Have your tight hamstrings left you feeling isolated and unable to touch your toes, do you feel anxious or fearful whenever your friends or family play ‘Simon says’.
Has putting your shoes on become so difficult you can only use a shoe horn – if so you are not alone, there is a whole population of people out there just like you.
Unfortunately, most of this population adopt the wrong approach when it comes to stretching or regaining functional range of motion of their hamstrings. The P.E class style of stretching we learnt in school won’t cut the mustard anymore, because in most cases your hamstrings are not tight, they are weak.
Hmmm…a tough one to get your head around I know.
Your posture plays a pivotal role in how functional or dysfunctional your hamstrings are –
'If you sit at a desk all day and then sit in your car to then sit on your sofa and to finally sleep in a curled up position – your hip flexors become shortened and tight, your stomach and glute muscles start to switch off and your hamstrings muscles are forced into a lengthened state. This will most commonly result in an anterior pelvic tilt'.
Anterior pelvic tilt is a change in posture that happens when the front of the pelvis rotates forward, and the back of the pelvis rises.
Having an Anterior pelvic tilt can cause an array of problems for you in the long run, including lower back pain.
Your hamstrings are actually in an already lengthened and overactive yet weakened state, as they are fighting to support a system of tight hip flexors and weak glutes. This can give off the sensation of constant tightness. To combat this there is a procedure you need to follow –
1 # Make sure your Glutes are working
Build up your glute strength with long isometric holds of glute bridges. Add a band around your knees for added abduction and activation. Perform each bridge for as long as possible until you reach glute failure. Rest 45 seconds and then repeat. You need to re-program the glutes to fire efficiently and re-
train the hamstring to assist and not dominate any hip extension movement
2# Start to load your Hamstrings eccentrically
The hamstring muscles are responsible for controlling the swing phase of the gait cycle you can improve the control of this motion by ECCENTRICALLY lengthening the muscle. Think of it as controlled tension and stretch.
As you are building strength you want to aim for low reps of high quality, 3-5 seconds of control for 4-6 reps a set.
3# Stretch your hip flexors
Having tight quadriceps and hip flexors will put further strain on your lengthened hamstrings and tight lower back – In order to this you should start dynamic hip flexor stretches – and you should do them morning, before your work out and at night. Make it a new habit.
4# Work your core musculature
leave the crunches for the misinformed, you need to work on abdominal bracing and endurance. A great exercise to start with is Active Leg lowering . This exercise will combine core and hip control with hamstring stretching.
5 – Challenge Your Hamstrings
As your Hamstrings become more accustomed to the new added load and tension you can start to further challenge your hip and core control.
Here are a list of exercises that you can perform to better the strength of your Hamstrings -
I would make sure you are fully comfortable and have total control with both legs until you attempt single leg eccentrics.
You could fit these exercises into your routine up to 3x times a week, make you the reps are low but of high quality.
Simon says - "Touch your toes"