Tight hamstrings are a common affliction in the modern era. For many, bending over and touching their toes with straight legs is a distant dream.
But what makes hamstrings tight? In this post, we find out. Warning: it’s not what you think.
Tightness, Stretching, And Short Muscles
Most people try to deal with muscle tightness by stretching their muscles and hoping that this will elongate them over time. However, lack of stretching isn’t a cause of tightness. And simply putting the muscle under load won’t make it get longer. That’s simply not how the body works.
Tightness is often the result of failed stabilizer muscles in the hip. When muscles involved in rotating the hip don’t get used, they start to atrophy and weaken. The hamstring then takes over the role of stabilizing the joint, causing the muscle to feel tight.
The result of tight muscles can be both embarrassing and painful. They are embarrassing because they make it hard for you to put your body in certain positions. And they’re painful because they make it difficult to move in the right way.
In most cases, tight hamstrings are the result of lifestyle factors. If you spend a lot of time sitting down or just moving forward, instead of backward, side to side, or rotationally, then the likelihood of tightness goes up. The brain begins to send different types of signals to the hip joint, reducing reliance on regular hip muscles, and increasing reliance on the hamstring.
Tight hamstrings are not the same as short hamstrings. If you have short hamstrings, it means that the muscle is physically shorter than normal. However, if it is tight, it means that it is bunched up and not close to its full potential length.
How To Solve Tight Hamstring Issues
Unfortunately, tight hamstrings don’t just make it difficult to bend over and touch your toes. They can also lead to back pain. When the hamstrings don’t work biomechanically in the way that nature intended, the body compensates.
The trick to solving tight hamstring issues is to start moving your hips in different ways. You’ll want to internally and externally rotate them, depending on the problem that you have. Regular yoga mats are good for this. They provide a supportive cushion that helps you get into new positions.
You can even do yoga postures that encourage healthy hip rotation. The more you can activate the small stabilizer muscles of the hips, the strong they will become, and the less tight your hamstrings will feel over time. Eventually, you should be able to touch your toes like everyone else you know.
What’s great about these fixes is that they work on people who’ve had hamstring issues for many years. Even if you have been living with tight muscles at the back of your legs for decades, hip rotation exercises can help. The more you practice them, the more supple your body becomes. Other parts of the body stop overcompensating and you begin to use your hip joint as nature intended.