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Tight Hamstrings and How to Loosen Them

If you’re an athlete, regular exerciser, or into any physical activity, then you know how hard it is to keep up and perform your best with tight hamstrings. Ever since I was in elementary school, I’ve been plagued by tight hamstrings… but why? Hamstrings become tight and cause discomfort when muscles become shortened and lose their flexibility. This can lead to strain and injury when not dealt with correctly. As if that weren’t enough, tight hamstrings can even have a considerable impact on your posture. In this blog post, we will be discussing what causes tight hamstrings, and how to loosen them up. We’ll discuss why stretching alone doesn’t account for most of the causes of tight hamstrings, as well as recommend exercises and other treatments to help get those knots out. In addition, we’ll be looking closely at the importance of increasing body weight mobility, having optimal posture and addressing mental stress. By the end of this post, you’ll understand why tight hamstrings are so problematic, what causes them and what you can do to release tension in all the right places. With an understanding of how to treat and prevent tightness, you’ll hopefully enjoy your pickleball with improved performance, and without fear of injury or hindered movement. Let’s dive right into the topic and see what causes our tight hamstrings and how to loosen them.

Introduction


Tight hamstrings are a symptom experienced by many people and can become increasingly uncomfortable, limiting mobility and causing pain. Do a quick search on Google Scholar and you’ll find over 20 THOUSAND published papers on the topic. They occur when the muscles at the back of the thighs are overly contracted, making them tight and difficult to stretch. Tight hamstrings can be caused by a variety of factors, including the amount of physical activity done, the type of exercises used, poor posture, and a lack of stretching. Fortunately, there are many methods that can be used to loosen tight hamstrings. Each method has its own unique benefits, helping to alleviate tightness, improve flexibility, and reduce pain. By understanding the cause of tight hamstrings and implementing the necessary techniques, anyone can experience relief from their tight hamstrings and improve their overall wellbeing. However, it’s the knock on effect that is most important to understand, because tight hamstrings are also implicated in back pain, and even plantar fasciitis

What Causes Tight Hamstrings?

There can be many causes of tight hamstrings, a common muscle group that is located at the back of the thigh. Tightness in this region is often caused by prolonged sitting and a sedentary lifestyle, which pretty much applies to all of us at some level these days. This lack of motion results in the muscles becoming shortened and tight over time. Tight hamstrings can also develop due to muscle imbalances and poor posture, as the body must adjust to the misalignment of the spine, hips, and pelvis. Finally, physical activity without proper stretching can contribute to tight hamstrings, as the muscles cannot fully extend and contract. While it may seem counterintuitive, when not stretched properly, the muscles can become so tight that exercise becomes difficult or even painful.

Tight hamstrings can be caused by more than just physical activity – they may also be a sign of poor nutrition. Eating nutrient-rich foods and avoiding processed foods packed with chemicals and additives can help to keep muscles healthy and flexible.

Stretching Exercises to Loosen Tight Hamstrings

Stretching exercises are an important part of any program to help loosen tight hamstrings. It is essential to include stretches in your routine to improve flexibility and reduce the risk of injury. Here are a few stretching exercises that can help release tension in your hamstrings:

* Sitting hamstring stretch: To do this exercise, sit up straight on the floor with one leg extended out in front. Bend the other leg and bring it close to your chest. Then, lean forward at your hips until you feel a stretch along the back of the extended leg. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

* Standing hamstring stretch: Stand up straight with feet slightly apart and legs straight. Bend one knee, keeping the other leg straight. Reach down towards your foot and gently pull it back until you feel a gentle stretch in the back of your thigh. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat with the other leg.

* Supine hamstring stretch: Lie on your back and bring one leg up, keeping the other leg extended straight out on the floor. Hold your leg in both hands and pull it back until you feel a gentle stretch in the back of your thigh. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other leg. A variation on this that I particularly like is putting one heel up on a door frame with the leg straight while the other leg extends along the floor through the door. 

* Yoga and foam rolling are also great for stretching tight hamstrings and relieving tension in the muscle and corresponding nerves. When done with diligence, these techniques can help to improve and maintain good mobility.

These techniques can be an effective way to help relieve tight hamstrings. Be sure to do them regularly in order to maximize their benefits. Additionally, it is important to remember to warm-up your body before performing any of these stretches. Doing so will help reduce the risk of injury and improve your flexibility.

NOTE: These are NOT meant to be done as a warm up before exercise. That’s old science. These are meant to be done on their own, after you take a couple of minutes of warming up your body by walking, doing bodyweight squats or lunges. Making stretching its own routine is  what will help create flexibility and increased range of motion when you DO exercise. Episodes 17 and 19 of my podcast will help guide you through understanding this important change in thinking. 

Takeaway


Tight hamstrings can lead to a range of discomforts, including back pain and foot pain. The best way to tackle tight hamstrings is to first determine the cause of the problem, which can range from poor sitting posture to an underlying medical condition. Seeking professional attention is the most proactive step to take. It made a huge difference for me.

Regular stretching, over time, can gradually help to loosen tight hamstrings and improve flexibility. This leads to better movement on the pickleball court, and when you move better, you play better. 

Play on!