Why do so many jiu jitsu athletes suffer from tight hamstrings?
*link to this program is on the bottom of the page*
Why are tight hamstrings so common? Is our only option accepting this sad reality as a way of life? Are tight hamstrings always going to be the recurring discussion on the jiu-jitsu mats after each training session? Yes, tight hamstrings are a great topic of common ground among the jiu-jitsu practitioners, however that is the only positive of tight hamstrings. It is not good to have tight hamstrings because this can affect our movement in a big way and if not addressed can affect our alignment, and even cause injuries.
Time to join the prestigious ‘Stretched Hamstring Club’.
Why are tight hamstrings so common for jiu-jitsu athletes? For us to be able to answer this question efficiently we need to do a little homework and take a look at where the hamstrings are located and their function.
Wikipedia put together a great definition of hamstrings for us:
‘In human anatomy, a hamstring is one of the three posterior thigh muscles in between the hip and the knee (from medial to lateral: semimembranosus, semitendinosus and biceps femoris)’.
Studies have shown if you memorize the three hamstring names it aids in making them 1% more flexible immediately (the other 99% is what Sebastian’s hamstring stretching videos are for).
What are the jobs of the hamstrings?
The main function of the hamstrings is to bend your knee.
If you think about it, we bend our knees constantly every day: walking, running, climbing stairs, jumping, etc. Okay, okay, I’ll admit it. Hamstrings seem to be pretty important so far, but wait – there’s more?
Your hamstrings also rotate your leg inward and outward.
This is important to help us walk like a normal person, otherwise we would be like baby giraffes falling all over the place (which is cute for a while but then becomes very unnecessary by the time we hit 2 years old).
Hamstrings help with the Big Daddy Glutes.
Hamstrings assist the Glutes (these are the main muscles in your buttocks) with hip extension. Hip extension is the backwards movement of your thigh. When do we ever utilize the ‘backwards movement of the thigh?’ The answer? Always. Sitting to standing, standing to squatting, jumping, running. etc.
Fun fact: When someone is completely cold and goes to a full out run there is potential they can tear their hamstring doing this. Why is that? Because the hamstrings also propel us forward.
Injury: If the hamstrings become too tight, there is an opportunity for them to tear (as the muscles don’t like to be pushed farther than they can normally go).
Misalignment: Tight hamstrings can pull the pelvis out of its normal position, as a result can cause back pain and knee pain.
But most importantly, tight hamstrings can negatively affect our Jiu-Jitsu.
Hamstrings + Jiu-Jitsu
When our legs are straight (standing for example) the hamstrings are lengthened. When our legs are bent (sitting), the hamstrings are shortened.
Take a look at the very detailed diagram below:
How often are our legs bent in Jiu-Jitsu? Most the time. Think of your last wrestle. When we have someone in our guard, side control, back control, mount. In fact, it is quite rare that we don’t have our legs bent (unless we are executing that rockstar spider or DLR sweep, for example).
If our legs are bent the majority of the time, this means our hamstrings are contracted majority of the time. Our body will begin to adapt to this because it thinks that if contracted is the main position it must be the best for us. So out of efficiency it will adapt accordingly. But not all adaptations are good ones. Because of this we need to make sure to stretch our hamstrings regularly in order to counteract all the flexions our legs are doing in training.
Fortunately for us, Sebastian could feel the hamstring tightness of the Jiu-Jitsu world increasing, therefore he released some new hamstring videos for us!
New kid on the block – the Stretched Hamstrings Club
The difference between the left image and the right one might seem minor, but the progress is massive. Every inch you gain in getting your leg COMFORTABLY closer to your head, will matter in jiu jitsu. The reason why the word comfortably is caps locked is because pulling and forcing your leg closer won’t work. You need to trick your muscles into relaxing and progress will come.
Sebastian came up with new videos that will be targeting your hamstrings and back, appropriate for all levels. Try the two that are already live. They’re easy to follow along – simply relax, breathe and stretch your whole back body.
Prevent injury, fix misalignment and show your hamstrings some love.