Do you have tight hamstrings? Are you having trouble touching your toes? Do you feel like you always stretch your hamstrings, but they are still tight? If you answered "Yes" then keep reading. In order to help you "fix" your tight hamstrings, it is important to determine why your hamstrings are tight in first place. So in this blog, we will cover a couple of screening assessments to help you determine the cause of your tight hamstrings. Then once you know the cause, we will look at some possible solutions for your tight hamstrings.
Hamstring Flexibility Screening Assessments
There are number of different factors that could potentially lead to someone having tight hamstrings. Today, we are going to cover 2 common problems that can lead to hamstring tightness: core stability and sciatic nerve mobility. If you have a lack of core stability, your hamstrings can become tight as a compensation mechanism to help make up for the stability that you are lacking in your core. Also, the path of the sciatic nerve runs through the hamstring and if there is any increased tension, irritation, or lack of mobility in the sciatic nerve, the hamstring will tense as a protective mechanism to keep the nerve safe.
1. Core Stability Assessment (See the video for further explanation)
Perform a standing forward bend (try to touch your toes while standing) - note how close you are to reaching your toes
Next, perform a seated forward bend (try to touch your toes while sitting with legs straight) - note how close you are to reaching your toes
If in step 1 you could NOT reach your toes, but it step 2 you COULD reach your toes, then your hamstring flexibility is due to a core stability deficit
2. Sciatic Tension Assessment (See video for further explanation)
Perform a standing forward bend as in the 1st assessment - note how close you are to reaching your toes
Next, perform 10 seated slump sliders/side (see video) and 10 supine sciatic nerve glides/side (see video)
Retest your standing forward bend
If you reached farther to the floor than in step 1, your hamstring tightness is partially due to sciatic nerve tension
What to do to Fix Your Tight Hamstrings
Now that you have performed these 2 screening assessments, we will discuss what you should to improve your hamstring tightness based on the results. If in the first assessment, you were unable to reach your toes standing, but you could reach your toes in sitting, then lack of core stability is a factor in your hamstring tightness. So incorporating some additional core stability exercises into your workout routine will help make a difference. Once your core is more stable, your hamstrings will no longer need to compensate and their tension should decrease. The video below shows a really great core stability routine! Perform 8-12 reps of each exercise along with some hamstring flexibility work (see the 3rd video in this section) for optimal improvement.
If in assessment #2, you found that you have some tension or irritation in your sciatic nerve that is leading to increased hamstring tension as a protective mechanism, it is important to address your sciatic nerve mobility and health. Nerves must be able to slide and glide, flex and extend just like any muscle. If there is any tension or snags along their path it can leading to tightness in the surrounding musculature. There are specific stretches for nerves called nerve glides to address this exact problem. In the video below you will find 2 nerve glides for the sciatic nerve (they will look awfully familiar to the assessment video). Perform 8-12 reps of each nerve glide before and after activity and at least 1-2x daily to improve your sciatic nerve mobility.
If you didn't find much noticeable difference in either of the 2 assessments, it is likely that you do truly have a true muscular restriction causing you to have tight hamstrings. Now while static stretching can be an effective way to improve hamstring length, it takes a lot of time and commitment. If you are a dancer, gymnast, hockey goalie, first baseman, or play some other sport where extreme hamstring flexibility is important then it would be worth your time and effort to perform a consistent stretching routine. However, for the majority of us who are just looking to be active and have our hamstrings bother us less during or after workouts then a solid dynamic hamstring flexibility routine is what you need.
A dynamic warm-up that specifically address your hamstring tightness will help you loosen up well before a workout, improve your movement patterns during your workout, and help improve soreness or increased tightness following a workout. If you have time after a workout throw in a few minutes of foam rolling and static stretching to put the icing on the cake for improving your hamstring tightness!
If you have been dealing with chronic hamstring tightness that has led to back pain or other injuries that have kept you or them from enjoying your activities and you feel like you have tried everything to stretch them out with no success; we encourage you to reach out to us today to get a thorough assessment and figure out the root cause of your continued hamstring tightness. Call us at 515-985-9038 or email me at email@example.com to take advantage of our Free Discovery Visit.