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Should You Be Stretching Your Hamstrings?

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Jessica Bento, Physical Therapist (Creator DVRT Restoration Certification, DVRT Rx Shoulder, Knees, Pelvic Control, & Gait Courses)

Jessica bento

It used to be a pretty standard recommendation for my patients, especially those with low back and knee issues. I would find that their hamstrings were tight and tell them they had to spend a lot more time stretching them. That was the young therapist version of me though, now I have quite a different perspective about whether or not a lot of people should be spending time stretching their hamstrings and what that should look like.

Probably many of you are thinking, “if the hamstrings are tight, why would you NOT stretch them?” Well, let’s take a step back first. A lot of people complain of anterior knee pain and that can have MANY different causes. This type of pain is typically thought of as patella femoral pain (PFP) and seems to be a VERY popular topic in fitness nowadays with all the recommendations of training your VMO, your soles, your tibialis anterior, and all these muscles as though they work by themselves (something we will get into more shortly). However, most people in fitness don’t actually treat painful knees because that really isn’t in the scope of practice of most fitness professionals.

I say that not to be superior, but because typically therapists and fitness pros have different goals and jobs. In treating a lot of painful knees I can tell you that addressing muscles in this manner is not really the answer. Let’s take a common issue like “jumper’s knee” which is often a tendinitis at the tendon-bone interface at the lower pole of the patella. Despite the name, jumping is NOT the only way that people suffer jumper’s knee (it is a catch all name for this issue of overuse). There are several treatment options for such issues, but one commonly recommended is stretching the hamstrings. Studies have found a correlation (not necessarily a causation) with anterior knee pain and tight hamstrings (1).

To be fair, the idea behind stretching the hamstrings is that because the hamstrings can flex the knee, tight hamstrings could place more posterior force on the knee, causing pressure between the patella and femur to increase. So, it isn’t a crazy idea that stretching the hamstrings could help, but do we fail to often answer the more important question first, “why do we see such tight hamstrings in the first place?”

There isn’t just one answer here as it could be from poor movement skills, improper training, overtraining, but a BIG one that people seem to miss is stability, especially core stability! How in the world does core stability play a role in our hamstrings becoming tight? A lot of people miss that “tightness” is often a response to our body sensing instability and wanting to protect itself.

We see such issues in shoulder and hip mobility, but it can happen a lot of other places like the hamstrings. Core stability issues are really common (core stability and strength aren’t necessarily the same thing). If core stability is an issue is it REALLY that more powerful than other forms of improving movement?

A 2020 study from India actually found that core stability drills improved hamstring flexibility MORE than even certain types of yoga (2). So, what is core stability from just core strengthening?

The series I share above covers some great examples of how we integrate core stability into our mobility training. A dead bug exercise is more about stability because we aren’t trying to create high levels of force but control how much our body can resist movement that is occurring on the pelvis and trunk. A tall kneeling Around The World, again, makes our core react to create stability as the Ultimate Sandbag moves around our body. Different than a kettlebell halo, the DVRT version gives us a greater range of motion that trains more of the diagonal patterns of the body and such greater core stability. When we hold the Ultimate Sandbag in the Front Loaded position we are also create tension to provide stability to the trunk through important muscles like the lats and the 35 other muscles that you can’t consciously use.

Strength training also becomes an important part of the process which sounds weird for improving flexibility, but the truth is that muscles can and are often weak AND tight! When we train them properly and integrate good core stability it is almost like magic how the muscles seem to move so much better. That is because the restriction to one muscle is usually NOT just due to one muscle. So, exercises like I show below are great ways of getting our posterior chain to work better and get the hamstrings not to have the same tightness we are so use to seeing.

You can see some great ways we can put these ideas together with the ideas that strength coaches Martine Adame and Cory Cripe show below. The key is knowing WHY things are happening in the body and how we can create better solutions! When we take the time to really appreciate the complexity of the body we can create what seems like magic, but it is just bringing science to life!

Don’t miss saving 25% all throughout DVRT with our fall sale by using code “fall25” HERE and absolutely do NOT miss Cory Cripe leading our FIRST live DVRT online workshop and take advantage of our early bird and get a FREE Ultimate Sandbag HERE


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A post shared by Martín Adame, CSCS, (@martinadame1)


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A post shared by Cory M. Cripe (@corymcripe)


  1. Kunene, Siyabonga H., Serela Ramklass, and Nomathemba P. Taukobong. “Anterior knee pain and its intrinsic risk factors among runners in under-resourced communities in Ekurhuleni, Gauteng.” South African Journal of Physiotherapy 74.1 (2018): 1-7.
  2. Shaikh, Saniya. “Effect of Core Stability Exercises versus Surya Namaskar on Hamstring Tightness in Healthy Adults Using Active Knee Extension Test at the End of 6 Weeks: A Comparative Study.” International journal of applied reasearch (2020): n. pag. Print.