(I don’t know your name so I will call you Susan for this blog.)
You’re blaming your hamstrings for everything, when they’re probably the thing trying to hold your body together – and the stuff you keep doing to them won’t help because it’s not what they actually need!
You shouldn’t crave stretching your hamstrings all the time, you shouldn’t need to sit on a lacrosse ball or get your mate to rub a barbell over your hamstrings all the time, you shouldn’t wake up feeling like your hamstrings are going to snap… none of that is normal, and your blind belief that your hamstrings are always so tight and that’s just how it is, is what is going to stop you ever making a change to how your body feels.
Before you dismiss this blog and think “well, these things help me” …JUST BECAUSE SOMETHING FEELS LIKE IT HELPS AT THE TIME DOES NOT MEAN IT IS CORRECTING AN ACTUAL ISSUE, WILL EVER ADDRESS A CAUSE, OR FIX ANYTHING LONG TERM.
So… instead of these lovely, but short-term fixes, what should you work on to free yourself from hamstring tyranny?
4. Knee Flexion
Number 1: Good Hip Flexibility
Let’s be frank, Susan, if your hip flexibility sucks there’s no amount of hamstring exercises that will EVER help your hamstrings, and I truly mean that.
The amount of people I’ve met who are chronic hamstringbators, yet do nothing for their hip rotation, extension or flexion is nuts. If there are limitations in your hips then your hamstrings are picking up the slack – that’s what makes them feel tight all the time.
Once you have hips that move like hips should, all the supporting muscles are actually able to do their job… then and only then will your hamstrings stop feeling so tight and overworked.
Number 2: Good Hip Stability
Susan… if you can’t stabilise or balance on one leg, then your body is going to slow you down to protect itself. How does it do that? Stiffness, tightness & tension.
Your body doesn’t want you to fall in case you hit your head – it’s that simple. When your hips don’t have good stability, you will basically start to shuffle when walking and it becomes a vicious cycle of stretch > become less stable > become more stiff > stretch… etc.
The nice thing is that you can easily work stability every day while including hamstring activation!
Remember that muscles don’t just move forwards and backwards, there’s a lot more room for strength at all angles. Yes, forwards/backwards positions like the Deadlift are best for generating the most power and lifting the most weight, but how well your body adapts to small movements and random rotations is incredibly important for how your hamstrings feel.
The Clockwork Single Leg Deadlift is great for teaching yourself how to activate your while also challenging your lower body stability (Plus, as a bonus they also build foot strength and knee stability). Having this strength gives you a lot more “wiggle room” for when you’re playing sports, training… and just life in general!
Number 3: Understanding the “Hinge”
The Deadlift, picking up bodies off the floor, whatever you want to call it Suzy (we’re friendly enough that I can call you Suzy now) is a fundamental skill. You NEED to know how to load your hips, your glutes & your hamstrings when lifting something heavy off the floor to protect your low back. When you hinge, your hamstrings need to automatically know that it’s their time to shine and fire up – and that takes practice!
Number 4: Understanding Knee Flexion
Ok Suze, here’s the last thing that’s incredibly overlooked by people with hamstring issues and they SUCK x1000 at it. Your hamstring flexes your knee, pulls your heel towards your butt, if you struggle to do that then you’re going to have a bad time in life.
The best exercise to test your ability is the Hamstring Slider. A lot harder than it looks, and people with hamstring issues will find it’s nearly impossible to keep their hips in full extension while doing this.
I noticed that many people with hamstring tendonitis, or who were stretching all the time was that they really struggled to do this exercise at all… yet it’s a basic function of your hamstrings!
So, they are the MOST important things to consider when it comes to your hamstrings Susan, plus an exercise to try for each principle:
Hip Stability: Single Leg Clockwork Drill
Hip Hinge: The Deadlift
Knee Flexion: Hamstring Sliders
DAMMIT SUSBAM!! *ahem* Susan.
But I want to reiterate my point – hamstring stretching is nice, not essential. Well-functioning hips and good hamstring awareness is key to overcoming your problems. So sure, stretch them if you want, but if you struggle with any of the four exercises that I gave you in this blog then you have a GLARINGLY obvious issue that will not be rectified by avoiding them and continuing to stretch.