Tight hamstrings and exercises to loosen

Since an accident back in January, I’ve had a problem with tight hamstring in the left leg which got injured. It was never particularly painful and it didn’t stop me cycling. But, tight hamstrings are not something to ignore as it can be a sign of long-term problems. Also, just resting tight hamstrings is not enough for solving the issue. A few weeks ago Cycling Weekly had a good article on tight hamstrings, which was good timing for me.

I’ve been trying three things to help loosen the tight hamstring.

1. Trigger Point massage roller

I bought one of these massage foam rollers from Amazon.  Trigger Point Performance Foam Roller

roller-massage

roller-massage

They are £35. They work best on massage the back of your thighs, where your hamstrings are. It is harder to massage others parts of your legs. But, it feels good and the product seems well made. In the absence of access to a massage, these feel like they do a good job in giving some kind of massage. They are particularly helpful for stretching the hamstrings.

2. Stretching

There are quite a few different stretches for the hamstring. I do two main stretches using a belt to pull against. Whilst lying on the floor. I bought a stretch strap specifically for this purpose. (Stretch strap) though it does kind of annoy me to spend £10 for a piece of cloth. Since I left it in Yorkshire, I tried two belts together, though I have to admit, it’s not as good.

hamstring-stretch

Muscle dynamic stretch. Lie on your back. Place a non-elastic belt around the ball of your foot. Lift your leg slowly to the point of flex, keeping knee straight and ankle flexed. Hold for 2 seconds and repeat 10-15 times.

A simpler stretch for the hamstring is:

  • Sit on the floor with both legs out straight.
  • Extend your arms and reach forward by bending at the waist as far as possible while keeping your knees straight.
  • Hold this position for 10 seconds.
  • Relax. Repeat.

This article on hamstrings, suggests:

  • Very frequent stretching (every hour), if you really want to loosen the hamstring
  • Don’t stretch to discomfort because this can be counter-productive. Instead stretch until first sign of resistance.

3. Core exercises to strengthen lower back and glutes. A ‘tight’ hamstring can be caused due to weakness in the glutes, lower back because in the absence of strength here, the hamstrings are forced to compensate.This was probably the cause of my problem. My left glute lost significant muscle when injured.

Causes of tight hamstrings in cyclists

Spending a lot of time in the seated position

High saddle height.

Putting too much strain on legs when tired

Weakenss in glutes and core strength

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4 Responses to Tight hamstrings and exercises to loosen

  1. Chris March 19, 2014 at 12:14 pm #

    Hmm, a bike fit mechanic I know, who sets up some of the UK pro’s, raised my saddle by 15mm to get rid of my hamstring pain.

    The foam roller you mention is ok, but the “grid” roller is better, I have both.

    Saddles can cause nerve pinch pain which is felt in the hamstrings.

    If hamstrings are very tight, put the sole of your foot, not the heel, on a chair and lean forward, this is an easy stretch that runners with tight hamstring do before stretching more strenuously.

    Tight quads can also cause hamstring pain, they pull the torso forward, putting strain on the lower back, gluteus and hamstrings, so quad stretches are also important.

  2. Donna @OrdCyclingGirl March 19, 2014 at 1:04 pm #

    Interesting post. I’ve had numerous amounts of lower back surgery since the age of 15 and it’s only in recent years (I’m 36 now) that I’ve got to a point where I can do any kind of regular and active exercise. Tight hamstrings are consequently something I suffer with quite badly – I used to be a sprinter when I was younger and I think this has also contributed. Over the years, the physios have given me lots of exercise and the ones that are always repeated are core strengthening exercises and the ones you show above using a belt to stretch out the hamstring. I just use a dressing gown belt – this was what was recommended to me by the physio and seems to work well enough. You’ve reminded me that I really should be doing them more regularly!

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