In this article you will learn how to assess whether you have tight hamstrings and find out how to mobilize and stretch them with the most effective stretches from beginner to advanced level. At the end of the blog post you can also download a FREE stretching sheet to help you stay on track.
Causes of tight hamstrings:
The human body is very smart and will always adapt to the demands of it’s environment. Why is this related to tight hamstrings? Because most people sit many hours a day these days. So as your body will able to run more if you keep running more and it will be able to lift more weight if you keep lifting weights, it will also try to adapt to the sitting position if you spend a significant amount of time doing it. And it will do this by tightening certain muscles, mainly the hamstrings which has a very big influence on our posture and movement. Sitting is the main cause of tight hamstrings in my opinion, however not the only cause. Certain repetitive sports can shorten these muscles too due to overuse, such as running, horse riding or football for example, just to list a few.
Dangers of tight hamstrings:
I don’t want to go deep into an anatomy lesson but will briefly explain. The hamstrings run from your shin bones (Tibia and Fibula) to your pelvis (Ischium).
It’s made up of 3 muscles, all of which start (originate) on the pelvis, however they end (attach) at different sides of the knee. 2 of the 3 muscles attach in the inside of the knee, one of them on the outside of the knee.
So here is the first problem. Knock-knees
As we have 2 muscles against one, tight hamstrings will bring the knee out of alignment, pulling it inwards. This is called having knock-knees. This puts a lot of stress on the joint which first causes discomfort, then pain, then wear and tear of the bones and connective tissues of the knee, in which case the damage might not be reversible. You can imagine if in this position you stress the knees with repetitive movement such as running or with weights you dramatically speed up the wear an tear process. Although the hamstrings are not the only muscles to blame, they play a major part in this postural imbalance.
This by itself is a good reason to take care of the hamstrings, but there is more.
Back pain/discomfort due to tight hamstrings?
This is quite a complicated topic but I’ll try to simplify it as much as possible. The latest studies show that tight hamstrings are not directly related to low back pain. So people who have low back pain might not have tight hamstrings and vice-versa.
How do tight hamstrings influence posture?
When standing, there is no direct relation in spinal curve and hamstring flexibility, however if we consider the knee imbalance mentioned above, we can see how this misalignment can stress the spine as the shock absorption of the feet, ankles and knees is reduced, the spine has to handle a lot more force. Compared to standing, tight hamstrings have a negative influence on the spinal curve when sitting or bending. These positions cause the spine to round (flex) which is not a natural position and again through repetition it causes a lot of damage.
The biggest contributor to low back pain through the hamstring tightness is doing weighted squats. The bottom of a squat is similar to a sitting position. If your back is rounding while also being under the stress of added weight, you can start saving for massage therapy, physio or whatever might your treatment of choice be… if you are lucky and don’t need surgery.
And then if we put all this info together, and if your knees are not aligned AND your back is rounding under weight, imagine the amount of damage you are doing…
What about tight hamstrings and Sciatic pain?
Tight hamstrings can also cause or aggravate Sciatic pain, and even hamstring injuries can be confused with sacral/low back injuries, as they are all on the same nerve routes. But I won’t go into this, I think you heard enough.
Let’s get to work, and first of all check whether you have tight hamstrings or not.
If you are unsure, then here is a video of mine showing you and explaining a very simple method which takes a few seconds: click here for video.
If you found that you do have tight hamstrings, then download my hamstring mobility challenge sheet below:
If you want to make sure that what you are doing is effective and worth your while, take a before and after photo of the hamstring test. You can also share these for more accountability on instagram or facebook with #strongestme .
Do one or more of the stretches in the video minimum 5 days a week and tick them on your stretching sheet.
If you don’t have a foam roller or massage ball I highly recommend you buy these. It is a small investment which lasts a lifetime and will reduce or prevent a lot of pain and discomfort. There are many different ones, here are a few examples. The main difference between foam rollers is hardness and texture. The first one here is a slightly softer one which is perfect for total beginners. If you are used to foamrolling or you don’t mind some discomfort then the middle one is perfect for you. If you are really hardcore, don’t mind discomfot and want the best results then get the third one.
Regarding massage balls, you have a few options. You can either get a lacrosse or hockey ball or a massage ball. They are all pretty similar. If you get massage balls they usually come in sets and in different densities, which can be useful as you progress with your rolling/stretching. See a few examples below:
If you have any questions or to inquire about my fitness, lifestyle coaching or massage services feel free to message me on www.facebook.com/strongestmecoaching or on instangram @strongestmecoaching.
You can find links to these on the right too.
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All the best, Akos.
Most effective stretches for tight hamstrings Reduce back pain and knee pain improve posture.