Have you got tight hamstrings?

Posted on Wednesday, 3 July 2019 by Rob Manlove

Have you got tight hamstrings?

I often hear people say "I have tight hamstrings."

There might be a some useful information in this statement:

  1. You have identified a deficiency in your ability to access certain positions that you wish to move into and out of more freely.
  2. You have identified an area (specifically a muscle) that you suspect might be responsible.

My problem with the statement is that it oversimplifies things and reinforces a mechanical interpretation of human movement. If a guitar string is too tight or too lose you can twist the tuning knob to make it tighter or looser and bring it back in to tune. The ends of a guitar string consist two single fixed points, making it a closed system. The human body is much more complex; the origins and insertions of the hamstrings are on three different bones that can all move independently, this means the hamstrings are influenced by any movement made (or not made) by any other body part. Your ability to touch your toes also depends on more than just your hamstrings; many joints and muscles are involved (all controlled by your central nervous system). Before we go off on an anatomical / bio-mechanical tangent, let's just say it's important to remember to keep a holistic view of the body when trying to improve movement. Now let's talk about what practical steps you can take to develop the ability to touch your toes. If you can already touch your toes then you might want to work towards palms flat on the ground or even elbows touching the ground. How much range of motion you want depends on your training goals, but I feel like palms flat on the floor is a pretty basic level of flexibility that most people can achieve.

The following video provides demonstrations. Full instructions below.

The Protocol

Perform 3 rounds of the following sequence 2 - 3 times per week (approx 30-40 mins) Or fit in a 5-10 mins of stretching using the drills when you have time.

  1. Hamstring / Glute / QL Mash 3 - 5 minutes.
  2. Staggered Stance Good Morning - 5r + 10s hold on each side. Pointers: Both knees locked out. Keep Hips Square. Maintain Neutral Spine, Tilt pelvis forwards. Press foot into ground with upper body for 10 seconds at the end of the 5th rep on each side.
  3. Wide Stance Complex - 4 cossacks + 4 side-to-side-squat + 30s straddle forward fold.
  4. Head-to-toe reach - 30s each side. Pointers: elevate ball of foot on something solid. Keep working side knee locked out. Use body parts to measure how far away you are and to maintain distance for the entire hold.
  5. Front Split Balance Hold 10-30s each side. Pointers: if you're wobbling you're working.....if not go deeper.
  6. Elevated Head to Toe Reach - 30s each side. Use body parts to measure how far away you are and to maintain distance for the entire hold.
Let me know how you get on.

Rob Manlove, Head Coach