Tight Hamstrings – Learn to Touch Your Toes Again
With the majority of us maintaining a seated posture on a regular basis, it’s no wonder we often feel tension in our hips, lower back, and hamstrings. In this article we give you some practical ways to regain mobility in your hips and strengthen the pattern for good.
Are your hamstring really tight?
Often times when we feel our hamstrings are “tight”, that’s actually not at all what’s happening. If we struggle to touch our toes, most times it’s due to the fact that we don’t know how to create a posterior hip shift, which is a fancy way of saying stick your butt back. Or, the tightness is caused by a faulty flexion pattern at the hip joint, which puts us in a hyper-extended posture making all the muscles of our posterior chain (the back half of our body) tight. Lastly, it could be due to the lack of stability in the hip. When we lack strength in our glutes, movement compensations occur which disrupts normal movement. So how do we know? Give yourself the following test:
Active Straight Leg Raise Test
Ask yourself these questions:
1. Did I barely get my leg off the ground?
If so, you’re probably stuck in the hyper-extended posture we mentioned. Later we’ll show you which exercise would work best to open up this pattern.
2. Did my bottom foot turn out while raising my leg?
If it did, you have trouble activating your glutes to create rotary stability at the hip joint. We can help you with this one as well.
3. Did my knee start to bend upon raising my leg?
This isn’t normally the case, but if it did, you may have some tightness in the hamstring we can easily alleviate with the following drills.
Ok, I get it. I’m broken. So what do I do about it?
Foam rolling is a great exercise to alleviate tension in the fascia (the connective tissue that lines the muscles). The science is unclear as to how this benefits us, but doing it may help the body and brain talk to each other better. So before we start doing any complex movements, let’s get those lines of communication open. Roll out the following body parts for 15-30 seconds per part, spending your time where you need it most or experience the most discomfort
Once we’ve broken up the fascial tissue, we can incorporate mobility drills that not only stretch the desired areas but create better quality movement as well. This way, we can address multiple issues at once. Try the following drills and see which one suits you best:
Assisted Leg Lower
Activated Leg Raise with FMT or KB
Leg Lock Bridge
Static Motor Control
So far we’ve loosened up the tissue and gotten it into a better place. Now, we need to teach our body how to hold this newly found mobility so we don’t fall back into the same old patterns and lost that mobility. We’ve found that the following exercises allow us to do that the best:
Hip Flexor Stretch from Half Kneeling
Lift from Half Kneeling
Chop from Half Kneeling
Dynamic Motor Control
Once we’ve taught ourselves how to hold a position, we can teach our bodies how to use that stability to create movement. Patterning these drills will teach us how to use that newly found stability to create more sound movement:
Tall Kneeling Hip Hinge with Dowel Rod
Hip Hinge with Dowel Rod
Take it to the Next Level
If you feel like you’ve mastered the movements above, you’re ready to take things to the next level. It’s important to note we don’t recommend using the following exercises if you have not mastered the exercises above, or have the ability to touch your toes (see the video at the end of this article). If you’re feeling confident, here’s where we go from here:
Conventional Deadlift with KB
Split Stance KB Deadlift with Short Foot and Long Foot
Single Leg Contralateral Deadlift
If you have flexible hamstrings of if you gained flexibility via the mobility exercises above (you retested your active straight leg raise and passed) but you have issues touching your toes, keeping your balance when deadlifting, or keeping your back flat, give the Toe Touch Progression a try: