Get to Know Yourself: Test Your Hamstring

“Know thyself? If I knew myself, I’d run away.”  Geothe

Testing the relative length of your hamstring muscles is a good idea. Some people are loose, some are tight and some are in between—the ideal is to be in between. We exercise to bring balanced tone to all of our opposing muscle groups and there are many reasons why muscles groups would be out of balance. Our posture is a major factor, and the quality of our posture comes from a wide range of circumstances. Genetics, imitation, illness and injury can all play a part in determining our state of being.

There is an ideal length and tone for every muscle. If the object of our exercising is to create a balanced body, the first question is just how imbalanced are you?

Let’s do a simple test to see how tight are your hamstring muscles.

Lay flat on your back with the legs extended straight out. Have a belt handy.

Feel how much of the body is flat to the floor. Believe it or not, everything should be flat to the floor except the lower back and the neck.

Your hamstring muscles have their origin on the sitting bones, the bony projections at the base of the pelvis, and then the insert on the tibia and fibula of the shin (one head of one of the hamstrings has its origin on the femur bone of the leg). Tight hamstrings can draw the pelvis down into a habitual tuck which is the main postural tendency that we want to avoid.

  • Use a belt around the right foot if you need it. Lift the right leg off the floor keeping it totally straight. How high can it go before the knee bends?
  • A leg with long hamstrings will stay straight at least until a ninety degree angle .
  • Find the place where your leg can be completely straight. Everyone is different. Your leg might be straight at a 45 degree angle to the floor instead of 90.
  • At whatever angle you find your leg, there should be a stretch of the hamstrings. The stretch should be in the middle of the muscle not at the back of the knee or the base of the pelvis.
  • This is a great stretch for anyone but if raising your straight leg up to ninety degrees isn’t happening you should add this pose to any stretching routine.

Stretching tight hamstrings is fundamental to changing the position of the pelvis. But don’t forget that the quadriceps muscle on the other side of the leg needs an equal amount of work.

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What is Wrong with this Picture? Hyperextension of the Knees
Shoulders on the Back: From Plank Pose to the Floor

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