Causes of Tight Hamstrings and What To Do About It
Hamstring stretch (Photo: Adobe Stock)
Human Window Staff
By Human Window Staff
Updated on May 23, 2019
Expert Content

Having Tight Hamstrings is a common problem when it comes to flexibility.

Whether you’re new to flexibility and stretching or you’ve been doing it for some time, Tight Hamstrings is an incredibly common issue that people complain about.

If you’re looking to find out the main causes of tight hamstrings and what to do about the issue, then you’ve landed on the right page.

In this article, we’re going to take a detailed look at the main causes of tight hamstrings and get some expert advice about what can be done about it.

There are a number of reasons why you may be experiencing tight hamstrings, but there are various steps that you can take to alleviate the problem.

We’re going to be breaking this article up into the following sections:

• What Are The Hamstrings?
• Common Causes of Tight Hamstrings
• What Can Be Done About Tight Hamstrings
• Expert Comment from Tom Merrick
• Anything Else to Consider?
• Wrapping Things Up – Final Thoughts

So, with the introductions out of the way, it’s time to start taking a closer look at Tight Hamstrings and what can be done about them.

What Are The Hamstrings?

If you’re reading this article, then you probably already know the basics about Hamstrings, but let’s cover what you need to know quickly anyway.

The Hamstrings are a group of muscles and their tendons at the back of the upper leg. They include muscles called the Biceps Femoris, Semitendinosus, and Semimembranosus.

The hamstrings are used in walking and running and flex the knee joint, adduct the leg, and extend the thigh to the backside of the body.

The hamstrings are used for walking, running and jumping. As the hamstrings are extended while sitting, long periods of sitting may affect their function and flexibility.

Now that we’ve covered the basic facts about Hamstrings, it’s time to take a look at some of the common causes of tight Hamstrings.

Common Causes of Tight Hamstrings

You probably already know that Tight Hamstrings is a relatively common problem. But why is that the case?

According to flexibility expert, there are three main reasons why you may be experiencing tight hamstrings.

The first one is that hamstrings often get tight simply because we do not use the range of motion they bring very often. Lack of use of the full range of motion can cause muscles to tighten up over time.

The second reason is down to running. If you do a lot of running, it is pretty normal to see your hamstrings tighten up. This is because having tighter hamstrings can improve your running efficiency. This may be great for your running – but not so good for your hamstring flexibility.

And the third reason is due to the actual muscles themselves being weak. As Tom points out in our recent interview, sometimes it is not that the muscles themselves are tight, it’s that your body is preventing you from moving into certain positions as a ‘reflex’ to prevent injury.

So, to summarize, it is very common for Hamstrings to get tight for a number of reasons.

One main cause of tight hamstrings is that you don’t use that range of motion enough. Frequent running can also cause the hamstrings to tighten. And the fact that the hamstring muscles themselves are weak could also be a contributing factor.

What Can Be Done About Tight Hamstrings

There are various stretches and exercises that can be performed to tackle tight hamstrings.

If you have particularly tight hamstrings or are recovering from a strain or injury, it may be best to get a Physical Therapist to help you recover.

There are lots of stretches that can be performed to help with hamstring flexibility.

There are also lots of weightlifting exercises that can help to improve hamstring flexibility.

As flexibility expert Tom Merrick explains:

Not all flexibility work needs to be stretching. Doing weightlifting in a specific way can increase flexibility. Things like split-squats will increase your flexibility, and things like Romanian deadlifts will increase your hamstring flexibility.

Check out Tom’s YouTube channel for more tips on improving your hamstring flexibility.

Expert Comment from Tom Merrick

Tom Merrick The Bodyweight Warrior
Flexibility expert Tom Merrick (Photo: Tom Merrick)

We spoke to flexibility expert Tom Merrick to get his thoughts on tight hamstrings and calves and why they are such a common problem.

Here is what Tom had to say about the issue of tight hamstrings. He explains why Tight Hamstrings are common issues and gives the three primary reasons they can occur.

“[Tight Hamstrings and Calves are] super common. To be honest, it’s a good measure of general postural chain flexibility. For an adult, if you can touch your toes, lift your arms pretty comfortably overhead and sit in a squat – that, for me, all the flexibility you need in your day-to-day life.

Hamstrings get commonly tight mainly because we don’t use that range much.

“If you actually you think about it, until you start doing stretching, you don’t realise how much it’s lacking because in reality, you don’t use that range all the time. Running is super common and part of increasing running efficiency and economy… if you do any running then your hamstrings and calves will tighten up, because it improves your efficiency, so that’s another reason.

“The last reason is that usually [hamstrings and calves] are weak. Sometimes it’s not that your hamstrings are tight, it’s that your body doesn’t know if it’s actually strong enough to be in that position and so it won’t let you go there to make sure that you don’t hurt yourself.”

Anything Else to Consider?

As always, you should seek advice from a qualified professional before trying any new exercises and stretches.

Gaining the right advice and training for your issue can help to reduce the chances of injury.

Tom also has some advice for you if you’re new to stretching.

Tom Merrick
(Photo: Tom Merrick)

“Especially for people who are new to stretching, you need to learn to embrace the suck and deal with that stretch reflex,” he explains.

“Doing some static stretching initially and learning how to suffer a bit and telling your nervous system that everything is going to be OK is a really key step to do.

“Then you can start incorporating in some more dynamic ways to build flexibility, like strength training and other flexibility techniques.”

Wrapping Things Up – Final Thoughts

So, that wraps up our look at tight hamstrings, what the problem is usually caused by, and some basic tips for improving the problem.

Tight hamstrings can be caused by a number of things, but running and being seated for long periods at a time can contribute to the problem.

Incorporating some basic stretches into your routine can help to loosen tight hamstrings and improve flexibility in the long term.