I teach a young, male 27 years old client, with a severe shortness of hamstrings, back and hips. We have done already lots of great work that significantly increased his mobility through the spine, hips and shoulders. However the tightness is not letting go regardless of foam rolling, ball (small tennis ball under hamstrings) rolling, working the muscles at full range with leg springs (supine series on cadillac as recommended by physiotherapist – spinal flossing), etc He said his dad was this same but his physiotherapist and doctor didn’t confirm any inherited condition.
Where can you see it most:
- roll down still only half way down with knees bend, flat lower back (which articulates happily in abprep)
- supine table top legs – very difficult to maintain and bring knees over hips is almost impossible (the spine stays supported though)
- legs in springs on reformer, still have to use support under pelvis to keep the legs up
He’s got good abdominal strength on both levels, is it really possible that someone could be inherently so tight in the muscles (also add his lats to tight bits) that regular exercises would not give release (he also swims once a week x 50 laps). This is no doubt a complicated case and I have tried a few different approaches but perhaps looking from outside would give an opportunity to see something I haven’t considered. Please let me know what you think.
I see numerous imbalances when it comes to the human body. Don’t we all?
Yes, some people have very tight muscles…and men seem to have tighter hamstrings then women. There’s tight and there’s short. There’s a DIFFERENCE.
Generally if one muscle is tight on the outside of the leg, others are as well.
If TFL and ITB are tight, then Biceps Femoris (outside hamstring ) usually is as well.
If he has tight hamstrings, it’s probably because he is working with a muscle imbalance between:
- the quadriceps
- the glut muscles
- the hamstrings
Is he shortening in the lumbar?
Clients with this pelvic placement usually have over active or shortened hip flexors. When these muscles are shortened or over active they actually pull the hips forward causing an anteriorly rotated hip. In this scenario, the hamstrings are now overstretched. And here they feel REALLY tight. Think tight—NOT SHORT!
Is your client suffering from hamstrings that are overstretched tight from the pelvis dropping fwd?
Tight hamstrings are weak hamstrings!
Weak, tight hamstrings will develop a compensation pattern that overwork and strengthen the quads, in the end creating a muscular imbalance in the legs.
What job does he do? Does he sit all day long? Do you think he sits and allows the pelvis to drop fwd. hours on end?
Take a look at his gluteus? Are they under-active? Most probably.
Strengthen gluteus. Make his gluteus the dominant hip extensors
Single leg-squats….. (Stand on one leg and then try to touch something which is lying on the floor diagonally just in front of you)… Assist him – hands on a bit, so he doesn’t fall over!
Work on getting the gluteus really much stronger than the hamstrings.
You really don’t want the hamstrings to do the work that the gluteus should do. Like running, jumping, squatting because with the hamstrings in an already over stretched state, they have to work so hard because they gluteus are inhibited by short hip flexors…and this will leave his hamstrings so tight and he will always complain of TIGHT hamstrings.
Like very tight strings on a guitar.
In this scenario you need to strengthen his hamstrings and then stretch them.
Strengthening has to come first—-So instead of more pull on the hamstrings, we want a “Reflex Release” of the hamstrings by:
- Activating the quadriceps
- Activating the gluteus
- While keeping the spine long
You mention he swims, a lot, so this will explain that he has very strong latts.
Is he a runner? A runner will often have strong quads and tight long hamstrings and run with a pelvis that is tucked under, because he is ‘pulling’ from the front and not rolling and pushing through his feet as he takes his strides.( Using the front part of his feet). That’s another scenario.
NOW, if you have established that his hamstrings are actually SHORT, there can be a numerous reasons for this:
- Long hours sitting / driving. (Then lots of walking and then stretching is good)
- Back problems. Sometimes they become shorter due to a back problem. This is because the hamstrings are trying to stabilize the back. But Hamstrings can also be a contributing factor in back pain. There can be a vicious circle.
- Lack of core strength. Here the Hamstrings take on the role of attempting to stabilize the trunk.
- Poor coordination. The hamstrings do the work the Gluteus should be doing.
Here, stretching in itself is rarely that effective unless the other underlying factors are address as well.
But best of all, after having addressed all of the above; Single leg hamstring stretch (leg up on a chair flex and then lean slightly fwd. with a neutral back. You need to build here. We want STRONG and flexible hamstrings which takes dedication and lots of commitment.
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