Hamstring injuries plague so many people. There are many reasons why we can have a hamstring injury or even tightness. A fast, explosive movement can tear the muscle right in the middle. This can be a lengthy recovery and needs medical attention and continued manual therapy. The tendons of the hamstrings attach the muscle to the pelvis at the top and to the tibia at the bottom – these tendons can become injured as a result of poor biomechanics or overuse. This becomes tendonitis. Hamstrings work to extend the hip and also flex the knee.
When our body is out of alignment, the hamstring will be either too long or too short when at rest. This can be stressful to the muscle and affects how we move. If we are training too hard or not doing our supplementary training, the hamstrings can become overworked.
What do I mean by supplementary training? It’s all the little activation and small muscle work needed to allow the big muscles to work efficiently. I wanted to focus on this for the first hamstring article. If there is a big tear in the muscle, you have to have that addressed before you begin these exercises. If your hamstrings or tendons have a minor injury or are chronically very tight, then these just might do the trick.
Have you ever tried to squeeze your glutes? Just your glute muscles, without any other muscles engaging, one side at time? It can be hard! But we really do need that control. Of course the hamstring will work a little bit in that squeeze, but try to focus on the glute doing most of it. Once you are able to get a squeeze and on only one side, you can try to squeeze your glute then lift your leg. Do these exercises lying on your stomach so you can focus and work against gravity.
The idea around allowing the hamstring more freedom of movement, is to focus on the hip and pelvis. The hip needs to be flexible so the hamstring can move through its full range of motion. So instead of focusing your stretching on the hamstring, try to look at the hip! Stretching the hip, especially the muscles in the back of the hip, can seriously help the hamstring rest at its normal length. Figure 4 and pigeon pose are fantastic stretches to try!
Pelvic stability comes up a lot, I know, but it really does help in so many ways. If your pelvic floor, core, and muscles in the trunk are all working in synergy then the hamstring doesn’t have to overwork. Focus your strengthening on this first, then take it to the hamstring. There are many ways we can strengthen and stretch the hamstring specifically, but making sure you are stable in the pelvis is the first step.
In the video I gave a few hip strengthening exercises. This is the second step. Strong core, then strong and flexible hip. You might notice you don’t have to do very much actual hamstring treatment in order to get hamstring relief. This can be the magic of recognizing the body as a system instead of individual parts pieced together.
If you need any help with hamstring injuries or even if your hamstrings are always tight, let me know! Next week we will discuss specific hamstring stretches and strengthening exercises.