Inflexibility of the hamstring muscle is often a prominent kink in most people’s posterior kinetic chain. It’s the reason why we have to sit down to tie our shoes, can’t sit up-right with our legs straight out in front of us, and the reason why most of us would be very pathetic at martial arts. Having a tight hamstring is a major concern as it can lead to increased risk of injury, decrease athletic performance, and cause pain and symptoms both proximally and distally (low back pain, achilles pain, etc.).
A possible cause of this common impairment could be that the majority of the population spends a substantial amount of their time in the seated position (jobs, communting, watching tv, reading this post, etc.). This seated position puts the hamstring in a shortened position. The body responds and adapts to this habitually shortened position by decreasing the hamstring muscle length.
To further complicate the problem, hamstring tightness is not just a result of muscle tightness. Fascia and neural tension are a major component of posterior leg tightness. So how can we address all of these aspects of hamstring tightness without spending 30 minutes of stretching a night?
90-90 Active Hamstring Stretch
This stretch will hit the entire posterior kinetic chain from your plantar fascia to your low back. It also works all 3 aspects of hamstring tightness (muscle, fascia, neural tension).
How to Perform
- Start on your back and grab the back of your thigh with both hands
- Your thigh should be at 90° throughout the entire stretch
- Slowly use your quadriceps to kick your leg up while flexing your foot towards you at the same time
- Pause for a second when you reach your limit
- Slowly relax your foot and drop your lower leg back to the starting position
- Repeat for 3 sets of 10-15 reps
- If you are very tight and not getting much motion at all, start off with your other knee bent (in hooklying) instead of straight
- Try not to flex your neck and upper back up during the stretch, use a pillow to support your head if you need to
- Best time to stretch is within 15 minutes after working out while your body is still warm
- 3 sets of 10 a day is not a limit – adjust to what your mobility needs are
Of course there are many other considerations when addressing hamstring tightness (posture, ergonomics, muscle weakness, compensations, etc.). But I hope this article will at least give you a new way to stretch your hamstring and posterior kinetic chain. Just taking a few minutes a day for this exercise can help improve your hamstring flexibility and possibly decrease your risk for injuries.