T Nation

Hamstring Stretching

Just wondering if anybody knows really good stretches for the hammies. I’m really beginning to feel tight in the area from deads and good mornings. Pls let a guy know your ideas. thanks

Check out #4:

http://www.ericcressey.com/newsletter28.html

Dynamic flexibility is what you need; check out our Magnificent Mobility DVD for details.

Hamstring stretching doesn’t need to be that complicated, but there are several muscles that make up the Hamstring group.

Semimembranosus
Semitendinosus
Biceps Femoris (short and long head)

Here are a couple of tips to improve flexibility:

  1. Do both unilateral and bilateral stretching.

  2. Try a towel stretch. Lie flat on your back, wrap a towel around the bottom of your foot and pull the foot towards your head. Try this with the leg straight and you will feel it more near the insertion on the femur. Then try it again with the leg bent. After you get a stretch with the leg bent, hold the stretch, and try to straighten your knee, you will feel it more in the muscle belly.

  3. Try a standing unilateral stretch. Bend the weight bearing leg, and keep the leg you are trying to stretch straight (you can keep in out in front of you on the floor, or raise it up on a bench). Make sure you keep your hips square to the leg you are stretching (don’t open your hips).

Try it with 3 different positions:
a) With foot (and leg/hip) rotated externally to 45 degrees.
b) With foot (and leg/hip) straight up to 90 degrees
c) With foot (and leg/hip) rotated internally to 45 degrees.

By doing this you will hit all the parts of the hamstring, and you will find out which muscles are tighter than the other.

[quote]Modi wrote:
Hamstring stretching doesn’t need to be that complicated, but there are several muscles that make up the Hamstring group.

Semimembranosus
Semitendinosus
Biceps Femoris (short and long head)

Here are a couple of tips to improve flexibility:

  1. Do both unilateral and bilateral stretching.

  2. Try a towel stretch. Lie flat on your back, wrap a towel around the bottom of your foot and pull the foot towards your head. Try this with the leg straight and you will feel it more near the insertion on the femur. Then try it again with the leg bent. After you get a stretch with the leg bent, hold the stretch, and try to straighten your knee, you will feel it more in the muscle belly.

  3. Try a standing unilateral stretch. Bend the weight bearing leg, and keep the leg you are trying to stretch straight (you can keep in out in front of you on the floor, or raise it up on a bench). Make sure you keep your hips square to the leg you are stretching (don’t open your hips).

Try it with 3 different positions:
a) With foot (and leg/hip) rotated externally to 45 degrees.
b) With foot (and leg/hip) straight up to 90 degrees
c) With foot (and leg/hip) rotated internally to 45 degrees.

By doing this you will hit all the parts of the hamstring, and you will find out which muscles are tighter than the other. [/quote]

some very good information.

i would like to add that by contracting the hams for aprox. 10 seconds with 20% of your strength prior to your stretch will result in a more effective stretch (Post Isometric Relaxation).

the next method is very good in the case of a ham injury. you contract the opposing muscle group (this case the quads) with the same degree of strength mentioned above for the same length of time then initiate the ham stretch (Reciprocal Inhibition). a prime time to use this method is prior to pulling your leg back with the towel.

always stretch with ease and care, dont horse into it.

[quote]Modi wrote:
Hamstring stretching doesn’t need to be that complicated, but there are several muscles that make up the Hamstring group.

Semimembranosus
Semitendinosus
Biceps Femoris (short and long head)

Here are a couple of tips to improve flexibility:

  1. Do both unilateral and bilateral stretching.

  2. Try a towel stretch. Lie flat on your back, wrap a towel around the bottom of your foot and pull the foot towards your head. Try this with the leg straight and you will feel it more near the insertion on the femur. Then try it again with the leg bent. After you get a stretch with the leg bent, hold the stretch, and try to straighten your knee, you will feel it more in the muscle belly.

  3. Try a standing unilateral stretch. Bend the weight bearing leg, and keep the leg you are trying to stretch straight (you can keep in out in front of you on the floor, or raise it up on a bench). Make sure you keep your hips square to the leg you are stretching (don’t open your hips).

Try it with 3 different positions:
a) With foot (and leg/hip) rotated externally to 45 degrees.
b) With foot (and leg/hip) straight up to 90 degrees
c) With foot (and leg/hip) rotated internally to 45 degrees.

By doing this you will hit all the parts of the hamstring, and you will find out which muscles are tighter than the other. [/quote]

I’m curious why you have to do both, in your opinion what are the benefits of bilateral stretching over unilateral stretching?

[quote]Modi wrote:

  1. Do both unilateral and bilateral stretching.

Kreal7 wrote:

I’m curious why you have to do both, in your opinion what are the benefits of bilateral stretching over unilateral stretching?[/quote]

That’s a very legitimate question.

I prefer unilateral stretching for improving specific hamstring flexibility. However, I think it is too easy for most people to allow their hips to ‘open’ during the stretch, which lessens the stretch or shifts it to other muscles.

I find Bilateral stretching keeps the hips in a more desirable position, but certainly has it’s drawbacks. First, the more flexible hamstring will not recieve as much benefit as the tight one. Second, it is possible that the pelvis will tilt, and therefore place more of a stretch on the muscles supporting the lumbar spine.

However, since we do tend to perform many exercise in a bilateral fashion (ie squats, deads, leg press, SLDL’s, etc.) I think it is important to stretch in the same manner.

If you had to choose one over the other, I would choose unilateral and make sure I was strict with it. The OP asked for ideas, so I provided a few for him. That’s why I suggested uni/bilateral stretching as well as varying hip rotation and degrees of knee flexion.

[quote]Eric Cressey wrote:
Check out #4:

http://www.ericcressey.com/newsletter28.html

Dynamic flexibility is what you need; check out our Magnificent Mobility DVD for details.[/quote]

Eric has a good reputation around here, so recomendation is probably worth checking out. I’m not against dynamic stretching, especially for athletic performance improvement.

Here is #4 from his post

“4. There is really no support for bilateral stretching of the hamstrings to prevent and treat lower back pain. In most cases, the tightness people feel in their hamstrings is a neural tightness ? not a purely soft-tissue phenomenon. Dr. McGill believes that the only time the hamstrings should be stretched is with an asymmetry. This is something I?ve been practicing for close to a year now with outstanding results; the tighter my hamstrings have gotten, the stronger and faster I?ve become. The secret is to build dynamic flexibility that allows us to make use of the powerful spring effect the hamstrings offer; static stretching ? especially prior to movement ? impairs this spring.”

I’m not suggesting static stretching prior to exercise, I should have made that clear. I am no Dr. but I can not reccomend that people strive to become less flexible. In my opinion, the majority of people with back issues have them due in part to tight hamstrings. Tight hamstrings cause the pelvis to tilt posteriorly, putting more stress on the lumbar erectors. If these muscles are weak and tight, that will lead to injury.

[quote]Modi wrote:

I’m not suggesting static stretching prior to exercise, I should have made that clear. I am no Dr. but I can not reccomend that people strive to become less flexible. In my opinion, the majority of people with back issues have them due in part to tight hamstrings. Tight hamstrings cause the pelvis to tilt posteriorly, putting more stress on the lumbar erectors. If these muscles are weak and tight, that will lead to injury.[/quote]

This may be true if the opposing muscle groups are allowed to weaken or become more flexible. But, if the muscles pulling the pelvis into posterior or anterior tilt are kept proportionately equal in terms of strength and flexibility, the posture would theoretically remain the same.

A 1:1 ratio of anterior to posterior pull would result in the “same” posture as if it were 4:4 (the greater the number being the less flexible and stronger).

This is just my take on it, I’m curious what Eric has to say.

-MAtt

[quote]Matgic wrote:
Modi wrote:

I’m not suggesting static stretching prior to exercise, I should have made that clear. I am no Dr. but I can not reccomend that people strive to become less flexible. In my opinion, the majority of people with back issues have them due in part to tight hamstrings. Tight hamstrings cause the pelvis to tilt posteriorly, putting more stress on the lumbar erectors. If these muscles are weak and tight, that will lead to injury.

This may be true if the opposing muscle groups are allowed to weaken or become more flexible. But, if the muscles pulling the pelvis into posterior or anterior tilt are kept proportionately equal in terms of strength and flexibility, the posture would theoretically remain the same.

A 1:1 ratio of anterior to posterior pull would result in the “same” posture as if it were 4:4 (the greater the number being the less flexible and stronger).

This is just my take on it, I’m curious what Eric has to say.

-MAtt

[/quote]

I understand what you are saying, and I’m not sure I’m ready to get into a heated debate over something I don’t spend a whole lot of time doing (stretching that is), but it seems to me that if those ratios get too high, you will eventually be walking around like you have a stick up your ass. Hip flexors strong and tight, abdominals strong and tight, quads, hammies, glutes, lumbar erectors. At some point there has to be some flexibility there somewhere.

The OP didn’t state whether his quads/hip flexors were tight or not, so there isn’t a whole lot to base any argument off. He just asked for a good way to stretch the hamstrings.

I too am curious to hear from Eric, though I doubt he’s going to say that his DVD is worthless, and that he’s changed his mind due to my post.

[quote]Modi wrote:
Matgic wrote:
Modi wrote:

I’m not suggesting static stretching prior to exercise, I should have made that clear. I am no Dr. but I can not reccomend that people strive to become less flexible. In my opinion, the majority of people with back issues have them due in part to tight hamstrings. Tight hamstrings cause the pelvis to tilt posteriorly, putting more stress on the lumbar erectors. If these muscles are weak and tight, that will lead to injury.

This may be true if the opposing muscle groups are allowed to weaken or become more flexible. But, if the muscles pulling the pelvis into posterior or anterior tilt are kept proportionately equal in terms of strength and flexibility, the posture would theoretically remain the same.

A 1:1 ratio of anterior to posterior pull would result in the “same” posture as if it were 4:4 (the greater the number being the less flexible and stronger).

This is just my take on it, I’m curious what Eric has to say.

-MAtt

I understand what you are saying, and I’m not sure I’m ready to get into a heated debate over something I don’t spend a whole lot of time doing (stretching that is), but it seems to me that if those ratios get too high, you will eventually be walking around like you have a stick up your ass. Hip flexors strong and tight, abdominals strong and tight, quads, hammies, glutes, lumbar erectors. At some point there has to be some flexibility there somewhere.

The OP didn’t state whether his quads/hip flexors were in tight or not, so there isn’t a whole lot to base any argument off. He just asked for a good way to stretch the hamstrings.

I too am curious to hear from Eric, though I doubt he’s going to say that his DVD is worthless, and that he’s changed his mind due to my post.[/quote]

Modi,

I don’t believe that the debate has to get heated in any respect. I think of it as a discussion; we have the OP two different suggestions already, so there is no harm in discussing the differences in them. And I don’t think that one person needs to admit that their information is “worthless” in order for a conversation to come to a conclusion.

But if your only point is to “win” an argument, then perhaps it is better not to discuss. I am curious if you are a coach or trainer because I wonder what experience you have working people or athletes if your own experience doesn’t validate your suggestions (you said you don’t stretch much yourself, not that the anecdotal evidence of one person would suggest much anyhow).

Nevertheless, it seems worthy to mention that flexibility should only be increased (or even decreased) to suit the needs of the individual or athlete. Being that there is an inverse relationship between stability and flexibility, we can see how different sports such as women’s gymnastics and powerlifting would differ.

Flexibility is about structural balance between the muscles that pull on one another in different directions. If there is an inefficiency, it should be addressed, but stretching for the sake of it is not necesarily beneficial. I know that EC wouldn’t say that stretching is a waste of time, afterall he is the “Mobility Guy”.

-MAtt

[quote]Modi wrote:

I’m not suggesting static stretching prior to exercise, I should have made that clear. I am no Dr. but I can not reccomend that people strive to become less flexible. In my opinion, the majority of people with back issues have them due in part to tight hamstrings. Tight hamstrings cause the pelvis to tilt posteriorly, putting more stress on the lumbar erectors. If these muscles are weak and tight, that will lead to injury.[/quote]

Thanks for the explanation Modi. I totally agree with people becoming less flexible is not a good thing. I’ve never heard of that of that anywhere except from that article. I do believe a certain amount of flexibility should be obtained for certain sports, but I don’t see any reason to get “tighter.” That makes no sense to me.

Tight hamstrings definitely are related to lower back problems as well as the posterior tilt. I don’t think weak hamstrings contribute much to the posterior tilt though, but it does to anterior tilt.

In my opinion I would do a lot more dynamic stretching than static. I’m a bit confused when Cressey states the tighter he becomes, but he does dynamic flexibility so that would make him more flexible. I’m thinking he is getting ballistic mixed up with dynamic.

If the OP is anything like me is tight everywhere. I’d make sure your hips are loose as well. If your hips are tight, problems will arise quickly.

[quote]Matgic wrote:

A 1:1 ratio of anterior to posterior pull would result in the “same” posture as if it were 4:4 (the greater the number being the less flexible and stronger).

This is just my take on it, I’m curious what Eric has to say.

-MAtt

[/quote]

Theoretically speaking a persons static standing posture would remain the same if the ratio was 4:4 with the higher number equalling increased strength and less flexibility but your moving posture would be drastically compromised / limited e.g. during squatting or any exercise that requires movement around the hips.

If strength is increased and flexibility maintained based on individual needs then no problems will arise during movement around the hips.

Dynamic flexibility as I understand it is moving flexibility which should mirror our ROM needs during activities of daily living and during exercise.

This way we provide our bodies with a natural occuring flexibility range that matches the requirements of the ROM we move in. Over emphasising flexibility for flexibilities sake as in unplanned / unbalanced static stretching routines is wrong!

I think the main point to take home is static stretching is uneccessary most times. If you are strength training and taking your muscles through their working ROM, have a well-designed program, and follow it consistently you should not have a problem with flexibility. Now people with “tight” hamstrings, have to get used to using them. It is usually people that sit alot throughout the day and they do nothing in the gym to counter that.

So are we to believe someone who sits around and does nothing has an imbalance because a muscle they never use is too strong? Think about that. Oh yea Ive been working all day long, sitting at my desk answering the phone, my hamstrings and lower back are really so incredibly strong from never using them that they are tight, so I need to stretch them.

No jackass you need to use them, they are dead…

[quote]worzel wrote:
Matgic wrote:

A 1:1 ratio of anterior to posterior pull would result in the “same” posture as if it were 4:4 (the greater the number being the less flexible and stronger).

This is just my take on it, I’m curious what Eric has to say.

-MAtt

Theoretically speaking a persons static standing posture would remain the same if the ratio was 4:4 with the higher number equalling increased strength and less flexibility but your moving posture would be drastically compromised / limited e.g. during squatting or any exercise that requires movement around the hips.

If strength is increased and flexibility maintained based on individual needs then no problems will arise during movement around the hips.

Dynamic flexibility as I understand it is moving flexibility which should mirror our ROM needs during activities of daily living and during exercise.

This way we provide our bodies with a natural occuring flexibility range that matches the requirements of the ROM we move in. Over emphasising flexibility for flexibilities sake as in unplanned / unbalanced static stretching routines is wrong!
[/quote]

I agree with you for the most part. And my “ratio” that I gave might be misleading for some as I didn’t even specify the type of flexibility that I was talking about.

As far as static strength being useful, I think it does have it’s place. For your average office worker who sits all day at his desk, there’s a good chance that his hip flexors will have tightened over time and that his glute strength is probably not very good. So statically stretching the hip flexors to elongate them while working on glute activation and strength might fix the posture issue faster than simply solving things from the backside. I believe DeFranco even uses static hip flexor stretches before testing vertical jump because it allows the the posterior muscles to work more efficiently.

Same would be true with the guy who only bench presses and has internal rotation issues. Along with really upping the volume for scapular retraction and external rotation work, you could spend time stretching the internal rotators as well to loosen things up from the front.

But you’re absolutely right, stretching just for the sake of it is garbage. I’ll use my foolproof (:-P) ratio model again. Someone with a 4:2 ratio of posterior to anterior pelvic tilt should not stretch all of the muscles the same.

Otherwise, they’ll end up at 2:1, but they’ll still have a damn imbalance.

As a side note, I can’t stand it when yoga people tell me that flexibility never hurt anyone or people should always be more flexible. Makes me want to pour a scalding cup of chai tea into my lap.

-MAtt

Here’s my present views on ham stretching after working for 8-9 yrs as a PT (physical therapist) in an orthopedic setting. 90 degrees of SLR should be the max; but only when the pelvis/hips are aligned (meaning no posterior or anterior rotation unilaterally or bilaterally). In the presence of an anteriorly rotated innominated, SLR will USUALLY be less (proximal and distal insertion points are farther away). Once you fix the anterior rotation, you can gain several degrees more of SLR. The flip side is, if you have excessive SLR in the presence of an anterior rotation, you have a neurologically weak and inhibited hamstring (BAD!). You can actually reduce an extreme SLR by fixing the pelvic anomaly (it’s an odd, but reproducible, phenomenon).

Here’s my present views on ham stretching after working for 8-9 yrs as a PT (physical therapist) in an orthopedic setting. 90 degrees of SLR should be the max; but only when the pelvis/hips are aligned (meaning no posterior or anterior rotation unilaterally or bilaterally). In the presence of an anteriorly rotated innominated, SLR will USUALLY be less (proximal and distal insertion points are farther away). Once you fix the anterior rotation, you can gain several degrees more of SLR. The flip side is, if you have excessive SLR in the presence of an anterior rotation, you have a neurologically weak and inhibited hamstring (BAD!). You can actually reduce an extreme SLR by fixing the pelvic anomaly (it’s an odd, but reproducible, phenomenon).

[quote]Matgic wrote:
Modi wrote:
Matgic wrote:
Modi wrote:

I’m not suggesting static stretching prior to exercise, I should have made that clear. I am no Dr. but I can not reccomend that people strive to become less flexible. In my opinion, the majority of people with back issues have them due in part to tight hamstrings. Tight hamstrings cause the pelvis to tilt posteriorly, putting more stress on the lumbar erectors. If these muscles are weak and tight, that will lead to injury.

This may be true if the opposing muscle groups are allowed to weaken or become more flexible. But, if the muscles pulling the pelvis into posterior or anterior tilt are kept proportionately equal in terms of strength and flexibility, the posture would theoretically remain the same.

A 1:1 ratio of anterior to posterior pull would result in the “same” posture as if it were 4:4 (the greater the number being the less flexible and stronger).

This is just my take on it, I’m curious what Eric has to say.

-MAtt

I understand what you are saying, and I’m not sure I’m ready to get into a heated debate over something I don’t spend a whole lot of time doing (stretching that is), but it seems to me that if those ratios get too high, you will eventually be walking around like you have a stick up your ass. Hip flexors strong and tight, abdominals strong and tight, quads, hammies, glutes, lumbar erectors. At some point there has to be some flexibility there somewhere.

The OP didn’t state whether his quads/hip flexors were in tight or not, so there isn’t a whole lot to base any argument off. He just asked for a good way to stretch the hamstrings.

I too am curious to hear from Eric, though I doubt he’s going to say that his DVD is worthless, and that he’s changed his mind due to my post.

Modi,

I don’t believe that the debate has to get heated in any respect. I think of it as a discussion; we have the OP two different suggestions already, so there is no harm in discussing the differences in them. And I don’t think that one person needs to admit that their information is “worthless” in order for a conversation to come to a conclusion.

But if your only point is to “win” an argument, then perhaps it is better not to discuss. I am curious if you are a coach or trainer because I wonder what experience you have working people or athletes if your own experience doesn’t validate your suggestions (you said you don’t stretch much yourself, not that the anecdotal evidence of one person would suggest much anyhow).

Nevertheless, it seems worthy to mention that flexibility should only be increased (or even decreased) to suit the needs of the individual or athlete. Being that there is an inverse relationship between stability and flexibility, we can see how different sports such as women’s gymnastics and powerlifting would differ.

Flexibility is about structural balance between the muscles that pull on one another in different directions. If there is an inefficiency, it should be addressed, but stretching for the sake of it is not necesarily beneficial. I know that EC wouldn’t say that stretching is a waste of time, afterall he is the “Mobility Guy”.

-MAtt[/quote]

Matgic,
Sorry, I am used to many of these discussions becoming heated debates, where people violently defend their view and don’t seem very open to the possibility that someone else’s point can have any validity.

For my own purposes, if I am going to do something athletic, I warm up with dynamics. I do some light jogging, walking lunges, high knees, but kicks, shuffles, accelerations, etc.

If I feel sore after a workout, I do some light static stretching. Also, if I feel like I am out of balance, I lean towards static stretching to bring everything into balance. I said I don’t spend a lot of time stretching, and that is because nothing currently feels like it is tight enough to adversely effect my performance.

Again, the OP asked for some flexibility advice for his hamstrings, so that’s what I gave him. Eric did the same, as did you. I don’t think anyone asked him about his overall flexibility, which we probably should know before recommending anything. Sorry if I seemed defensive.

No worries man, I realize where you’re coming from.

Take care,

-MAtt

[quote]Modi wrote:
Matgic wrote:
Modi wrote:
Matgic wrote:
Modi wrote:

I’m not suggesting static stretching prior to exercise, I should have made that clear. I am no Dr. but I can not reccomend that people strive to become less flexible. In my opinion, the majority of people with back issues have them due in part to tight hamstrings. Tight hamstrings cause the pelvis to tilt posteriorly, putting more stress on the lumbar erectors. If these muscles are weak and tight, that will lead to injury.

This may be true if the opposing muscle groups are allowed to weaken or become more flexible. But, if the muscles pulling the pelvis into posterior or anterior tilt are kept proportionately equal in terms of strength and flexibility, the posture would theoretically remain the same.

A 1:1 ratio of anterior to posterior pull would result in the “same” posture as if it were 4:4 (the greater the number being the less flexible and stronger).

This is just my take on it, I’m curious what Eric has to say.

-MAtt

I understand what you are saying, and I’m not sure I’m ready to get into a heated debate over something I don’t spend a whole lot of time doing (stretching that is), but it seems to me that if those ratios get too high, you will eventually be walking around like you have a stick up your ass. Hip flexors strong and tight, abdominals strong and tight, quads, hammies, glutes, lumbar erectors. At some point there has to be some flexibility there somewhere.

The OP didn’t state whether his quads/hip flexors were in tight or not, so there isn’t a whole lot to base any argument off. He just asked for a good way to stretch the hamstrings.

I too am curious to hear from Eric, though I doubt he’s going to say that his DVD is worthless, and that he’s changed his mind due to my post.

Modi,

I don’t believe that the debate has to get heated in any respect. I think of it as a discussion; we have the OP two different suggestions already, so there is no harm in discussing the differences in them. And I don’t think that one person needs to admit that their information is “worthless” in order for a conversation to come to a conclusion.

But if your only point is to “win” an argument, then perhaps it is better not to discuss. I am curious if you are a coach or trainer because I wonder what experience you have working people or athletes if your own experience doesn’t validate your suggestions (you said you don’t stretch much yourself, not that the anecdotal evidence of one person would suggest much anyhow).

Nevertheless, it seems worthy to mention that flexibility should only be increased (or even decreased) to suit the needs of the individual or athlete. Being that there is an inverse relationship between stability and flexibility, we can see how different sports such as women’s gymnastics and powerlifting would differ.

Flexibility is about structural balance between the muscles that pull on one another in different directions. If there is an inefficiency, it should be addressed, but stretching for the sake of it is not necesarily beneficial. I know that EC wouldn’t say that stretching is a waste of time, afterall he is the “Mobility Guy”.

-MAtt

Matgic,
Sorry, I am used to many of these discussions becoming heated debates, where people violently defend their view and don’t seem very open to the possibility that someone else’s point can have any validity.

For my own purposes, if I am going to do something athletic, I warm up with dynamics. I do some light jogging, walking lunges, high knees, but kicks, shuffles, accelerations, etc.

If I feel sore after a workout, I do some light static stretching. Also, if I feel like I am out of balance, I lean towards static stretching to bring everything into balance. I said I don’t spend a lot of time stretching, and that is because nothing currently feels like it is tight enough to adversely effect my performance.

Again, the OP asked for some flexibility advice for his hamstrings, so that’s what I gave him. Eric did the same, as did you. I don’t think anyone asked him about his overall flexibility, which we probably should know before recommending anything. Sorry if I seemed defensive.[/quote]