Tight Hamstrings - A definitive list of causes

Hi Guys,

I’ve always had horrendous hamstrings, as an example, I can’t even sit on the floor with straight legs without it causing my lower back to round and my torso to go forward; if I stand tall with a straight back and try lean forward, my hands only go down my legs a few inches before I stop.

As much as I love YouTube and have managed to solve many of my problems in life using it, when it comes to this one topic, I can’t seem to find an answer. So far I’ve seen the following solutions:

  1. Stretching the hamstrings;
  2. Strengthening the hamstrings;
  3. Stretching the hip flexors;
  4. Not stretching at all but focusing on nerves in the lower back;
  5. Not stretching at all but focusing on Myofascia release, etc.

Often the authors of the videos while not only focusing on their solution, dissuade you from other solutions on the basis that it can be harmful or counterproductive.

In the past I tried daily hamstring stretching, it got to the stage where I would feel and hear ‘pops’ around my lower vertebrae, as if something else was giving out in the process.

I’m wondering has anyone come across a protocol or perhaps themselves developed their own protocol, to diagnoses the cause of tightness, whether it be the hamstrings or something else?

Thank you in advance for any comments that can help on this.

All the best,
Chris

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I’ve found that hamstring tightness is usually related to tight quads, hip flexors and weak abdominals resulting in anterior pelvic tilt. Stretching the hamstrings themselves only exacerbates this. Lunge style stretches are an effective way of opening the hips and quads - “The worlds greatest stretch” is an example of this.

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Thanks fella. So as anterior pelvic tilt progresses, the hamstrings get unnaturally stretched. I’ve just found a video of that stretch by 'Squat University on YouTube so I’ll try it throughout the day while I’m working.

Exactly - worth also adding a little core work in every day too as that will help too.

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Honestly, if it’s that bad, I’d see a physio for an individual assessment.

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I agree. When you have an issue that isnt easily resolving itself go see someone with knowledge.

My own experience with physio is I did learn essentially everything is connected…so just working on one muscle doesnt mean you dont have other issues that are causing your body to adapt to cause the imbalances in your system

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Could also be sciatic nerve irritability. I’ve had patients who come in saying they have chronically tight hamstrings where it’s actually limited nerve mobiltiy. WE do some nerve glides and they “magically” gain 10-15 degrees of mobility.

Also, all of this stuff is not actually stretching and laying down more sarcomeres or drastically changing tissue length (this occurs over long periods of time), but actually allowing your nervous system to relax and allow for more movement. Think golgi tendon organs and muscle spindle fibers.

I’ve had three back surgeries. Two discectomies and an L4/L5 fusion in 2018.

I’ve always had tight hamstrings and no flexibility.

Personally I’m not a fan of chiropractics. I’ve seen too many long time patients who depend on them for “adjustment” but never receive long term healing. Doesn’t seem sustainable for me. I classify it like massage… it may feel good but doesn’t really do much.

That said, my bike fitter is also a chiropractor and a great guy! He showed me a great stretch for my hamstrings that really seems to help. My problem before with stretching them is that I’d try to touch my toes. All that does is put more pressure on your back. Instead, I pretend I have a broomstick between my shoulders that I have to keep against my back. So basically I bend forward at the waist with my legs locked back, and keep my back straight.

At first I was super skeptical as stretching has never helped me, but this was different.

Doing this has given me some more flexibility and has reduced the sciatica i still get.

Good luck!

I have the same issue. In my case this is due to office work where I am basicaly seated rhe whole day and exacerbate by the fact that the only sport I am doing is cycling.

To improve it, I try to work in a standing position as much as possible. This streching routine from GCN has also help me a lot.

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@CJKeig Haven’t looked at this full study but found it relevant to your post.