Hamstring Stretches – When You Shouldn’t Stretch Them

To Stretch or Not to Stretch Your Hamstrings?

Doing hamstring stretches can seem like a never-ending battle.  No matter how much stretching you do, you might find that your hamstring tightness is a constant problem that you can’t make any significant progress with.  Well, you might be in a situation where you could be making matters worse by stretching your hamstrings.  If so, you probably shouldn’t be doing hamstring stretches at all!

This might sound crazy, but let me make some sense of it.  If the top of your pelvis is tilted forward while you’re standing normally, this indicates you probably have tightness in the front of your hips.  Your hip flexors (psoas major, tensor fasciae latae, & rectus femoris) could be in an unconsciously tight & shortened position and, in this case, it puts the hamstrings in a long, stretched, and therefore, tightened state.

So that’s why if you are in this situation and you feel tightness in your hamstrings and try to stretch them, you won’t find relief and, in fact, could be doing more harm than good.  You could be exacerbating your hamstrings and setting them up for injury or chronic strains that will make them feel even tighter.

Give Your Hamstrings a Break

Instead of endangering your hamstrings, try this movement that’s focused on flexing and extending your spine.  “What?!” you say, “You’re full of ‘crazy’ today!”  I know it’s not so obvious to be mobilizing your spine to help hamstring tightness, but by doing this movement we are calming down the tightness in the front of the hips so the pelvis will be able to be in a more balanced position.  We’re also helping to fire weak back muscles that need to be able to do their work so the hamstrings aren’t overloaded.

When we put these two things together, our hamstrings can be more relaxed and so can we.

Here’s to making moves that make a positive impact on your life!


Level of challenge:

  • Easy

Benefits:

  • Releases hamstring tightness without overstretching the hamstrings
  • Mobilizes the joints of the whole spine
  • Massages the vital organs

Set-up:

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart
  • Keep spine in a neutral position (not rounded) while you bend over and place hands on your knees

Movement:

  • Press your hands into knees and press your knees into your hands (as if you were lifting both knees simultaneously into your hands)
    • This contracts your hip flexors, abdominal muscles, and your latissimus dorsi in your back.  You should feel a firm contraction. Maintain this as best you can throughout the entire movement
  • Simultaneously, slowly tuck your pelvis under (posteriorly tilt your pelvis), tuck your chin down, and arch your back upward
  • Actively hold this position (as if your were trying to arch a bit more) for 3-5 seconds
  • Slowly relax but still maintain pressure of your hands and knees pressing into each other
  • Then move into arching your body the other way by slowly tilting your pelvis forward (as if you were sticking your rear back and up), arch your spine (as if you were trying to reach your chest and belly towards the ground), and look up toward the sky
  • Actively hold this position (as if you were trying to arch a bit more) for 3-5 seconds

Recommended use:

  •  5 arches each direction