When I start a new client on a fitness journey with me, I put them through a number of tests and exercises to asses their current fitness level.
One of these tests is on hamstring flexibility. If you are not familiar with the term, “hamstrings” usually refers the muscles on the back of your upper thigh.
In case you are curious where the name “Hamstring comes from, here is what wiki.answers tells us:
The commonly accepted origin is that legs of ham used to be hung by a hook through the space between the thighbone and the tendons behind the knee. Ham/pork used to be more common in England than beef and lamb. Also the word ‘hamstrung’ meaning ‘blocked’, ‘unable to move’ derives from the cutting of the hamstring tendons of an opponent in battle with swords, which left him helpless.
The hamstrings group are quite likely the tightest muscles in the body, for most people.
Hamstring tightness can have a number of reasons.
- You may be all around inflexible. This can be due to muscular tension or even emotional tension carried in your muscular system.
- You may be spending a lot of time in a seated position, such as driving long distances or doing seated desk work all day.
- You are involved in activities that contribute to tight hamstrings by working those muscles quite hard. If you play soccer, love hiking, or do a lot of old-school weight training you probably know what I’m referring too.
The good news is that even with the tightest muscles more hamstring flexibility can be achieved with a little love, know-how and adjustment you can make in yourself or easily find a practitioner to help you. So there is hope.
The (top) 5 Ways To Increase Hamstring Flexibility
1. Eat Your Greens!
Believe it or not, nutrition plays a significant role in muscle flexibility. A diet rich in foods that are heavy and weigh you down can make your muscles tight and uncooperative. What that means for you may depend on your dosha, or body-mind type.
Many, or most, people feel sluggish, heavy and bogged down when eating too much dairy, wheat or other glutinous foods, and sugar.
You can take this to the test and do the following experiment: for one week exchange the bread, pasta, and other baked goods for a serving of vegetables each. Pick a variety of colourful veggies and leafy greens, such as kale, spinach, bok choy, artisans lettuce, carrots, peppers, egg plant, zucchini … Whatever your heart desires. Just as long as there is variety. Consume most of the bulk raw or blanch or StirFry lightly so they still have bite.
If you throw in some ginger and garlic you are all set up for a healthy and “flexible” diet for a week! Don’t take my word for it, just do it!
2. Get a foam roller and learn how to use it!
Using trigger point massage is an excellent way to encourage tight muscles to loosen up. A foam roller or trigger point balls are easy to use at home which make them easy to build into a daily routine. “Roll your hams” before bed and first thing after getting up in the morning. Your body will thank you!
You can easily find a foam roller at a sports equipment store near you. I’ve also looked some up for you at Amazon: Foam Rollers
3. Massage, Acupressure and Acupuncture
If you are tight and just don’t want to do the work yourself, find a practitioner to trust with your hamstrings. Acupuncture, massage therapy, and acupressure are fantastic way to get right to the root of the tightness and can help release the tight muscles in the rest of your body as well. Get a full check up while you are at it, tight hamstrings almost never come alone, they can often be caused by muscular imbalances or postural issues in your hips, shoulders, lower back, calves and even your core.
4. Do Sun Salutations
Get into a habit of doing a set of Sun Salutations every day! Do twelve or do six, just do them. Sun salutations are a perfect cycle of different yoga poses that, used in sequence, that balance your body, increase strength and flexibility, and give you a great workout in less then fifteen minutes a day.
On that note I’m inviting you to the 108 Yoga(thon) Challenge, set up a daily practice that will definitely get your hammie’s nice and bendy and much more!
Every day, no excuses. Your hamstrings won’t get more flexible just by giving them loving thoughts. You have to actually do something about it.
Here is a short video that will give you some ideas on different hamstring stretches you can do every day without much fuss. You can even do them before or after your Sun Salutations. ;)
(This video is curtesy of Lucas at yogabodynaturals.com, a big thanks for the wonderful work they are doing!)
Of course there are more then five ways to love your hamstrings, but I wanted to keep it short and doable in today’s blog. This topic may just call for a follow up: Hamstring-Love The Sequel!
So take what you’ve learned and give your hamstrings some love!
If you liked this post please share the love, give it a like, and send all your friends over so they can get stretchy hamstrings too!
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