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"Why Do My Hamstrings Always Feel Tight?" - A Postural Case Study and Solution

It sometimes seems like everyone has tight hamstrings. Out of all the areas to stretch, I get the most questions about how to stretch your hamstrings and I think I've figured out why.

To explain, I'll talk about a very common postural issue called anterior pelvic tilt (APT).

Your pelvis contains an insane amount of muscle attachments from all different directions. From above, you have spinal musculature along with hip flexors, and some back muscles. From below, you have your quads, hamstrings, adductors, abductors, IT band, and more. And of course you have the largest muscle in your body, your glute max, along with a ton of intricate small pelvic stabilizers.

With the sheer amount of muscles attaching in and around the hips, you can imagine what might happen if there's a weakness or imbalance in these muscle groups. One potential issue is APT.

Here's what it boils down to in the most simplified way; when the muscles on the front of your hips get extremely tight and adaptively short, they can actually pull and tilt your pelvis forward, completely changing your hip posture.

This isn't something that happens overnight but is the result of a multitude of postural issues. Most of them relate to how often we sit which keeps the hip flexors in a shortened position for upwards of 6-8 hours a day. With how widespread chronic sitting is, you can see how this issue is more common than you might initially think.

Now when your pelvis tilts like this, it naturally affects the muscles on the other side of the hips which happen to primarily be your glutes and hamstrings.

This causes your glutes and hamstrings to be "pulled" by your tilted pelvis, artificially lengthening them. And this makes them feel as if they're always tight.

The problem with this is that because they feel this way, your natural inclination is to stretch them, but as we've just discussed, your hamstrings are already being stretched by the anterior pelvic tilt. This not only is ineffective at making your hamstrings "feel" looser, but it's exacerbating the entire issue!

The muscles that are being pulled into a lengthened position need to be activated, while the muscles on the tight side need to be stretched and mobilized. This will help bring your pelvis back to a neutral position and let your hamstrings go back to their natural length.

To summarize, the two keys to fixing your chronically tight hamstrings due to APT are:

  1. Strengthen your glutes and hamstrings (DON'T stretch them)

  2. Stretch and mobilize your hip flexors and quads

Any hip dominant exercises like deadlifts, glute bridges, leg curls, and hamstring slides will work to accomplish this.

So if you feel like your hamstrings are chronically tight, check your posture and see where your hips naturally sit. If they tend to tip forward then this may be the root of the problem.

I made a summary post of all of this information and some video examples of corrective exercises for this particular issue, you can check it out here:

To your good health,

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