If you’re one of the many people who struggle with tight hamstrings, you probably wonder what’s going on and what you can do to help fix the problem. I totally understand the feeling because I often end up with tight hammies.
If you find yourself with this pain, then there are a few stretches that you can do to loose up those hamstring muscles. You can also do a bit of cardio – the right cardio – to loosen them. Let us help you out with this.
Causes of Tight Hamstrings
Your hamstrings can be tight from a few different things, but let’s look at the top four causes of tight hamstrings.
First, your muscles could be weak from overexertion. This can make walking and running very difficult and make it very easy to get injured.
Another reason your hamstrings could be tight is a limited range of motion, which is caused by a lot of time spent sitting at a desk, driving or doing other activities in which you aren’t lifting your heel up and extending your hip.
Limited range of motion prevents your hamstring from being lengthened, thus causing tight hamstrings.
The third reason your hamstrings can be tight is overuse. If you work out a lot, your hamstrings may need to be stretched back to their normal length, which can be done by taking a few days off to let your body recuperate.
Finally, tight hamstrings can also be caused by lack of flexibility. You can combat this by consistently stretching your muscles to increase your flexibility and prevent injuries.
Stretches To Loosen Hamstrings
Here are a few stretches you can do as you stretch your tight hamstrings.
- Stretch 1: Sit on the floor with one leg stretched out straight and the other bent out of the way. Rotate the straight leg inwards and lean forward at the hips. You should feel a stretch under the thigh. Hold this pose for 30 seconds. Repeat this throughout the day about five times.
- Stretch 2: Stand with one leg stretched in front of the other one. Bend your knee backward and lean forward from your hips. Put your hands on the bent leg’s thigh to help balance. Hold this for 30 seconds and repeat throughout the day.
- Stretch 3: Lay on your back and straighten your leg upwards. Pull back on your leg a bit to feel the stretch in your hamstring.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you stretch and exercise those hammies.
1. Never force a stretch.
If you try to push it too much or stretch your legs too forcefully, you can really hurt yourself. Instead, ease into it.
Pick a stretch and rock slowly back and forth into it a few times. Focus on your breath.
Every few repetitions, hold the stretch for a few seconds and see how you feel. After about 30 seconds, you should be able to do the stretch with less strain.
2. Bend your knees.
When you start stretching, bend forward with straight legs if you can. If not, bend your knees to take the slack off your calves and hamstring attachment at your knees.
Focus on having a flat or only slightly arched back while keeping your chest up and bending forward at your hips.
3. Exercise other areas first.
Your hamstring flexibility issues could actually stem from other parts of your body, so it’s important to work other areas too to help relax your hamstrings.
Try back, hip and calf stretches before you work on your hamstrings.
4. Don’t hold one stretch for too long.
A lot of research has shown that there’s minimal benefit in holding one position longer than 15-30 seconds. As a result, try shorter holds with more repetitions.
Best Cardio for Tight Hamstrings
While tight hamstrings can make training seem like a difficult endeavor at best, there are some exercises you can still do without being limited by them.
Low-impact movements can be utilized to get your heart going, all while keeping the stress off your hamstrings and joints.
Instead of waiting around for symptoms to subside, get your workout going with these aerobic exercises.
Depending on your approach, swimming can either be intense, or it can be a relaxing and peaceful form of exercise.
Regardless of your preference, it carries a plethora of health benefits, as it works out your entire body, using nearly every muscle group while you move against the natural resistance of the water.
It builds endurance and overall muscle strength, and, most importantly in regards to your tight hamstrings, swimming takes the impact stress off your body even as it helps keep your heart rate up.
While the elliptical machine can be comparable to a treadmill, the elliptical can be less stressful on your hips, back and knees due to the low-impact nature of the movements involved.
A vigorous pace can be maintained without aggravating your tight hamstrings, and many of these machines come equipped with upper body handles, which allow for a more complete workout.
Riding a Bike
It’s also a great way to get around, as you can burn calories while also saving money on gas (and cutting down on air pollution as well).
In addition to providing a good muscle workout that can be adjusted for whatever level of intensity you might prefer, biking is a low-impact exercise that causes less strain than most of its alternatives.
Everyone does it, and while it can sometimes be taken for granted, walking is still an effective exercise. In fact, something as simple as a brisk walk can help burn calories and improve overall health.
It can aid in staving off conditions like heart disease and high blood pressure, and like every other exercise on this list, it can be integrated into a good aerobic exercise regimen.
Among other benefits, walking can also help with balance and coordination, and it’s an easy form of exercise that puts very little stress on your joints.
The American Heart Association recommends 40 minutes of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week, to lower the risk of heart attack and stroke.
A pair of tight hamstrings may make this requirement seem daunting, but by focusing on low-impact exercises like those described above, you can still reach your weekly quota without issue.
If you try these exercises and keep these tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to looser hamstrings and better workouts. Good luck!