Old beliefs die hard. I still see folks throwing a leg on their car bumper and leaning over for a good yank on their hamstring. A cursory stretch should do it, right? Then they head up the trail for a run. They probably haven’t hurt themselves, but really, why bother? (If you need a refresher on how much of a waste of time that is, or how you are actually turning those hamstrings off, click here.)
So when should you be concerned about hamstring flexibility? Stretching does feel good, and it can feel especially good for flexible people, so if you are already loose, go easy.
Just stretching for stretching’s sake can cause another set of problems. But, if your hamstrings scream as you bend over to pick up the pencil you dropped, or you can’t cut your toenails, keep reading.
#1 Increasing Strength
Is your tightness actually due to weakness? When thinking about hamstring tightness, we need to consider the gluteal muscles. Both the hamstrings and the glute muscles are active hip extensors. If your glute muscle is not turning on (perhaps because you have “sitting disease“), then the hamstrings are happy to take over. This leads to the hammies becoming tight from overuse. In this case, having your therapist check firing patterns and strength can help us figure out the right exercises to balance these muscles and give your hamstrings some rest. For instance, if the bridge exercise causes cramps in the hamstrings, almost certainly you need some work on glute activation.
#2 Pilates and Yoga
Stretching done the right way can gradually increase your pencil retrieval skills. Yoga and pilates both improve flexibility and strength over time and are also wonderful for motor control. Since weakness can cause tightness, either of these disciplines is helpful — ask your therapist which is best for you.
#3 Increasing Circulation
If you have any abdominal congestion, it can wreak havoc on your hamstrings. We don’t know exactly why, but one plausible explanation is that congestion increases intra-abdominal pressure. This puts undue pressure on the pelvic floor. Poor pelvic floor stability limits glute activation, so, again, hamstrings take over. If learning how to activate the glutes isn’t working, getting your lymph system moving could be your first step.
Use these techniques to increase abdominal lymphatic circulation and increase hamstring mobility. No change? Then you have good lymphatic circulation, and your hamstrings are tight for another reason.
These are just three ways to improve hamstring flexibility. We haven’t covered lower back issues, nerve restrictions, and the consciousness of letting go – all of which could also be culprits. We are here to make your hamstrings melt like butter. It’s our job to help you! It’s your job to schedule with us today!