hamstring, stretch, stretches

The Doctor Said: Stop Stretching Your Hamstrings

Mindless stretching won’t help these muscles. Here, a physical therapist revises the approach.

Tom Van Ornum is a Doctor of Physical Therapy in Washington, D.C., who specializes in sports medicine and performance enhancement.

Educated exercisers prioritize efficiency. When you’re pressed for time, progress means that no movements can be wasted. So if you religiously hit the mats to stretch out tight hamstrings, you need to refocus your efforts. The truth is, most people don’t need to stretch their hamstrings. Even when these muscles feel tight, they are almost always victim to other forces in the body creating increased tension. Here’s why. 

The Problem: The majority of patients I see present with a pelvis that drops in the front and elevates in the back, which is called an anterior pelvic tilt. Because the pelvis is elevated in the back, hamstrings are already lengthened without even doing any activity. The result is a false sensation of hamstring “shortness.”  So when you stretch your already-lengthened hamstrings, you are adding additional tension to a muscle that actually needs to be put on slack.

The Solution: The fix for this kind of tension is restoring a neutral pelvic alignment, improving your ability to posteriorly tilt your pelvis, and maximizing your pelvic stability. Three ways to do so: