Hamstring Assessment. Are Your Hamstrings ACTUALLY Tight?
I was standing there in disbelief. I was watching this advanced yoga practitioner standing right in front of me and he showed me how he could touch his elbows to the floor without bending his knees. I have never in my life seen somebody with such flexible hamstrings.
After hearing his story, and how much yoga has helped him to calm down his mind, I asked him how I could help. It was his first appointment with me in my personal training studio.
His response sent my jaw to the floor. I couldn't believe it.
He wanted me to help him with his issue of…
Are you ready for this?
His number one complaint was that his hamstrings always felt tight.
Are you are surprised as I was? How can a man who is so obviously flexible have tight hamstrings?
Well, the answer is that he doesn't. His hamstrings are extremely flexible, in fact they are too flexible.
Upon further investigation, I determined that he has a very anteriorly tilted pelvis. This helps him with his hamstring flexibility, yet does not provide enough stability for his whole body.
His issue was very simple. Because his hips are tilted forward, or anterior, the hamstrings are always under a constant pull. So that feeling of hamstring tightness is actually the feeling that his hamstrings always at the end of the range of motion.
The solution for this particular client was to strengthen the hamstrings and abdominals. We also needed to elongate the hip flexors.
Within a few weeks he stopped complaining of his hamstring tightness. He also lost a few inches of hamstring flexibility. However, he could still touch his hands to the floor very easily.
The reason I tell the above story is that although this Yogi was extremely flexible, this pattern is very common. I've also seen it in an elderly woman who could fold her self and a half forward, but could not even grab her foot when doing a quad stretch.
The hamstrings can play tricks on you. So how do you know if they're too tight or too weak? I alluded to it earlier, with the tilt of that man's hips.
Here's the assessment.
From the side view locate the bone at the front of the hip which is called the ASIS, and then the bone at the back of the hip which is called the PSIS.
The angle should be directly horizontal or with just a very slight anterior tilt. If you have a very big anterior tilt, your hamstrings are already being pulled.
The second test.
Lie on your back with your legs going straight up a wall. Keep your legs straight, with your thighs tight and your sacrum on the floor. Also flex your ankles so that your toes are pulled back toward you.
Results of the test.
Possibility 1. Anterior tilt difficulty with the test. You have an anterior tilt which means that your hip flexors a tight. But the fact that the hamstring stretch was difficult, shows that your hamstrings are also tight. Start by stretching the hip flexors, and then once your hip flexors get lengthened then start stretching to hamstrings.
Possibility 2. Anterior tilt, test is easy. You are the Yogi. Your hamstrings are flexible enough. Leave them alone. You want to focus on hamstring strength. Do exercises like hamstring curls, hamstring lean, and the glute-ham machine. You also want to lengthen the hip flexors. So do things like the hanging leg drop. You also want to start doing things like a prone quad stretch.
Possibility 3. Neutral pelvis, test was hard. You actually might have tight and strings. Your hip flexors are not putting you into an anterior tilt. However, your hamstrings still are functionally tight. Your homework is simply to do the hamstring assessment test every day in your program.
Possibility 4. Neutral pelvis, test is easy. You do not need to do anything in regard to flexibility here. You may just want to do some preventative maintenance, so that you maintain your flexibility over time. But as of right now you are balanced.
Hopefully this helps you realize that you can't simply go based off of feeling tight. You need to remember that the feeling might be there because the hamstrings are weak. Regardless, you now have one more tool in your toolbox to assess your own strengths and limitations.
If you have any additional questions, feel free to email me at email@example.com.