Stretching your hamstrings is going to give you freedom of movement. No matter what discipline you are currently working on, developing hamstring mobility is going to give you an advantage and will help you improve faster.
Working on your hamstrings will even increase your quality of life. Simple tasks like putting shoes on becomes absolutely effortless and it can even help you get rid of back pain.
Personally, I’ve always hated to stretch my pikes and pancakes. I have a high pain tolerance but for some reason the hamstrings were always the worst for me. Let me tell you from experience. It gets better. I am not sure if the stretches get less uncomfortable with the years or I just got used to it but by now I almost don’t mind stretching my hamstrings. Especially when I remind myself of all the benefits I get from it.
Not all flexibility training will drastically improve your life the way that stretching your hips and hamstrings will make you feel good.
If your hamstrings are tight they pull on your hips and force them into a constant posterior pelvic tilt. The hips might not care much about that but your lower back will be placed under a constant stretch and pressure causing pain and discomfort.
Besides helping you get rid of back pain, stretching your hamstrings will also make all life easier. This might sound funny but simple things like putting on your shoes and picking up things from the floor will not just feel effortless but even feel good. Basically take it from someone who grew up being the stiffest at the gym. Flexible hamstrings feel good and you’ll be thankful!
Now let’s get down to business for all the athletes out there. Flexible hamstrings are going to allow you to do plenty of things that you weren’t able to do before.
Getting up into the handstand will become significantly easier. No matter the kick ups or press to handstand. If your hamstrings are flexible your hips are higher above your hands and shoulders before leaving the floor and you don’t have to jump/float/press as far.
Skin the cats on rings or the bar or leg lifts in general will become significantly easier. You might not at all be interested in that but maybe you’re working on levers. For most drills on rings you have to invert. If you can make this inversion part more efficient you’ll save energy for the actual thing that you are working on.
I could keep going forever but I believe you get the ideas.
Growing up doing gymnastics in east Germany my coaches surely wanted the best for me but also were cold as ice and made me cry on the regular. I would stretch hard until I would physically get sick. I’m Very convinced that this was the hardest I had ever worked on my hamstrings or probably anything at all yet I did not really see much progress.
When done correctly you do not have to stretch your hamstrings to an excessive amount but if done incorrectly and with poor form even extreme stretching won’t bring the results you are hoping for and you might even get injured.
Always start with a good general warm up. Break a light sweat! I like to go for a jog or do some rope skipping. Creativity is the only limit here.
From here move into something I like to call the specific Pre Warm Up. This part should be made up of very light stretches done in a more dynamic fashion. Ease into the muscle and whilst still warming it up you are already moving towards flexibility training. Half wood chopper or walking pike drills are good choices here.
After that we are good to go for the stretches. Key here is to focus on an anterior pelvic tilt. If your back is round your hamstring is not stretchable! Any hamstring stretch that is performed with a rounded back can be skipped. You’ll be wasting your time. Before you start bending forward make sure your back is perfectly straight. Now flip your hips into an anterior pelvic tilt. This should arch your lower back slightly in an ideal world. From here bend forwards. Only bend as far as you can whilst keeping the arch in the lower back. Use yoga blocks or a chair to place your hands on for support.
Keep in mind that your hamstring just like all your muscles has two attachments. We often focus on the upper part when the hamstring arrives by the hips. Yet the bottom of the hamstring attaches to the calves and travels all the way to the feet. You therefore also need to incorporate stretches with a flexed foot where the calves are placed under tension.
Follow these basic principles and stay consistent with your training. Don’t expect a major breakthrough within days or even weeks. Making flexibility gains will take time and it will be uncomfortable but I promise to you: it’ll be worth it!