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I think I was misunderstood: Hamstrings

  1. Feb 6, 2009 #1
    Ok I'm not here to push any rules, so I'm sorry if I'm doing that with this thread BUT I think I was misunderstood.

    I'm not talking about some kind of sharp pain like I'm risking injury... I'm trying to stretch my hamstrings to INCREASE the length of the muscle.

    Now I'm not sure if you all are yoga masters or were just born extremely flexible but in my experience stretching ANY muscle is always associated with some pain.. a pulling apart pain that could be described as some sort of heat.

    The problem for me is that my hamstrings are much tighter than any other muscle on my legs... I can apply fairly intense stretches to other muscles and still tolerate the pain of stretching (I can breathe through it and feel the muscle relax and begin to lengthen after about a minute) but I've always had a problem doing this with my hamstrings.

    So: I am wondering if anyone else has experienced this problem with short hamstring muscles, and if they found a way to work through it.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 6, 2009 #2


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    Streching should not be done to the point that it is painful. If you are doing so, you are risking tearing the muscles.

    Proper stretching is gradual and does not cause pain.
  4. Feb 6, 2009 #3
    Really? I've got to say I'm very surprised, I've always associated stretching with pain, since you're effectively pushing the muscle beyond its normal limits and creating small tears to increase its length... knowing this I was never surprised that stretching was painful.

    I've seen others stretching many times and it always looks painful for them too... indeed you're the first I've heard this from.
  5. Feb 6, 2009 #4


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    Stretching is supposed to be done prior to exercise to warm up/loosen the muscles so that they do not tear. I don't know who you are exercising with, but they do not know how to stretch.

    That is the opposite of what stretching is for.
  6. Feb 6, 2009 #5
    I've always been taught that warming up should be done PRIOR to (static) stretching, so that the muscles are ready to sustain a deep stretch without risking injury.

    In fact static stretching before exercise INCREASES the risk of injury since it weakens the muscles, and should be done AFTER exercise (since the muscles are warm).

    I THINK what you're referring to is dynamic stretching (i.e. stretch kicks) which warms up the muscles and increases performance, and should be done BEFORE exercise.\

    I feel very surreal having this discussion, since what you seem to be saying literally contradicts everything I've learned about stretching since grade school.
  7. Feb 6, 2009 #6


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  8. Feb 6, 2009 #7
    Ah I'm glad we've at least found some common ground... I've actually read this article before.

    Indeed what this article is about is just what I mentioned in my previous post: dynamic stretching, and its use before exercise in order to prevent injury.

    This article however does not touch on the topic of static stretching AFTER exercise to increase muscle length.
  9. Feb 6, 2009 #8


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    You hae to be careful between stretching for the purpose of increasing flexibility and to the point where you are doing yourself damage. You should know when to stop stretching each muscle by the feedback you are given. Do not expect it to hurt. Do expect that pulling feeling. That is enough if you keep it up regularly.
  10. Feb 6, 2009 #9


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    I agree with slug. You are basically not stretching properly. For all of my flexibility, I followed a particular regime that had static/relaxed stretching at the end of my workouts.

    The biggest issue with a muscle that is inflexible is usually because the muscle itself is weak. It seems contradictory, but it is true. The weak muscle has a nervous system reaction that helps keep them rigid as well as some physical limitations.

    You need to work on adding isometric stretches into your workout as well as work at strengthening your hamstrings.

    I highly recommend Tom Kurz's book on stretching. It worked wonders for me.
  11. Feb 7, 2009 #10
    I have tight hamstrings too. My approach is to start with gentle warm-up stretching and gradually increasing the length and duration of the stretches. I use techniques from yoga and from tai-chi and other related forms of warmups that I learned in a class, videos and books. During a warmup session, it's a gradual process for stretching the hamstrings for me. Also, throughout the day, I do mini-stretches of the hamstrings just lasting a minute or two. One of the best places I find is on the stairs at home by extending a leg over a few steps and doing an easy stretch.
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