Do you suffer from tight hamstrings? Although there can be various causes for tight hamstrings, the following may be the source of your particular problem.
Clients who have tight hamstrings also often have poor functioning of their bum muscles, known as the glutes. This basically means that one lacks the ability to fire the muscle. Non-firing glutes is most commonly the result of overactive hip flexors. When the hip flexors (primarily the psoas, iliacus and rectus femoris) become tight from poor training and/or prolonged sitting, their opposing muscle group (mainly the gluteus maximus) tend to become weak. When the muscles on one side of a joint become tight, this can alter the joint kinematics and shut down the muscle(s) on the other side of the joint, this is known as reciprocal inhibition. Making your glutes fire is rarely an issue of strength, but is more a neural matter. When the glutes are not receiving the neural drive from the central nervous system they will consequently become inactive.
What does this have to do with tight hamstrings? The human body is amazing at compensating for weaknesses and will find ways to accomplish movements, even if some muscles aren’t functioning at their full capacity. If your glutes are not fully firing, the body will rely more on its helpers (synergists) to work overtime in tasks that involve hip extension (driving your hips forward). The glutes’ “assisters” in movement are predominantly the hamstrings. The hamstrings will be forced to do the majority of the work if the glutes are not functioning properly.
Injuries tend to occur to the helping muscles when the prime mover has become weak, and the synergist has to do more work. You can reduce the amount of work the hamstrings are doing and, in turn, help release some tension, by properly firing your glutes in the right pattern. The approach that one must take in fixing this problem is multi-faceted and must be done in a specific order to achieve the greatest results.
Note that the following is oversimplified for the purpose of this article. It is often very frustrating and a huge time commitment to fix this problem. Your first step should involve releasing the tight musculature (hip flexors) by self myo-fascial release with foam rollers and balls. Secondly, you want to perform basic non-functional exercises to begin to really focus on engaging the muscle; for example, Glute bridges, Clamshells, Hip Abductions, Cook Hip Lifts. After working on these simple exercises for some time, you must begin to integrate your activation into more functional exercises such as resistance band walks, lunges and squats. You should not be performing explosive exercises until you are properly firing the musculature as an array of injuries can occur. The importance of fixing your body’s imbalances is critical in maintaining health and efficiency and takes proper training and patience.