Are Your Hamstrings Weak or Tight?

ByTom Feeney DC, ART

Tight Hamstrings

There are a few different reasons why a hamstring can feel tight. Sometimes your hamstrings don’t stretch because your brain senses instability and it “tightens ” your hamstrings. This is easy to test for and fix. Researchers have found some new approaches which are quite effective for helping weak, tight, and/or sore hamstrings.

What should you do if you have a tight hamstring?

Three evidenced based interventions to try are Active Release Techniques® (ART), Fat-Tool™ instrument therapy, and foam rolling!

Two recent studies compared ART to two common interventions for hamstring tightness. The first study compared ART to the Mulligan Bent Leg Raise Technique (video) on increasing hamstring flexibility. While the Mulligan Technique was found to be effective in this study and a previous study, ART was even more effective.  The second study reached the same conclusion between ART and the Rolfing Soft Tissue Technique.

Fascial Abrasion Techniques (FAT-Tool) therapy was put to the test by researchers on whether it could have a lasting effect on hamstring flexibility.  In the study the FAT-tool and foam rolling both improved thigh muscle flexibility, but only the FAT-Tool’s effect were seen 24 hours later.

Research into foam rolling has found it to be effective.  The best approach is to foam roll the hamstring first and then do some static stretching. It is probably best to stick to a quick routine of a couple of minutes only. Researches have yet to study how long to roll or how hard you should go.  So try a few different variables and see which works best for you.

What is the best exercise to prevent hamstring strains?

Try an eccentric exercise where you slowly lengthen the hamstring muscle while it is under tension like a Nordic hamstring curl. They have been found to prevent first time and recurrent hamstring strain injury. To do a Nordic curl you kneel with the ankles held down, then you lower the body from the knee up with the body fixed in a plank. A lack of eccentric strength has been linked to hamstring strains, therefore eccentric training is a great way to prevent hamstring tears.

What is the best way to rehab a high hamstring injury?

Low compression high hamstring exercises

For hamstring injuries near the top of the muscle try exercises where the hip isn’t flexed towards the chest. In some cases hamstring exercises where the hip is flexed will cause too much compression of the tendon against the bone it attaches to.

  • Glute Bridge
  • 30° Raised Glute Bridge
  • Shallow Hip Thrusts

About Tom Feeney DC, ART

Writer, Seminar Instructor and Sports Chiro to professional athletes since 1997. Newcastle, UK.