Although people in general seem to overstretch their hamstrings, there are some people who truly do have tight hamstrings and can benefit from stretching. To determine if you have tight hamstrings, go through this movement checklist with a PT (if you find a PT who is trained in the Selective Functional Movement Assessment (SFMA), this would be best):
1. Can you bend forward and touch your toes? If not, this could either be due to a mobility issue, stability issue, or a combination of both. Mobility issues include hip joint mobility limitations, hamstring tightness, or other tissue extensibility issues. Stability issues have to do with strength and motor control.
2. If you were unable to touch your toes, sit on the floor in long sitting and see if you can touch your toes this way.
If you are able to do this, you likely do not have a mobility issue. In other words, your hamstrings are not tight.
3. If you cannot touch your toes still, lay on your back and lift your leg straight up; can you lift it past 70 degrees from parallel? If not, have someone passively move it there for you. Can you do it now? If so, again you do not have a mobility issue. If you still can’t get it past 70 degrees without pain or significant stretching sensation, have a physical therapist differentiate between a hip mobility issue and tight hamstrings. Often, the issue is more in the hip rather in the hamstrings.
If you do have tight hamstrings, this is a good stretch for you.
Prop your foot up on a block, stair, or even a railing if you can balance well. Hinge at the hips, rather than bending at the spine. This will lengthen the hamstrings, making it a more effective stretch. The stretch should feel strong but not painful. Hold 30-60 seconds, and repeat.
Be aware that even if you have tight hamstrings, you may also have weak glutes that contribute further to dysfunction and potential for injury. If you would like to have this assessed by a PT, give us a call at our Avon clinic (970)949-9966, or Eagle at (970)328-5230.