How To Release Chronically Tight Hamstrings - Monthly Yoga With Abi

Jun 21, 2016
by Abi Carver  
About Abi -
Abi Carver designs yoga routines for mountain bikers looking to eliminate muscular aches and pains, gain an edge in competition and unlock razor sharp mental focus, for next level performance. Her aim is to make yoga more accessible to action sports athletes so that they can do the activities they are passionate about for longer, with less pain and with more skill. Follow her @yoga15app for more yoga tips and tutorials.



Wide-Leg Standing Forward Bend

Tight hamstrings, as with the other aches, pains and limited range of motion you experience as a mountain biker, do not have one simple cause and an equally uncomplicated solution. As you may have already discovered, consistently stretching your hamstrings is not getting you any closer to touching your toes. When you stretch chronically tight or overactive muscles without correcting the cause of the dysfunction, you may provide temporary relief, but you risk tearing the muscle. As always, we need to adopt a multi-faceted approach that combines stretching, mobility work, strengthening exercises, and deep breathing.

As a qualified yoga instructor, I've not been trained to evaluate postural and sport-related musculoskeletal dysfunctions, so I’ve worked closely on this article with Structural Integration and Myoskeletal Therapist Ari Globerman to put together a prescription designed to safely and effectively loosen up tight hamstrings.

What are the hamstrings?
The hamstrings are a group of muscles that run down the back of your leg from the hips to your lower leg, crossing behind the knee joint. They are responsible for hip extension and knee flexion.

Hamstrings are one of the main muscle groups that are active when you’re riding. The upper part of the hamstrings is involved in the downstroke of pedaling and the lower part is active as you bend your knee for the upstroke.

What are the main causes of tight hamstrings?
By tight hamstrings, I’m referring to a sensation of stiffness in the backs of the legs, as well as an inability to move your muscles and joints through full range of motion ie. to touch your toes.

1. Tight hip flexors
The hip flexors (psoas, iliacus, rectus femurs and tensor fascia lata) become tight from spending the majority of the time in a shortened position – sitting at work, in the car, in front of the TV and then on the bike.

2. Weak glutes
Overactive hip flexors inhibit the glutes through a process known as ‘reciprocal inhibition’. As the muscles on one side of a joint become overactive, the antagonist muscles become underactive or ‘inhibited’. In the absence of glute strength and engagement, the hamstrings are forced to assist in stabilizing the hips and core.

3. Tight lower back (spinal erectors)
The other synergistic muscles – the spinal erectors and adductor magnus – also have to work harder to compensate for a lack of flute strength and so become tight.

4. Tight quads
The quads – the biggest muscle involved in mountain biking – get tight from overuse.

5. Lower back and SI joint problems
Shortened hip flexors, weak glutes, tight lower back muscles and overdeveloped quads can cause the pelvis to tilt forward. Pelvic misalignment can inhibit glute firing and force lower back muscles and hamstrings into compensatory tightness.

6. Weak core
Try this test to see how a weak core can affect hamstring flexibility.

- Perform a toe touch and make a mental note of your range of motion in the hamstrings.
- Now, sit down with good posture and squeeze a pillow between your knees slowly for 40 reps. Squeeze….1…2...release. You can do 2 sets of 20. Don’t squeeze the pillow with maximum force. Go to about 50%.
- Repeat the toe touch. If you have an inhibited/weak core, you'll notice the difference in your hamstring flexibility.

How tight hamstrings affect your riding?
Any muscle tightness is going to negatively affect your riding. To be the fastest and most technically skillful rider you can be, you need to have full flexibility throughout the entire body.

Loosening your hamstrings will:
- Alleviate lower back, knee, shoulder, neck and wrist pain
- Result in a more comfortable riding position
- Enable you to get more power through the pedals
- Increase your speed
- Improve your balance and agility on the bike
- Reduce your risk of damaging ligaments, tendons, and muscles

The routine
These 12 sequences involve multi-planar movements, stretching, strengthening, alignment and deep breathing. They will force you out of your habitual compensation patterns, lubricate your joints, stimulate blood flow, increase your range of motion, activate weak muscles and relax overactive muscles.

Move through them in this order and repeat as often as necessary.

1. Decompress The Spine/Ease Lower Back Tightness: 3-Part Breath

Views: 10,356    Faves: 35    Comments: 1




2. Spinal Flexibility: Cat Cow

Views: 7,470    Faves: 23    Comments: 1




3. Core Strength: Plank

Plank

Instructions
- From all fours, walk your hands forward, tuck your toes and come up into Plank.
- Spread your fingers wide and press your hands evenly into the mat. Check that your shoulders are directly over your wrists and your feet are hip-width apart.
- Try to create a straight line all the way from your heels to your hips, to the back of your head.
- Engage your core and press back through your heels to straighten your legs. Contract your glutes, allowing your hip flexors to relax.
- Look down at the mat to complete your alignment.
- Hold the pose for up to a minute.



4. Glute and Hamstring Strength: Locust Pose

Views: 6,734    Faves: 21    Comments: 6


Counterpose: Wide-Knee Child

Views: 6,463    Faves: 24    Comments: 1




5. Hamstring Stretch: Downward Dog

Views: 5,531    Faves: 21    Comments: 1


Instructions
- Come to all fours with your knees hip-width apart and your hands a few inches in front of your shoulders.
- Tuck your toes and lift your hips up – keep your knees bent. Spread your fingers wide and press your palms evenly into the mat – index fingers point straight ahead.
- Try to straighten your elbows, rotate your arms outward to feel a broadening across your upper back and press firmly into your hands.
- Tilt your pelvis up and fully lengthen your spine. Check that both knees point forward and do not fall in towards each other – feet are shoulder-width apart. Allow your head to hang naturally between your arms.
- Walk out your feet to stretch the backs of your legs.
- Hold the pose for 5-10 deep breaths, in and out through your nose.
- Take a deep breath in, and come down to all fours on an exhalation.



6. Hip Flexors Stretch: Low Lunge with Sidebend

Views: 4,605    Faves: 19    Comments: 1


Instructions
- From Downward Dog, step your right foot in between your hands. Drop your left knee to the mat and release your back foot. Check that your right knee is directly above your right ankle.
- Inhale, sweep your arms out and up into crescent lunge, bring your palms together or shoulder-width apart. Exhale, drop your right fingertips to the mat and bend to the right. Reach through your fingertips.
- Stay in the pose for 5-10 deep breaths, in and out through your nose.
- To come out of the pose, take a deep breath in. Exhale, bring your hands to the mat and step back to Downward Dog for the other side.



7. Glute Stretch: Pigeon

Views: 6,423    Faves: 50    Comments: 4


Instructions
- From Downward Dog, step your feet together. Inhale, sweep your right leg up to the sky. Exhale, bring your right knee forward, place it on the mat behind your right wrist and position your left foot under your left hip.
- Release your back foot and slide it back. Look behind you to check that your left leg is straight.
- If your hips are not level, you can support the hip of your bent leg on a cushion.
- Inhale, press into your fingertips and lengthen your spine. Exhale, walk your hands forward and come down onto your forearms.
- If you'd like to go deeper, cross your arms and rest your forehead on the mat. Sink deeper into the pose with every breath.
- Stay in the pose for up to 2 minutes, breathing in and out through your nose.
- To come out of the pose, bring your hands back to the mat, press into your palms, tuck your back toes, lift your hips up and press back to Downward Dog for the other side.



8. Hamstring Stretch: Wide-Leg Standing Forward Bend

Wide-Leg Standing Forward Bend

Instructions
- Step your feet at least a meter apart. Check that your toes point straight ahead.
- Inhale, bring your hands to your hips and lengthen your spine. Exhale, hinge at your hips, draw your abs in and fold forward with a flat back. You can keep your knees bent if you feel your lower back starting to round.
- Take hold of opposite elbows and hang here, or bring your hands to the mat or to blocks underneath your shoulders for support.
- You can play around with the width of your feet. The wider your stance, the easier it is to fold forward, but if you go too wide, you may feel unstable.
- Stay here for up to 2 minutes, breathing in and out through your nose.
- To come out of the pose, inhale, bring your hands to your hips, press into your feet and come up with a flat back. Exhale, step your feet together.



9. Glute and Hamstring Strength: Bridge + Counterpose: Seated Spinal Twist

Views: 3,860    Faves: 22    Comments: 1




10. Quad Stretch: Half-Reclining Hero

Views: 3,125    Faves: 18    Comments: 1


Instructions
- From kneeling, bring your right foot flat to the mat, drop down inside your left foot and walk your front foot out as far as you need to to bring both sitting bones flat to the mat.
- Place your hands behind you, fingertips facing forward and lean back as far as is comfortable.
- If you have tight quads, you can support yourself on your hands or your elbows.
- You can also put a cushion under your right hip.
- Aim to keep your bent knee pointing forward.
- If you can lower your head all the way down to the mat, bring your arms up overhead and hold onto opposite elbows.
- Stay in the pose for 5 deep breaths, in and out through your nose.
- To come out of the pose, release your arms, bring your hands to the mat and carefully lift yourself back up for the other side.



11. Core Strength: Boat and Low Boat

Views: 2,778    Faves: 18    Comments: 2




12. Hamstring Stretch: Reclining Hand To Toe

Reclining Hand To Toe Pose

Instructions
- Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat to the mat. Hug your right knee in towards your chest.
- Straighten your right leg up to the sky and push through your heel. Walk your hands up your leg to take hold of the back of your thigh, calf, ankle or big toe.
- You can loop a strap, belt or towel around the arch of your top foot to keep the leg straight and isolate the stretch.
- Hold the pose for up to 2 minutes, breathing in and out through your nose. Contract your quads to release your hamstrings.
- Release the pose and switch sides.



Other things you can do
As well as practicing these sequences every 2-3 days, here are some further recommendations:

- Be conscious of your daily movement patterns so that the imbalance doesn't just continue to reoccur. Try to sit as little as you can get away with and take movement breaks every 30 minutes.
- Foam roll your inner thighs, hamstrings, shins, calves, quads and glutes.
- Sports massage stimulates blood flow, realigns muscle fibres, and connective tissue and can help to reduce tension

Please let me know how you get on in the comments below. And share this article with anyone you think could do with some yoga inspiration.

Here is the link to my Yoga For Mountain Bikers video series if you're looking for a complete yoga program to support your training, and my Yoga For Mountain Bikers Pose Guide if you're ready to take your yoga to the next level.

You can find out more about Ari, who is based in Florida, and the manual therapies he offers, here: strongandmobile.com

Photo credit: Graham Mattock


Previous Yoga with Abi:
A Challenging One-Hour Yoga Flow Class - Monthly Yoga With Abi
Take Control of Your Mind and Push Your Personal Limits - Monthly Yoga With Abi
Yoga To Relieve Pain In Between The Shoulder Blades - Monthly Yoga with Abi
15-Minute Routine To Unlock Tight Hips - Monthly Yoga with Abi
15-Minute Yoga Routine To Build Core Strength
Short Yoga Routine To Help With Lower Back Pain in Bikers
15-Minute Yoga Routine To Enhance Balance and Agilityl
15-Minute Post-Ride Yoga Routine
8 Quick Yoga Stretches To Do At Work

MENTIONS: @yoga15app



Must Read This Week

126 Comments

  • + 78
 I know I'm not alone when I say that being a bike rider makes your hamstrings hate you. After reading this, there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel. This article is very detailed with so many great ideas to try out. Thanks a bunch Abi!
  • - 116
flag tonkatruck (Jun 21, 2016 at 17:26) (Below Threshold)
 ohh i got something to release alright !
  • + 29
 @tonkatruck: keep it classy San Diego
  • - 17
flag Kramz (Jun 21, 2016 at 23:12) (Below Threshold)
 @tonkatruck: Yeah, I might do some stretching as well, release some tension in my back.
  • + 8
 It actually went better than anticipated, maybe I won't be so stiff in the morning.
  • - 10
flag Monkeyass (Jun 22, 2016 at 0:40) (Below Threshold)
 @tonkatruck: Thank you! :o)
  • + 6
 No worries @aoneal. Let me know if you have any questions. You just gotta stick with it.
  • + 3
 @yoga15app: I've added several of these routines to my daily workout and I've already noticed less tension/tightness. Many thanks!
  • + 2
 @aoneal: Amazing. That's so cool. Let me know if there is anything else you're struggling with.
  • + 23
 so appreciative of Abi's input here, it has made a huge difference for a lot of us, glad we have someone who cares and has the right advice to prolong our two wheeled habits! massive respect to a lady whom is brave enough to do the right thing, putting our health at the top in this testosterone fuelled theatre.. thank you Abi, keep it up!
  • + 8
 Thanks @topsedit! You're not wrong. It can be a pretty tough crowd!
  • + 20
 First time i get to an article with Abi and there are no sexual comments..
Good job guys! Smile
  • + 13
 You must have posted this about 5 minutes after pinkbike posted this article. Give it time, and then check out the Below Threshold comments.
  • + 21
 Looks like you're the first! Well done!
  • + 1
 Wait for it....
  • + 7
 I have no politically correct comments to contribute
  • + 2
 i actually have fun with those comments. Everytime i see these Yoga articles I just go directly to the below threshold section, pervs vs whiteknights is a lot of fun. this is the internet, people form part of it at their own risk.
  • + 18
 i have symptoms 1-6 at any given time. thank you, abi! these and a foam roller then beers!
  • + 4
 Solid prescription @fullbug!
  • + 12
 Thanks for the helpful video Abi. How do I get your voice onto my Google Maps voice direction to help with road rage?
  • + 6
 Hahahaha @ABreen. If the yoga thing doesn't work out I know what to do next!
  • + 8
 Yoga has ABSOLUTELY FIXED my lower back pain, range of motion, balance etc. It has helped all my sports and in some interesting ways. As an example in biking I get a much great range of motion when cranking uphill, previously I would get to maybe 3/4 of the way through the stroke and force the rest of the way. Now I have MORE power all through the stroke and it's very noticeable let alone the pain being gone. Having better balance has made my handling skills better as well. I went through 10 years of XC racing without yoga, dumb.

In skiing (Telemark or Downhill) when hitting bumps I am able to be balanced over the moguls because my skis can now almost hit my ass (range of motion) allowing for pointing the tips wherever they need to go.

Although its typically indoors the best part is downward dog in the back of the class watching lululemon pants in front of me..just kidding.
  • + 8
 I wonder if this would help fix my post epic ride bar stool hamstring cramp problem.
  • + 5
 My hams are massive compared to my other muscle groups. My butt is like Prince (may he RIP) level tiny. I constantly feel, even at work, like my hams are cramping and that I become easily tired when I have to engage more of my core. I had no idea that a wimpy ass influenced this....

themoreyouknow.jpg

Thank you for this, I think I am going to start taking yoga a little more seriously
  • + 3
 Yoga and deadlifts should do the trick @ghettoflash.
  • + 1
 @yoga15app: Thanks for the suggestion, Abi! I didnt consider deadlifts
  • + 4
 @ghettoflash: deadlifts and squats are going to be the best way for you to build glute strength. You're going to have to lift heavy!
  • + 1
 If you dont have weights. Heres a video youtu.be/-C7IJM7skLk
  • + 4
 For so long I thought I should give this a shot but never stuck to this. But this article seems to be written for me, I've got the world's shortest hamstrings. And I don't even sit as much as I see most people around me do, though obviously I cycle a lot. Could climbing stairs be bad as well in this respect? When I've got to do a lot of sitting work, I frequently take a break and run up and down a few stairs in the building.

Also, is there a point where you think attempting these exercises doesn't make sense? I mean when bending forwards with my back and legs straight I can't get even close to 90 degrees. But when I have my arms up (aligned with my back) I can bend forwards next to nothing. So that downward facing dog will be pretty much me lying flat on my face. Another example would be that hamstring stretch (12) shown in the last picture. If I try to keep my leg straight, it is only going about 45 degrees off the ground. I still feel the hamstrings stretch but I probably also use other muscles than you do when you execute the exercises as shown. After all I'll be using the hip flexors to keep the leg up and keep the knee straight which wouldn't be as much the case if I would get the leg over 90 degrees.

I do understand if you say I'd better just sign up for a class so that I can get direct advice based on my limitation. That said, I definitely appreciate this. I also like that you published short videos instead of a single very long one.
  • + 3
 Taking a break to run up and down the stairs is great to get the blood circulating and regain your mental focus but you're right that it will actually contract and tighten your hamstrings @vinay. Make sure you do a couple of hamstring stretches afterwards.

In terms of the routine, to start with, do all the exercises except for Downward Dog and Wide-Leg Standing Forward Bend. I don't want you to hurt yourself! Your only hamstring stretch will be Reclining Hand To Toe with a strap/belt/towel around the ball of your foot. Hold it for a 2-10 minutes every day. Or you can one foot on a desk or wall and stretch your hamstrings from that position. Send me an email abi@yoga15.com if you need a visual.
  • + 1
 @yoga15app: Thanks Abi, that's great advice! It seems like all my activities are bound to shorten my hamstrings. Even if I weren't riding mountainbikes, I'd still ride bikes a lot just to get to work, shops etc. Other than that I run (trail) and ride MUni (mountain unicycle). To give my legs a break I got an inflatable kayak but as because of these short hamstrings I can't get my upper body up- or forwards when my legs are stretched in front, I often just sit on my knees. And that's probably going to shorten these hamstrings again Frown . I was never aware of that. I'd hate to drop any of these activities but can you recommend an activity/sport (other than yoga) that I might pick up that would actually utilize these antagonists a bit more to balance it out? Thanks again!
  • + 2
 @vinay: you really need to incorporate consistent mobility/flexibility sessions into your training program to counteract the shortening/overuse of your hamstrings. Yoga, Pilates, gymnastics, martial arts would all be good.
  • + 1
 @yoga15app: Thanks Abi, of course I'll incorporate the yoga exercises you recommended. I was just looking for something to go with that. My girlfriend used to do karate and indeed she's far from stiff. I've been wanting a slackline for quite a while and am now planning to get one for the summer. I hope that is a good idea.
  • + 5
 I'm pretty sure if someone offered this as a class in the Vancouver area it would sell out fast. Never thought a bit of yoga could actually improve my riding!
  • + 5
 I do Abi's half hour session for mountain bikers two to three times a week and after a month my mid-40s carcass is feeling much better. Thank you Abi.
  • + 2
 Me too..totally agree it really works..
  • + 1
 No problem @iamamodel. Don't forget to mix it up sometimes and challenge yourself!
  • + 1
 @vic690: thank you.
  • + 2
 Excellent as always. The strength yoga programmes of yours have saved me from daily back pain / increased my strength and ability on the bike. As expected I have ridiculously tight hamstrings... they are better than they were... I need to do more yoga!
  • + 1
 Thank you @ovadebarz. The strengthening routines will be great for building up your stabiliser muscles but it may also be worth giving some attention to your mobility and flexibility to be a truly complete athlete!
  • + 2
 Once again Great article Abi. If I try to sit in hero pose my sitting bones can't reach the floor. I can manage the half reclining hero but again my sitting bones are raised. Should I wait till flexibility allows my sitting bones to reach the floor before further attempting reclining hero pose? Thanks
  • + 1
 Thank you @vinylmatt88. The crucial thing with flexibility is that it can't be rushed. It's not a problem if you can't sit between your feet in hero pose. When you're sitting to watch TV start by raising your hips up on a block or book and slowly make the object shorter and shorter until you can sit comfortably between your heels. It's taken a lifetime to get this tight so you have to be a little patient.

In Half Reclining Hero, support your raised hip on a cushion so that you can relax into the pose comfortably. This sends a signal to your brain that is safe for you to go there and over time, your flexibility will increase. I'm afraid it's just a bit of a slow process.
  • + 1
 @yoga15app: thanks for reply Abi.
  • + 2
 I've tried to address my hamstrings a few times with yoga but they're so tight that some of these positions are impossible. It isn't clear if doing them incorrectly is beneficial or actually making things worse. I could really use a routine that addresses that!

To explain how little is possible, when sitting on the floor with legs straight out in front, my hamstrings are so tight that I can't sit straight up. Thus stretching while sitting is impossible as i'm fighting my own body weight pulling me backward. Similarly, when standing and leaning forward, my own body weight has little effect. I have to pull myself downward on furniture to feel hamstring stretch.

From this article, #12 (Hamstring Stretch: Reclining Hand To Toe) is also impossible. I can't come anywhere close to touching my toes. I can grab onto the back of the knee and pull with all my might and that's enough to feel a little stretch. But is that good or bad to do?

Any suggestions for someone this inflexible? Yoga is definitely the solution to my problems but I've yet to see any routines tailored for someone who can't even achieve the simple poses (yet). Or even explanations of what to do when you can't...
  • + 2
 I hear you @dfiler. I see a lot of clients that are easily as inflexible as you and at first it seems like getting into the poses is for sure impossible. But you have to start somewhere and as it's taken a lifetime for your muscles to tighten up, it's going to take a pretty consistent effort on your part to start to loosen up.

The only hamstring stretch I recommend you do is Reclining Hand To Toe because there is no pressure on your lower back. Loop a strap, belt or towel around the arch of your foot and every day spend a few minutes gently stretching the backs of your legs.

You can do the first 4 exercises plus Bridge pose until you start to feel a little more flexible.

It is very common not to be able to sit with a straight spine and your legs out in front of you. All you have to do, is raise your hips up on a block, book or cushion. That is the position you'll need to be in for the breathing exercise.

Try also to be conscious throughout the day of maintaining good posture. Not slumping, letting your shoulders round forward or staying inactive for long periods of time.

For a full series of vids that you will be able to follow, check out the Relaxation series. It is very gentle and you don't need any prior yoga experience: vimeo.com/ondemand/yogarelaxationchallenge

Let me know how you get on.
  • + 1
 Thank you for taking the time to reply. I will work on it as you suggested. Yoga is definitely the answer to my tightness and imbalances. I just need to get over the initial inability to do any of the normal poses.
  • + 2
 Pretty much everything in my lower body is tight fro nearly 40 years of biking and not nearly enough stretching, but it's the hip rotators that give me the most issues. I don't even have enough flexibility that I can get in to a position to adequately isolate and stretch them.
  • + 1
 Come into a low lunge with your front knee directly above your front ankle and your hip directly above your back knee - 90/90. Then tilt your pelvis forward to feel a gentle stretch in your hip flexors/the front of your thigh. Lift your hands up and sidebend over to the side of the knee that is in front to increase the stretch. That will be enough of a stretch for you at the moment @samael.

And get hold of a lacrosse ball or foam roller and spend a few minutes every day massaging out the hips, TFL, quads, hamstrings and glutes.
  • + 3
 Thanks for the yoga routines Abi! I've had multiple issues (particularly hip, shoulder) and have incorporated several of your routines on a daily basis, er'y morning before coffee! Mucho relief!
  • + 1
 Nice @irishskibum! Sounds like you're a pro but let me know if there is anything you need help with.
  • + 2
 It would be great if you could put all of these poses together into a single video. It makes it so much easier to follow! I look forward to trying these poses as I'm in the same boat as everyone else here and suffer badly with tight hamstrings.
  • + 4
 Moon on a stick! Drop me an email: abi@yoga15.com and I'll see what I can do.
  • + 2
 That's exactly what I was like years ago, tight hamstrings, tight glutes, weak core...thanks to yoga, now i am in a much better condition with stronger/more flexible muscles. I wish i could have seen Abi's sessions back then as they are mountain biker specific. Keep on practicing and one day you will be amazed by the result!
  • + 1
 Thanks @gaoyiyang. You're right - it sort of sneaks up on you!
  • + 2
 I saw this article on the front page and disappointingly opened it totally expecting to see more of the standard - If you have tight hamstrings, you need to stretch them. Do downward dog etc. I was happily proven wrong. It's great to see a yoga instructor that understands the anatomy and how to target specific movements for common musculoskeletal problems or dysfunctions. Great article Abi! The only thing I would add is that Yoga is a great way to release and activate. Bodyweight won't place the required stress on the muscles or nervous system that is required to build strength and power for performance. Working yoga into a structured strength training program though will balance postural problems or dysfunctions for the long term, preventing cyclists continuously falling back into bad patterning, tightness or imbalance. Thanks again Abi! Awesome info.
  • + 1
 I ride and run and have chronically sore hammies, so I'm all in for this program. Interestingly, they don't bother me at all when I'm on the bike or running and I'm faster at both than I've ever been. I asked my family doctor and his suggestion was the foam roller. So I diligently foam-rolled for a few months and it made absolutely no difference at all. Gave it up and resigned to live with the soreness. I'll invest the time to do this.
  • + 1
 @yoga15app Your strength and stretching programs are exceptional. I have noticed that I can easily stretch my hamstrings and see great improvement when my feet are spread apart or when my knees are slightly bent. As soon as my feet are close together and my legs are completely straight I am very inflexible and I don't see any improvement. As well my legs get a slight tingling that starts in the back of my knee and extends to my big toe. Is there anything I can do to target this?
  • + 1
 Hi David. I will send you a message on this one as it's a little complicated.
  • + 1
 Never thought that tight hamstrings could be the cause of my lower back pain but after doing this and the hip fexors routine for a few weeks my back pain is virtually gone. Thank you so much Abi, these have been a massive help
  • + 1
 That's awesome! You should be pain free if you keep up the routine a couple of times a week.

Sign up to my newsletter for free info like this every week:

www.yoga15.com/yoga-for-mountain-bikers
  • + 1
 @yoga15app - what kind of stretch should I perform when I get those horrible inner thigh cramps?
I get them both at the end of a long ride or when resting, as I try to get up e.g. from a couch or chair.
Thank you for the excellent post BTW
Paul
  • + 1
 Drop me an email: abi@yoga15.com. I'll have to defer Ari @UncleGroOve.
  • + 1
 I tore my hamstring 2 weeks ago (running not riding) and am finally into the stretching phase of recovery. Would you recommend trying all of these poses or is there something better to ease myself back into these? Thanks for the great article I NEEDED this!
  • + 1
 @yoga15app I seem to struggle with squats, i always seem to duck forward at the hips and struggle to get down. But with deadlifts i can do them perfect form, straight back etc... Is the problem with my squats due to poor hip flexibility or lower back? thank you!
  • + 1
 Hey @ArchieDH. It could even be poor ankle mobility but I wouldn't be able to tell without seeing you. The best thing to do would be to see a personal trainer at a gym or a physio who could recommend where you need to stretch, build strength and increase mobility.
  • + 1
 Thank you Abi! My hams do get tight but not chronic I'm actually fairly flexible. But yesterday I thought I'd try hot yoga, since it was 102degrees f./39C. outside. I struggled man, sweated, was out of breath though I was going to faint! But I finally got my yoga mat unrolled.
Breathless from the effort I looked over at the Prairie dog a few feet away he said something snarky, and went back into his cool dark underground den. The others were chattering at me too so I figured it was a good time to retreat inside; proving that I am somewhat smarter than a Prairie dog.
Oh well should be only 85 by 10 am tomorrow so its another Dawn patrol.
Cheers.
  • + 1
 Part of the reason cyclists struggle with tight hamstrings is that even with your saddle at the correct height, your legs never completely straighten during your pedal stroke so what happens is that your hamstring muscles build but in a shortened state which ultimately causes shortening of the hamstrings which in turn can cause back, neck and even head aches.
  • + 1
 I broke my heel a couple weeks ago, no more downward dog for me. Really hoping the effort I put into yoga before the injury helps with the recovery process. I know the state of my lower back and hips is helping me from aching with a leg elevated all day/night and it helps to be limber from a seated position when you cant reach the remote. Yeah, I'm watching TV nowadays...it's temporary.
  • + 1
 The increase in mobility will definitely help with your rehab but the biggest mistake you can make is to stop moving completely as you heal @MTBsherpa. Ask your physio what you can do speed up the process.
  • + 1
 I really need to get on this yoga thing....I spend far too much time walking like some sort of knuckle dragging hunchback of Notre Dame because of tight muscles and I can see it in other men (in particular) too quite easily. I would give soooo much to have her flexibility!
  • + 2
 You just got to commit to it @arna86. Your body will thank you for it!
  • + 5
 I'd love some routine for chronically tight quads.
  • + 1
 Same here!
  • + 2
 For sure @WAKIdesigns. In the meantime, I would start with Bridge Pose: www.yoga15.com/bridge every day

And then Half Frog and Reclining Half Hero are a little more advanced:

www.yoga15.com/half-frog
www.yoga15.com/half-reclining-hero
  • + 3
 WAKI, the answer to fixing tight quads is understanding why they are so overactive. Maybe it's your bike position, maybe it's your pedalling technique (mashing or grinding high gears etc) but most of the time it's because you don't have any 'junk in the trunk'/glutes. Your power delivery muscles for cycling are your Vastus Lateralis (Quad), Gastrocnemius (calf) and your Glute Max. Due to a combination of daily lifestyle and training habits, most cyclists are quad dominant/tight through the hip flexors which causes reciprocal inhibition of the glutes. Glutes are the biggest muscle in the body and if they aren't firing and working when cycling, you are losing a lot of performance potential but are also causing the quads to do more work to compensate. Release the quads/hip flexors with the exercises Abi describes and then strengthen/grow the glutes with exercises such as glute bridge, barbell hip thrust and romanian deadlifts. Exercises such as Hip Thrust respond better to higher rep range work 15-20. Expect this to take 3-4 months to see progress but you will be correcting the problem long term and really improving your cycling performance foundation. Good luck.
  • + 2
 @endureperformance: I am familiar with the hip thrust and I've spent January working on mobility, then 3 months on lifting weights with the best form I am able to execute. My quad problem is always coming in the first 2 months of riding of each season and then it goes away. I am massaging them, stretching as much as it is possible, foam rolling the whole lower body. I am also having those 45min-1h low intensity rides on road. I just can't put a finger on this early season quad soreness/tightness considering that I am aware of all those things and acting on them to my best knowledge
  • + 2
 @endureperformance: Thank you. Building glute strength with bridges, hip thrusts and deadlifts is great advice for all riders wanting to improve their cycling performance.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns: You experience any lower back or lateral knee pain at all as well? It's a really hard one to assist with without seeing someone face to face. In terms of exercise technique, I've had people come to me who have had trainers for 2+ years, think they have good technique but suffer pain and within 1 session, they are amazed how different an exercise can feel and it's usually very small changes. Finding a good coach or therapist to analyse your movement may help. What we think is good technique isn't always right. Also, what's your anterior core strength like? Are exercises such as dead bugs, hollow body position with or without leg raise/extensions really difficult for you to maintain contact between your lower back and the ground? When you perform hip thrusters, can you feel glute contraction or does it work your quads more?
  • + 1
 @endureperformance: no lower back pain, I had a bit of knee cap pain for 2 weeks after I started with deadlifts, went away, despite going for more load later. I never had sore quads after dead lifting, mostly glutes. When I ride a lot of pumptrack, it is glutes and arms that hurt afterwards. Hip thrust makes me feel tension in glutes and I am putting my lower back against the groung with no probs. I go to functional movement specialist with a great reputation twice a year and she said that this year I am in my best, especially that I improved how I hold my shoulder blades.

I think it is having the body getting used to lots of pedalling, perhaps I ride too little in the winter (everyday to work but only once/twice a week in the terrain) and when the spring spike comes I have issues, which then subside 1-2 months later. I also stop working out as I start riding more, only 15 min morning routine.

This winter I will try to ride more and see how it goes.
  • + 5
 This article= GODSEND.

Thanks Abi!
  • + 2
 My pleasure @rockin-itis. Keep it consistent.
  • + 6
 VOD
  • + 2
 Shot on the Lava is pure Zen: poetry of form, fitness, function, fluidity... I'm pretty agnostic about my calisthenics, but I had a minute of religious connection just contemplating that frame. Thank you, Abi!
  • + 1
 Thanks @Veloscente! Yoga on the rocks is one of my favourite things to do.
  • + 2
 Thank you! Best one of these articles yet! This is the summer to make get my fitness out of the old-guy-getting-by-alright status.
  • + 2
 I've been struggling with a lot of these symptoms this year for the first time. Thank you so much Abi for taking the time to put these together for us!
  • + 1
 My pleasure @hpiguy.
  • + 1
 Im not sure if it is riding related, but recently my tailbone has been killing me, even after short 30 min rides. I have been icing it but it does not seem to help. Any suggestions?
  • + 1
 I dealt with SI problems for 6 months. It feels like an ache in your tailbone/deep lower back. Short answer is to do these exercises and more consistently. I had super tight hips and muscle imbalances from riding, after sorting that out and maintaining the alignment, no pain.. Good luck!
  • + 2
 Keep your finger out of there
  • + 2
 Thanks Abi. I'm suffering after years of riding, running and gym sessions without stretching regularly, its great to get some useful exercises to target different muscles!
  • + 1
 No worries @madking. Let me know if you have any questions.
  • + 4
 Like always awesome, Thank you Abi that feels great.
  • + 2
 Any routine/sequence tips for SI joint issues to go along with hamstring problems.
  • + 2
 @yoga15app Thank you for the AWESOME content you have provided on pinkbike. Your efforts are greatly appreciated. thanks!
  • + 1
 Thank you @dotheRandyMarsh. It's my pleasure.
  • + 2
 Thanks Abi! I certainly have chronic tight hamstrings and this post is aimed right at helping me. THANK YOU!
  • + 1
 No worries @joesrepsol. I hope these exercises make a difference.
  • + 2
 so many exercises I did and got ideas from your videos, Abi (yoga girl), and it worked on my back pain, and etc. Thanks.
  • + 1
 Awesome @boyblue1973. Stick with it!
  • + 2
 You point the problem Abi..chronically tight hamstrings..i'll give the new exercises a good try..thanks
  • + 2
 I have a back roller now with these streches I can loosen up after a long ride. Thx abi
  • + 1
 This is so helpful. I could really use one of these that focuses on neck, upper back, shoulders and arms.
  • + 1
 I haven't biked in so long my hamies are ungodly tight.. That's what my physical therapist says
  • + 1
 My physical therapist says if I want to repair my torn tendon I'm gonna have to stop biking for a while... I wink and say "of course" and he just loses his shit
  • + 2
 Thank goodness for 7. and 8. - nice work Abs Wink
  • + 1
 They're good @Murbahman!
  • + 1
 I have had no issues with any muscles. Maybe it because I'm 27 or maybe because my muscles are so damn small.
  • + 3
 abi rules
  • + 1
 Because we're definitely here for the yoga... ????
  • + 0
 This should only have 600,000,000,000 views soon. This is the number one thing non stretchy cyclists should start doing.
  • + 1
 If I do the pigeon, there is almost a guarantee of my knee popping out...
  • + 1
 Be careful @TguzDH. If you're super tight, take it slow and never put yourself in position in which you experience pain. That is a sign you have to back off.
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