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Unhappy Hamstrings? Why Stretching May Not Be The Answer.

There have been countless patients who have said to me, “I need to stretch more, especially my hamstrings-they are always tight."

My line that follows usually shocks them, "More stretching probably won’t help.”

Our hamstrings, the group of muscles located at the back of the thigh, are vital to the strength of our legs, and the functionality of our spine. Hamstring length is important to human movement patterns, especially walking and running.

Limited hamstring flexibility can affect anyone, from high-performance athletes right through to your everyday desk jockeys.

But are your hamstrings actually tight?

“Tight hamstrings” are often felt in individuals with an anteriorly tilted pelvis. With anterior pelvic tilt, our hip flexors shorten, and the hamstrings lengthen and eccentrically load. This muscle imbalance causes the sensation of tight hamstrings.

One of the best ways of restoring pelvic tilt is diaphragm breathing and core stability training [1].

A research study published in 2015 in the Journal of Sport Rehabilitation examined the effects of a diaphragm release on hamstring flexibility. The study found that patients with short hamstrings who underwent release of the diaphragm and restoration of breathing significantly improved their hamstring flexibility and the spinal range of motion [2]

Also, when the brain senses that the deep stabilising muscles of the spine are not functioning properly, it asks the hamstrings to work overtime to provide extra stability. If we can switch on the deep stabilisers of the spine through training, the hamstrings won't have to work overtime.

Properly training core stability also ensures the correct position of the pelvis. A stable core is a well-aligned core where the diaphragm is parallel to the pelvic floor. When we perform exercises with proper pelvic alignment and ideal intra abdominal pressure (IAP) with repetition, our brain will restore our pelvis to a neutral position. Exercises focused on proper spinal stabilisation ensure correct pelvic alignment, therefore reducing hamstring tightness.

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Just because a muscle feels tight, stretching may not be the automatic solution. The team at Balanced for Life will always examine you to determine the root cause of your pain and dysfunction, helping us provide the best long-term solutions!

Check out this video below where Dr Lindy and I demonstrate an exercise to train core stabilisation with stability of the lumbar spine. Instead of stretching before your next run, give this exercise a go!


[2] Valenza, Marie & Cabrera-Martos, Irene & Torres Sánchez, Irene & Garcés, Aurelio & Mateos-Toset, Sara & Valenza, Gerald. (2015). The Immediate Effects of Doming of the Diaphragm Technique in Subjects With Short Hamstring Syndrome: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of sport rehabilitation.


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