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Do you need to bend your knees to the point that they make noise to pick some
thing off the ground? That’s probably because you’re struggling with hamstring tightness.
Hamstrings are the set of muscles below the buttocks. Their main role is to help keep your posture upright. But they’ll also limit your range-of-motion if you don’t keep them loose and limber.
Why should I care if my hamstrings are tight?
1. You need to move!
Hamstring tightness typically occurs from lack of use. If you don’t move enough, your body naturally stiffens up. Imagine leaning forward to pick something off the ground. How much effort is it for you?
Having more flexible hamstrings will help you feel comfortable in your day-to-day movements.
Additionally, if you’re an athlete with tight hamstrings, you’ll be limited in the tricks you can accomplish. You can’t do an L-Sit with tight hamstrings.
2. Got joint pain?
The Stretching Exercises Guide tells us that the hamstring muscles wrap around the hips and the knees. Their role is to bend the knee and flex the hip. If your hamstrings are tight, they can limit your overall range-of-motion (ROM) and cause problems in both your hip and your knee joints.
3. Don’t be so stiff
As I mentioned before, the main role hamstrings play is to help you keep your upright posture. Because of that, they’re able to contract for long periods of time without fatiguing.
But…that also means that they tend to get stiff and shorten over time if they aren’t properly loosened. This will eventually reduce your ROM. If you don’t loosen your hamstrings, you’ll be stiff as a board (though definitely not light as a feather).
This happens all the more to us nowadays. We spend so much more time either sitting or standing, without putting our body through its true range-of-motion on a daily basis.
…unless you’re an athlete. Or a contortionist.
Too much sitting and not enough moving messes with the body’s natural balance.
Butt (gluteal) muscles will get weak from lack of use, and compensation through the hamstrings will occur. The body will engage the hamstrings and, basically, ruin your natural posture because it’s calling on all the wrong muscles.
It’s gonna hurt.
Help me loosen my hamstrings!
The most important thing you can do is to stretch. It loosens the muscle and gives it a larger ROM. Stretching also decreases lower back pain, improves performance, and reduces the risk of injury.
Doing just a few hamstring stretches every day can significantly improve a muscle’s flexibility.
This study explains that the way you stretch will depend completely on what your goal is:
- Do you want to become more flexible, or do you have range-of-motion issues? You need to use passive stretches.
- Do you want to gain strength, or are you using stretches before working out? You need to use active stretches.
A passive stretch means that you aren’t engaging any of your muscles to cause the stretch.
A good example of a passive hamstring stretch is the forward bend. You can do it sitting or standing:
Lean forward, bend your knees a little if you need to, but don’t force the stretch. Just relax into it.
They’re the opposite of passive stretches. So instead of just letting the body stretch, an active stretch will use muscles to create the stretch.
A good example of an active hamstring stretch is the hamstring supine stretch:
Lie on your back and keep your legs straight together. Bring one knee towards your chest, keeping the other leg straight, your ankle flexed (c.f. picture). Slowly extend the leg at a 90-degree angle from your body. Don’t push this stretch to the point of pain. It should feel a tad uncomfortable, but no more than that. Hold the stretch for as long as you can before bending your knee towards your chest once again and gently letting it return to the ground. Repeat the exercise with the other leg.
Hold the stretch for as long as you can before bending your knee towards your chest once again and gently letting it return to the ground. Repeat the exercise with the other leg.
2. Roll It Out
Foam-Rolling is a great way to loosen up tight muscles.
There’s no doubt that it’ll be painful the first go, but it’ll be worth it…you’re essentially giving yourself a massage. It increases blood flow through the body, decreases recovery time, increases range-of-motion, and relieves any tension in the muscles.
If you don’t have a foam roller, you can also use a tennis ball, or baseball for the same purpose.
Just place the foam roller on your legs, between the buttocks and the knees. Raise your upper body from the ground, placing some of the weight on your hands. Make sure that the bulk of your body weight is on your hamstrings being worked over by the foam-roller.
Massage therapy’s main purpose is to relax your muscles, which will help release any tension. It’ll help increase flexibility, improve blood circulation, and heal any muscle pain.
In my opinion, physical therapy should be your last resort. If none of the other options work, think about undergoing physical therapy. Professional physiotherapists can help loosen and strengthen your hamstring muscles.
So get started!
Your hamstrings are definitely an important part of your body, so give ‘em some loving! Share your own tips and tricks with us, either in the comments or our Facebook group.
Watch your posture
Stretch your body
Play, move, don’t stay static!
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