3 SIMPLE WAYS TO FIX TIGHT HAMSTRINGS
A very commonly tight muscle group is the hamstrings – the backs of your legs. The hamstrings do a lot of work, they extend the hip and flex the knee, we use them every day for walking, running, bending and so on. Lots of people find their hamstrings sore and tight, and avoid training them to prevent the tightness from increasing. I’ll show you 3 effective ways to fix tight hamstrings and improve them for good!
WHY are they tight in the first place?
The hamstrings are trying to pick up the slack from other muscles that aren’t doing their job properly. Sound relatable? Commonly paired with tight, tired hamstrings are lazy glutes. The glutes are a huge powerful muscle group, but with our modern seated lifestyles and lack of training, the glutes are usually weak and lazy. The long skinny muscles that make up your hamstrings aren’t designed to do the same work as the glutes are, but they sure try their best. So they pick up the slack, then can’t do the job, therefore become overworked, damaged, sore and tight.
HOW do we fix this?
Static stretching seems obvious and is a well known method of relieving tight muscles, but research has shown that is is not as effective as active mobility exercises. Here are some effective ways to help fix tight hamstrings:
Start by strengthening your glute muscles to take the pressure off the hamstrings. The stronger and more active your glutes are, the more naturally they’ll kick in and relieve the hamstrings of some of the work.
GLUTE BRIDGES – get the glutes fired up and awake so they start to do what they’re built to do! Glute bridges can be done at anytime, but are especially important before a workout involving legs, or going for a run or a hike. Activating and strengthening the glutes will stop the hamstrings from overcompensating. No more tight hamstrings!
Fit Tip! Focus the exercise on the glutes by thinking about pushing the floor away from your body with your feet (without your feet actually moving)
LACROSSE BALL – MYOFASCIAL RELEASE
Sit on on a chair, place the lacrosse ball underneath your leg at the base of your knee. Slide your body forward off the chair and straighten your leg slowly as you do so. Allow your weight to add desired pressure. Repeat 3-5 times each side.
If you’re finding that the lacrosse ball isn’t strong enough, using a larger harder myofascial release item like a Supernova can work better for some.
LENGTHEN HAMSTRING – PNF stretching
Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation – A way to stretch and strengthen muscles which is superior to static stretching. Static stretching is when you stretch, your muscle does in fact get lose and gain range BUT it wont build up any strength with that muscle group so your neuromuscular system basically says “ok you’re not strong at this range, I’m just going to tighten it back up asap”. With range of motion you want to have strength and control AT that range to prevent injury and make lasting improvements. To get this, we do the following:
To PNF stretch your hamstrings – engage and contract both hamstrings and quads
1) Put your leg up on a chair or bench. On your heel, push down with your leg and bring your heel towards your body as if you’re bending your knee without actually doing so. Hold this tension for about 5 seconds, relax, breathe, repeat.
2) Fire up the quads and extend the hamstring – lift your leg in the air and straighten, contracting the quads and stretching the hamstring. Hold this position for about 5 seconds, put the foot down and relax, breathe, repeat both sides.
WHY SHOULD YOU FIX THIS?
Fixing tight hamstrings can prevent injury, give you better mobility, and build stronger lower body. Strengthening your glutes will improve your overall posture and take the workload off of the hamstrings, which will allow them to be less tight and painful. These exercises can be done in under 5 minutes a few times a week, and you’ll definitely see improvement with regular practice!