“Why are my hamstrings are tight? I stretch, I train, I stretch again, but my hamstrings are always tight”! Sound familiar? It does to me.
People, often without prompting, walk into my practice and tell me that their hamstring ‘feel tight’. Whether you play five a side with your work colleagues, hit a weekend spin class or hit the weights a couple of times per week, chances are it will come up in conversation.
But is it because your hamstrings are truly short….?
Hamstrings control movement around the hip and knee. They provide the propulsion of jumping and walking and also act as the break pads when stopping suddenly. They bend your knee at the same time as pulling your leg backwards when you move forward. You can feel them work most as you walk or run down a steep hill, squat, and when trying to stop suddenly from a sprint. They are used even when we don’t move, sitting or standing, as they help to control our pelvic tilt, and respond to the weight of the body above.
So what has mades them tight?
The simple answer is, is you have! Human design is in direct conflict with the majority of our working / lifestyle habits. Too much sitting and not enough exercise has trained our hamstrings to be sluggish, and when something goes wrong they exclaim in a confused voice “I was only following orders!”.
Those orders are a mixture of neuro-musculoskeletal problems; the nerves incorrectly telling the muscles to be tight, and that in turn causes the joints to become stiff. Left for long enough, the problems become more stubborn and it is then more likely to cause recurrent niggles that finally end with a pretty significant injury.
Is stretching the answer?
Over stretching a tight muscle can cause muscle fibres to fray, leaving you vulnerable to recurrent strains. Knock on effects can place stress elsewhere on the skeleton, such as the knees and the low back. I see and treat these injuries daily.
However, I am convinced that with the right awareness and correct preparation anyone who is starting strength and conditioning training or upping their program can focus on some very simple techniques to avoid a hamstring issues and a trip to my office. How so? A well designed and progressive strength training programme that focussed any imbalances that exist within the body.
How you perform exercises is important. The guys at W10 Performance run a very tight ship: strict roller warm-ups, increased awareness of your hips as you train and getting you to recruit your glutes at the end of any leg exercise. It all helps to take the pressure off the hamstrings, and reduce the chance of injury.
There are no guarantees that an injury prevention strategy will work 100% of the time, but good practice goes a long way. So, get that hip thrust going and get all “Saturday Night Fever”.
Nick Lamond, Portobello Chiropractic Clinic – www.portobellochiropractic.co.uk