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How can I help my hamstrings?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

In the last month, as a result of replacing a roof, cutting down a tree, and MORE, I've begun having terrible hamstring cramps, especially at night, or after sitting at my computer for a while.


Can anyone recommend a series of stretches for hamstrings?


In the past I've had some severe hamstring cramps on my first day of skiing; or while driving back after my first day of skiing   (that was me you saw limping around on TWO rigid legs, cursing, at the rest area on the highway).

post #2 of 12



Tipover Tuck Hamstring Stretch



Yeah, also make sure your potassium, magnesium, and calcium intake is sufficient.  If you don't already, take a multivitamin.  Drink some OJ, and never ski without an electrolyte beverage (such as Powerade).


Additionally, hit the gym and do some squats, lunges, lying glute presses, good-mornings, and stiff-legged deadlifts.

post #3 of 12

I found these self massage videos this summer . . . scroll down for hamstrings.



post #4 of 12

I personnally like foam rolling...




A simple one: with or without a bar behind the neck

-start standing feet shoulder widht apart (or more), just bent foward while keeping your back flat...


If it a regular problem, you shoud do both daily as prevention...

post #5 of 12
Originally Posted by Phlogiston View Post


Can anyone recommend a series of stretches for hamstrings?


In the past I've had some severe hamstring cramps on my first day of skiing; or while driving back after my first day of skiing   (that was me you saw limping around on TWO rigid legs, cursing, at the rest area on the highway).

Actually, stretching the hamstring, statically, especially at the limit as exampled in a number of pictures in a particular post in this thread (note, mimicking any of these individual positions in the pictures in no way reflects your individual flexibility or strength) and may in fact cause you further damage and if anything, dulls the muscle (in this case your ham) for performance.  Any static stretch near the margin of your perceived comfort will trigger a contracting defensive response to protect the muscle fiber (often a counter intuitive action for many who practice any traditional forms of stretching). 


What comes to my mind reading your symptoms centers on musculature imbalance with associated poor strength in the pained area.  I'm also thinking of diet (extended into enzymes, electrolytes etc.)


I echo the earlier recommendation of "proper" foam rolling techniques to begin breaking down the problem tissue allowing for nutrient flow/waste disposal thus better priming the muscle tissue for recovery, repair and growth.  Couple this with a review of your whole body exercise program which would anchor on routines that are multiple joint, compound muscle, push-pull movements for the long haul.  Also, you may consider incorporating yoga, properly performed, graduating in positions over time, as a method to better activate muscle, joints, tendons etc into balance...which is something altogether different than traditional static stretching.


Of course, if you have an acute and ongoing issue of your hamstring that...well...has you cursing as you've described, I'd have medical attention before your next (excuse the pun) step.


Good luck.    

post #6 of 12

I agree with Don to a great extent. Static pre-event stretching can be harmful and increase the risk of injury. My understanding is that the defensive contraction that Don describes is overridden by the stretch reflex when the stretch is held in excess of about 10 seconds. It's only at this point that static stretching provides any semi permanent increase in range. The problem is, again as I understand it, is that this overriding leaves the muscle/ joint more vulnerable as the defensive contaction which protects the muscle/ joint no longer provides the same contraction to protect against unsafe movement.


Foam rollers are excellent and help with muscle repair and offsetting muscle stiffness, as well as helping with a flexibility programme. It would certainly be worth buying one as they're inexpensive and seeing if it helps with the cramps. I would also suggest checking out books written by Gray Cook. These provide great screening tools for developing balanced functional movement. Using his remedial programmes for correcting imbalance has helped me to dramtically improve my ROM, particularly in the hamstrings.


It may also be worth a PM to evaino on here. She is a mine of good information.

post #7 of 12

Hamstrings are funny when it comes to "tightness". Some people actually have tight hamstrings, but often the hamstrings feel tight, when in fact they are not. Simple test for yourself: lie on your back with both knees straight, and toes pointing toward the ceiling. Lift one leg up as high as you can, keeping both knees straight. If your leg gets anywhere near 90 degrees, your hamstrings are not tight. If you do this test and your leg is barely 45 degrees, then yes, you have tight hamstrings, and stretching and rolling is probably wise.


So what's making your hamstrings feel tight if they aren't actually? My guess would be tight hip flexors. Maybe coupled with weak core. The hip flexors can pull your entire pelvis forward, which puts your hamstrings on stretch when they are relaxed. When you then use them, they get stretched even more. Another test for this: when you stretch your hamstrings, do they feel better or worse after? If they feel worse, odds are you're stretching an already stretched muscle. Stretch the hip flexors instead and see how you feel. Now this is unlikely to stick if you don't also strengthen the core, as that's what you need to hold that position. 


If you were experiencing this from running, I'd throw in weak glutes as a possibility, as hamstring issues often result from the hammies trying to do the work of poorly functioning glutes. But from what you described, that doesn't appear to be the case. 


Since you're getting cramping, diet is definitely something to look into as well.


Considering it could be a few things, I'd second the suggestion above to get help from a health care practitioner. Know a good sports med doc or manual therapist? 


Good luck!




PS - Thanks for the kind words, Adie! :)

post #8 of 12
Thread Starter 

Thank you all for the information. I'll do some research and look into all the different approaches you've suggested.


The last time I attended a yoga class the instructor told me he was surprised that I raised each of my legs to a 90 degree position, so I guess I don't have 'tight' hamstrings.


As for a gym, I don't have a membership in one.

As for a doctor, I don't have one, or any kind of medical insurance.

My exercise routine.. what's that? I ride a bike and roller blade during the peak months of summer.

I chop a tree (then i go to lunch...) when one needs chopping; I fix a hole where the rain gets in (and stops my mind from wandering..) or replace a section of roof, when it needs replacing.


As for core strength... as a result of a severe injury when I was 19 years old (which nearly killed me) my abdominals were shredded, first by the injury, then by repeated surgeries (the last one in 1991). A physical therapist and orthopedist each told me to stay away from conventional abdominal strengthening exercises; I could rip something open again.


I usually ski myself into shape each season, but this year I got this hamstring problem starting in late November; very inconvenient when you think of skiing in December - and I like to get in 4 or 5 days of skiing before the Xmas mob scene.


Again, thanks for all the suggestions and advice.

post #9 of 12
Originally Posted by Phlogiston View Post

I chop a tree (then i go to lunch...) when one needs chopping; I fix a hole where the rain gets in (and stops my mind from wandering..) or replace a section of roof, when it needs replacing.



And then go to the lavatory? :)


post #10 of 12
Might you be able to afford a visit to a physical therapist for an overall evaluation of whatever might contribute to your pain? I don't know how old you are, but these days it's hard to imagine any competent physician or PT advising you not to do anything to build some kind of balanced core strength. Without some central support, I'd not be surprised if you were having trouble with your hip stability and thus your gait...and might have all kinds of interesting things going on in general. So your painful hamstrings could be a side effect of a side effect of a side effect of uneven or just inadequate core strength. As you approach my moderately advanced age, all of this could turn into some very debilitating and painful orthopedic conditions that would make your crampy hamstrings seem like a needle prick.

I don't know exactly what you need, but overstretching either before or after activity isn't something I'd recommend. When my hams get tight from sitting all day, working on stretching my hip flexors and rotators always helps. Just about any level of yoga--easy yoga, and not weighted straight-kneed forward bends--will help balance your muscles, lengthen them, and maybe help you sleep, too. But everything in great moderation. Whether you're flexible or not, something is off and you definitely don't want to make whatever it is worse, right?
post #11 of 12
post #12 of 12
Thread Starter 

I logged in, typed a lengthy reply full of information about my condition, etc, submitted it, and Epicski told me to log in again


The whole message was lost.


I probably won't bother to retype it.


Thanks for all the advice and suggestions folks!

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