Well we’ve all been there, trying to stretch the hamstrings to increase range of movement. From foam rolling, isometric stretching, PNF stretching, the good old static stretching – but are the hamstrings really the issue?
There is always a stand off between mobiliy, stability, and flexibility for the application required. Some sports like kick-boxing, taekwondo, gymnastics require good flexibility. Many soccer players are very flexible, Whereas with your 100m and 200m events, often you find some stiffness around the joints of the runners, and tighter hamstrings, this is not bad, but you do see hamstring pulls in these sports, this is not often related to the flexibility of the hamstrings though.
So when that athlete comes in to you with tight hamstrings and wants to improve their flexibility for their sport, what are you going to do? Just give them a few new stretches and hope that it works?
Asking questions would be a great start, finding out as much information as possible on their training schedule, technical issues they may have in their sport – not achieving a good technique, movement issues or compensations that they know about that has been seen by a coach. How long have they been training? How do they train – which exercises do they do? Previous injuries? Build a picture.
Assessment – this can take many forms from a more general assessment like a squat, toe touch, single leg balance, single leg raise lying down. A dynamic assessment might be considered watching them perform in their sport, or mimicking their sport motion, running gait assessment for your runners and video for analysis. Or assessing isolated joint motion and positioning. From this information we might be able to find other reasons why the hamstrings are tight.
The hamstrings could feel tight if the surrounding muscles or joints are not working efficiently in movement – this may be a muscle weakness, activation issue, imbalance or actual joint restriction for some clients. Pelvis position may also have an effect on hamstring tightness as in the diagrams below – a forward tilting pelvis may cause tension on the hamstrings, Tight hip flexors have been blamed for this pelvic tilt causing an imbalance with the hamstrings, stretching the hip flexors for some has resulted in improved hamstring flexibility and improved pelvis position. But consider the whole chain, as stretching the hip flexors with someone in an extended position may not help. Breathing and rib position may need to be considered for optimum movement.
So if stretching the hamstrings is not working for you, consider the above options, sometimes you have to be a bit of a detective to work out what’s going on up and down the chain.
And getting an assessment may be another key factor to easing your tight hamstrings and providing another approach to hamstring tightness.