Should you be stretching your hamstring muscles?

When our muscles are tight, the first thing that comes to mind is that we should stretch it?

Is this the case with tight hamstrings? Could stretching your tight hamstrings actually be making the situation worse?

Our hamstrings are any one of the three posterior (back) thigh muscles in between the hip and the knee. 

They are called from medial (inside of the leg) to lateral ( outside of the leg): Semimembranosus 

Semitendinosus and 

Biceps Femoris.

The hamstrings are quite susceptible to injury.

Even when these muscles feel tight, they are almost always victim to other forces in the body creating increased tension. 

There are various reasons for a muscle to be tight.  In the case of a shortened muscle, stretching might help.  When it comes down to our hamstring muscles, where the muscle might be overly lengthened.  Stretching the muscles could actually worsen the situation. 

A large majority of people has a pelvis that drops in the front and elevates in the back, which is called an anterior pelvic tilt. Because the pelvis is elevated in the back, hamstrings are already lengthened without even doing any activity. This might present a false sensation that your hamstrings might be “tight” or “shortened”. So when you stretch your already-lengthened hamstrings, you are adding additional tension to a muscle that actually needs to be put on slack. Restoring pelvic alignment and pelvic stability exercises can be beneficial in this case. 

Another culprit is when you spend most of your days in a seated position. Your hip flexors will tighten as a result of the muscle being shortened. Stretching will be beneficial in this case. 

However this may not be the case for your hamstrings. This however causes your hamstrings to be overly lengthened.

Tight hamstrings might even be the cause of being over worked. This happens when your glute muscles are not activated properly causing your hamstrings to become the primary muscle working instead of using your glute muscles to assist in the movement and thus taking pressure off your hamstrings. 

“Weak gluteal muscles wind up overburdening the hamstrings. When the glutes are weak, which is common for someone sitting too much, the hamstrings are continually overworked and overloaded," says Matt Natanson, a physical therapist with Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.

So, what are you suppose to be doing when stretching is not the answer?

Strengthening the “weaker” muscle. 

Do this by targeting a single muscle group  AND doing strengthening exercises that involve targeting several muscles at the same time. 

Glute activation exercises are also beneficial before starting your workout program. 

An example of an exercise for a single muscle group is a hamstring curl.   An example of an exercise that works the glutes and hamstrings at the same time is a glute bridge. Various bridge exercises are available.  Make sure to check out our social media pages for examples of these exercises.  Try adding the following stretches after your workout or can even be done on your rest days this will assist in faster recovery as well.

Lunge With Spinal Twist

  • Take a big step forward with your right foot, so that you are in a staggered stance.

  • Bend your right knee and drop into a lunge, keeping your left leg as straight as possible behind you. 

  • Feel the stretch at the front of your left thigh.

  • Place your left hand on the floor and twist your upper body to the right as you extend your right arm toward the ceiling.

  • Hold each stretch for 20 seconds.

  • Repeat on the other side.

  • Repeat 4 times on each side

Stretches hip flexors, quads, back

Knee to Chest Stretch

  • Lie on your back, pull your one knee into your chest, while keeping the other leg straight and your lower back pressed into the floor.

  • Hold each stretch for 20 seconds.

  • Repeat on the other leg.

  • Repeat 4 times on each side

Stretches lower back, hips, hamstrings

90-degrees Hurdle Stretch

  • Sit with your right knee bent at 90-degrees in front of you. Keep your right foot flexed.

  • Your leg should rest flat on the floor.

  • Place your left knee to the left of your body, and bend the knee so that your foot faces behind you. Keep your left foot flexed.

  • Keep your right butt cheek on the floor. Try to move the left cheek as close to the floor as possible.

  • Hold for 20 seconds.

  • Repeat on the other side.

  • Repeat 4 times on both sides

Stretches hips

Figure Four Stretch

  • Lie on your back, while you cross your left foot over your right quad, and bend your right knee.

  • Hold the back of your right leg and gently pull it toward your chest.

  • When you feel a comfortable stretch, hold for 20 seconds.

  • Switch sides and repeat 4 times on each side

Stretches hips, glutes, lower back, hamstrings

Butterfly Pose Stretch

  • Lie on your back.

  • Bring the soles of your feet together and allow your knees to open up and move closer to the floor.

  • Hold for 20 seconds.

  • Repeat 4 times.

Stretches inner thighs, hips, groin

Cross-over Glute Stretch

  • Sit on the floor with both legs extended in front of you.

  • Cross your one leg over your other leg, placing your foot flat on the floor.

  • Place the same hand as the leg you crossed over on the floor behind your body.

  • Place the opposite hand on your crossed leg's quad and press your leg towards your body while you twist your torso in the opposite direction.

  • Hold for 20 seconds and repeat on other side.

  • Repeat 4 times on each side.

Stretches hips, back, glutes

Lunging Hip Flexor Stretch

  • Kneel on your left knee. Place your right foot flat on the floor in front of you, knee bent.

  • Lean forward, stretching your left hip toward the floor.

  • Hold for 20 seconds.

  • Switch sides and repeat 4 times on each side.

Stretches hips, quads, glutes


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