Updated: Oct 19, 2021
Do you struggle with tight hamstrings that are limiting your performance or impacting your daily life? Maybe you suffer with back pain, knee pain or you are simply struggling to perform basic day to day tasks.
Hamstring flexibility and strength is important for:
Stability of the knee joint.
Power to run, jump and perform explosive movements as they flex the knees and extend the hips.
Decelerate and control of our centre of mass - think running/ football etc.
Functional day to day life - standing up, sitting down, bending over, climbing the stairs etc.
Pre-requisite for specific goals such as L sits, press to handstands and compression work.
Tight hamstrings cannot be fixed by stretching alone. Stretching certainly has its place but it wont necessarily fix your tight hamstrings. When our muscles feel tight, a lot of the time this is a response from our brain telling our body to protect itself when it feels threatened. This can be a result of a past injury, or a lack in strength and stability because without strength, there is no stability. You brain is sending you a message to protect you from a possible injury.
The hamstrings consist of :
They originate at the sit bone, and biceps femoris also at the back of the femur, they insert at the Tibia and Fibula (below the knee at top of the lower leg). Why is this important? Understanding where a muscles originate and insert helps us to understand whats going on in our body while we move or what might be restricting us in our movement.
The hamstrings flex the knees and extend the hips. They also allow for medial and lateral rotation of the lower leg. If you have tight hamstrings, you may experience lower back pain or knee pain, and in a world where we sit down so much it might be time to help those hamstrings out!
There are loads of exercises we can do for tight hamstrings and here are some simple and effective movements below.
Try some of these to help improve your flexibility and strength, elements of our mobility.
▪️Hips elevated hamstring stretch
Perform these with or without a banded anchor. You can also perform good mornings from here with or without load. Add a knee bend here to help you hinge at the hips if that feels too much with straight legs. The elevated platform will make this feel more accessible at first. Over time you can lower the platform, but make sure you are hinging at your hips, not rounding your lower back. Think about trying to tilt your pelvis forward.
2 minutes as a minimum, with or without a banded anchor varying your stance from wide, medium and narrow.
3 x 15 Good mornings with or without load
Perform hinges and holds with plantar flexion, dorsiflexion and rotation at your hip. Drive your heel down in to the box to feel a more active stretch. You can point and flex your foot here whilst hinging the hips by pushing your bum back. You can also bend the knee here which will take any pressure you might be feeling off the back of your knee. Focus on inhaling through your nose filling the lungs and feeling 360 degrees of expansion of your rib cage. As you exhale, do so forcefully out of the mouth as you push your bum back and draw your belly button towards your thigh.
Spend 2 minutes each side using the above breath technique allowing your hip to rotate medially and laterally as you hinge over. Think about tilting your pelvis forward as you draw the femur up and back on to the socket.
▪️Banded hamstring stretch
Keep your lower back on the ground and avoid rocking your hips off the mat. Bend and extend your leg whilst pointing and flexing your foot which will also help open tension in your calves. Invert your foot (turn sole of foot inward) as you take the leg across your body. Use your breath to find more range by filling the lunges breathing through your nose and expanding your ribs, then perform a full exhale at the point of taking the stretch deeper. The exhale results in a more parasympathetic response allowing the brain to feel safer and help us to find more range.
2 minutes per side working through knee flexion and extension.
2 minutes per side taking the leg across and away from the body.
I love these for warming up, whether that’s running or a lower body session such as deadlifts. See all 3 variations.
The first, bending one leg will help you to hinge your hips and feel your hamstrings engage if you struggle to feel this with straight legs.
The second with both legs straight can be done by going to a partial range and then over time working your hands to the floor.
The final variation is with added load. Focus on the movement pattern at bodyweight first before loading it.
3 x 1 minute ostrich walks using any or all variations. Move slow in the beginning focusing on feeling the movement rather than forcing range explosively. Once your hamstrings are feeling more familiar here you can add a more explosive hinge.
▪️Single leg RDL
Build strength, length and balance with or without load unilaterally, as well as bilaterally. Avoid rotating your hips as you move, aiming to square them parallel to the floor whilst you move through a range you can control. This can be done with your other foot lightly on the floor to begin with if balance is an issue.
3 x 15 each leg with a light load. over time load can increase and the rep scheme adjusted depending. Focus on hinging your hips as you lower the load, then push the ground away with your foot to stand up. Extend your hips at the top, squeeze your glutes and maintain a neutral spine throughout the whole movement.
These can be done in various positions such as wide, medium, narrow and single leg stance. Avoid locking your knees back while performing these and aim for bodyweight first adding load over time. Load can be added at your chest, such as a plate or a barbell in the back rack.
3 x 20 varying your stance.
2 minute fold with hands elevated on a platform, Yoga blocks or on the floor.
Start at just bodyweight first on the floor, peeling down and up through your spine. Allow your spine to flex and segment your way down and up with the legs straight. Over time you can elevate the platform and add a light load, increasing the load gradually. This is a great movement to strengthen and lengthen the whole posterior chain.
5 x 5 at bodyweight or loaded with an object such as a light kettlebell to start.
Equipment: ( Use my code GG5 for a discount )
Look for these product to help:
Aim to use a mixture of stretching and strengthening rather than just one or the other. Be consistent and don't expect results in a week. You need the same level of commitment to your flexibility gains as you do your programme at the gym to get the results you want.
The biggest reason we fail at anything is a lack of consistency and giving up.
Let me know if this helps you in your movement and please like or share this with anyone you know it might help.