Many amongst us know that they need to work on their hamstring flexibility. When I bring it up with my patients they aren't unduly surprised.
Aside from stretching, I also ask patients if they perform myofascial release with their hamstrings (Eg. Foam Rolling) and often the answer is yes.
The difficulty is that foam rollers are too large and cumbersome to properly address this particular muscle group. With this approach, you will generally find that the relief is temporary and minimal.
I have a two step approach for addressing hamstring muscle stiffness based on the anatomy.
Step 1. Addressing muscle stiffness at the hamstring origin point.
Step 2. Addressing hamstring muscle stiffness in the belly of the muscle.
Step 1: Addressing muscle stiffness at the hamstring origin point. Hamstrings originate from your ischial tuberosity, aka your 'sit-bones' and from the femur. There is a degree of irony here as our hamstrings weren't actually designed to be sat on.
- Sit on a hard surface, preferably a chair.
- Take a tennis sized ball and place it just past your 'sit-bone'. (This is one of the few times I would recommend using a harder ball like a cricket or lacrosse ball.)
- Move you body weight onto the ball and proceed to roll from side to side. (If you feel as though you are rolling over steel cables then you are doing it correctly.)
- Do this for 2-4 minutes or until you feel a change or until you stop making change.
Step 2: Addressing hamstring muscle stiffness at the belly of the muscle. We have three hamstrings; semimembranosus, semitendinosus and biceps femoris. The first two are located closer to the inside of your leg and the other is closer to the outside near your Iliotibial band (ITB). Remember to roll on the center of the hamstrings but also on the inside and outside.
- Sit on a hard surface, preferably a table or bench top.
- Hard balls don't work for this, I only use the ALPHA ball from yoga tune up. These balls have some give and their large grippy surface is ideal.
- Place the ball in the center of your hamstring and then move your body weight atop of the ball.
- Once you have found a tender spot or knot then sit on that spot with your weight and begin to flex and extend your knee. You will feel you hamstrings moving past the ball as you move your leg.
Re-test your flexibility!
Try to touch your toes and see the difference.
NB. If the spot is not tender make a mental note of relaxing and if that location is still not tender move to a new spot.
NB. If you start feeling numbness or tingling down your leg or foot move to a new site. The sciatic nerve does pass down the back of the leg and can become trapped by the ball.