Improve the Function of your Hamstrings

March 9th, 2020

Hamstrings are often an area that many of us find as feeling ‘tight’ or ‘stiff’. When they are feeling like this it can reduce the range of motion in the hips, knees, lower back and along the length of the spine. Sitting down for long periods of time, and doing sports that have heavy usage of the hamstrings and lower back, like running and Crossfit, can cause irritation to this area.

Really, what we all need is for our bodies to move in the best way that they can, so that life is generally just better, so for this we need our hips to create extension and flexion with ease.

As a starting point to improve range of motion I would recommend a regular stretching routine to target the hamstrings, glutes and lower back. Here is a 15 minute routine you can do anywhere that you can lay down. Complete 2-3 times per week, or as desired, you may need more to start with if you are particularly restricted in this area. However, with anything, the more you practice, the sooner you will get results, although always listen to your body if it needs a break.

Before you exercise it is good practice to mobilize an area that has reduced range of motion, so that you can perform your activity at your best ability. These mobilizations are particularly useful for lower back and hamstrings.

Strengthening your hamstrings is something else that should be considered, if they are stronger then they can withstand more volume. I recommend Romanian Deadlifts (RDLs) and single leg RDLs because they both strengthen the hamstring at it’s fullest range, therefore maintaining range of motion for longer. Start with 3 sets of 8 reps, 1-2 times a week. Progress each week gradually in set or rep amount, if endurance is your goal, or in weight (sometimes reducing the rep amount), if strength is your goal.

It is important to also exercise the antagonist (opposite) joint action, in this case hip flexion. I advise doing this prior to strengthening the hamstrings so that a controlled lengthening of the hip extension muscles occurs, preparing the body for a safer and more effective movement pattern.

An example of a hip flexion exercise is the supine leg lowering. Complete 3 x 15-20 reps, or what you can manage maintaining control of the movement.

Let me know how it goes.

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