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The Princeton Longevity Center Medical News

Are Your Hamstrings Really Tight?

Most of us are aware of our hamstrings - the muscle that originates from the underside of the rear pelvis (right where you sit) and attaches to the Tibia (a bone below the knee) - but a common misconception is that if we can’t touch our toes, our hamstrings must be tight.  This isn’t always the case!  When we lean over to touch our toes, almost every joint and muscle has to coordinate to make that happen. Your shoulders, back, hips, and knees all have to allow this movement too. Your ability to not touch your toes could come from your lower back, or even the front of your hips.

If your hamstrings feel tight, they might just be getting stretched or pulled taught. For instance - if the muscle groups opposite the hamstrings are short (like the front of your hips or quads), it can also put a constant stretch on the hamstrings.  Sometimes hamstring issues can stem from helper muscle groups (synergists) that are not performing their job correctly. If one of these groups becomes weak or under-active in a movement, the other has to pick up the so-called slack.  This can very easily lead to over activity in the hamstring and allow it to become overworked. Meeting with an exercise physiologist and having a full postural and kinetic chain evaluation can help clue you in on what is really going on.
 
A few exercises to take some of the load off of the hamstrings (and help counterbalance your hip flexors) are gluteus specific.  Here are a few exercises that can help you, along with the proper way to stretch your hamstrings:

Side Lying Leg Lifts            
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Bent Knee Leg Extensions

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Single Leg Squat

These exercises are in order of progression to start with the simpler movements (leg lifts) and work towards the more complex movements such as a single leg squat.
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The hamstrings can react in different ways to an old injury, your daily actives, and your posture. If you have any injury history and/or tight muscle groups, you should seek the help of a registered clinical exercise physiologist or a human movement specialist to get you on the right corrective track of exercises!

 

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