The Real Reasons why your Hamstrings feel Tight

No matter how much you stretch, your hamstrings are still tight. On this blog, we discuss the real reasons why your hamstrings feel tight, despite your stretching efforts.

Among the active population, it is extremely common to hear people complain about how sore and tight their hamstrings are. I don’t think I have ever walked into a gym where I did not see at least one person attempting to bring their leg to their forehead. Blog posts constantly pop up about new and improved ways to relieve hamstring tightness.  And yet, no matter how much you stretch, the feeling of tightness continues. Before we address the real reasons why your hamstrings feel tight, we want to address whether stretching your legs is a good idea.

Should you stretch your hamstrings?

Blog posts constantly pop up about new and improved ways to relieve hamstring tightness.  And yet, no matter how much you stretch, the feeling of tightness continues. Why?

Common sense would suggest that as you train the muscle, whether be running or lifting heavy things the muscle “shortens” or gets “tight” again and again from the contractions during exercise and therefore it needs to be stretched.  Well, this might not be the case.

Having the sensation of tight hamstrings is not due to the muscle working during exercise but from having to compensate for the poor function of Hip muscles. Hamstring tightness actually originates in the hips.

Here are the real reasons why your hamstrings feel tight

There are 3 reduced hip functions that lead to the sensation of your hamstring tightness:

  • You might have Poor Hip Stability

which in less fancy words means not so hot glute activation

Do your hamstrings always take over when performing movements like squats, lunges or other leg movements? Welcome to glute amnesia. Your body is not activating the glute muscles as it should be and it is using the hamstrings instead, this is quite common.

Here is a way test if your glutes have poor activation:

This means that when you start to perform a squat, a lunge, a deadlift, or when running you move your back/spine before you move or propel with the hip: “use your legs really actually means use your HIPS”

  • You might have poor control of hip movement

which means there is no core firing when the legs are moving

Think of core stability as the foundation of your house. Without core activation, your hamstrings are in a constant state of contraction in order to take up the slack where the core cannot properly stabilize the hips.

Poor core leads to initiating movements with your back instead of your hips. This causes the hamstrings to feel tight. Read our blog on Hip hinge to understand the importance of hip movement instead of low back movement.

  • You might have poor posture of your hip joint

If there is poor posture, rotation of the joint leads to an over-lengthened hamstring muscle.
When you have an anteriorly tilted pelvis, your “butt bone” or the origin of the hamstring muscle is shifted upwards thus leading to a stretched out muscle that always feels tight. It is in fact, “weak-tight” meaning it does not need to be stretched, but more importantly, must be strengthened.

 

 

 

When tight Hamstrings is not in the Hamstrings:

Disc related injuries of the low back and nerve irritation can  make you feel a sensation of tightness in the hamstrings

Here are some red flags that indicate that the tightness might be coming as a sign of something else:

  1. Bruising, usually after an injury
  2. Numbness
  3. Burning or tingling in lower leg
  4. Weakness in the lower leg or foot drop of involved side