For as long as I can remember, I have been plagued by crazy tight hamstrings. I can’t, for the life of me, touch my toes, and the backs of my thighs are always achy after a workout or a long day in the office (read: sitting down). And I know that I’m not alone. So, I figured, hey, why not ask an expert for the lowdown on how to stay limber and loose? Thankfully, RIP Pilates instructor and physical therapist, Anessa Madera was more than happy to help.
Madera explains that where we experience tightness or pain isn’t necessarily where it originates. It turns out, tight hamstrings have very little to do with the backs of the legs. More often than not, they’re a result of an imbalance of the muscles of your low back and hip flexors.
“In most instances, people with tight hamstrings have poor posture which causes an anterior pelvic tilt. This means the hip flexors are shortened and tight and the gluteals and abdominals are overly lengthened, causing excessive curve (lordosis) of the lower back. The hamstrings are put under a lot of pressure in this posture. They have to compensate for the anterior tilt of the pelvis by locking up and attempting to pull the pelvis back into a more neutral position,” she says.
The good news is that you don’t need a gym, or a lot of time, to loosen up your hamstrings and relieve pain. Here, Madera shares are a few simple stretches you can try right now.
According to Madera, stretching the hamstrings without implementing other strategies for balancing out your pelvis will not get you very far and may make things worse.
“When a muscle is tight due to being in a protective spasm in an attempt to neutralise your posture; trying to stretch may only get it to fight against you and spasm even harder. If the hamstrings are weak, stretching will also not get you very far because until they are strong enough to be able to hold your pelvis in a better position they will never loosen up. So, performing strengthing exercises (that target your abs, glutes and hamstrings) regularly will make stretching so much easier,” she says.
To strengthen your anterior core, try:
To strengthen your glutes, try:
To strengthen your hamstrings, try: