Holy Hamstrings!

Do you suffer from tight hamstrings?

It has been well established in the medical community that tight hamstrings are a primary contributor to low back pain. So, it’s critically important for riders to address these tight hamstrings and build greater mobility into our lower bodies.
Let’s take a look at why tight hamstrings can present such a problem for riders. The “hamstring” is actually a group of three muscles that stabilize the knee joint and allow for the extension of the leg behind the body (as we must in order to propel ourselves forward in walk). These muscles attach at the base of the pelvis, with the larger of the three muscles running down and attaching to the outside of the knee, while the other two attach at the inside of the knee.
If these muscles or the attaching tendons become shortened or lack normal mobility, it puts both the pelvis and the knee into tension, contributing to a tilted pelvis with reduced mobility through the entire lower back region. An individual may compensate for this tightness by bending over at the waist instead of from the hips, putting the low back under abnormal strain.
Add to this the complication that we sit on the actual muscle attachments at the pelvis in a chair, and we set ourselves up for a congested hamstring/pelvis attachment area, with reduced blood flow and nerve activity likely if you sit for long periods of time. This results in both weakness and lack of flexibility in these muscles and joints!
Why is this so important? Because as riders, we must be able to allow the movement of the horse to flow through our hips, pelvis and low back. Tightness in these areas will result in tightness in the horse’s back, and an inability on his/her part to move in a relaxed way while carrying us. Ideally, the every-so-slight momentary “holding” of our lower body (aka, half-halt) should act as a communication aid to the horse, so it’s got to be something we can also release or the horse will stiffen against the tension and lose its balance.
So how does one ensure that one’s hamstrings aren’t contributing to a tight seat in the saddle? By focusing on increased mobility of the entire lower body, including light static stretching of those muscles specifically. Too much static stretching of this area is not advisable, but any stretching through movement (such as during the “Crescent Pose Flow”, or the powerful “Hip opener” exercise) will be most effective for releasing tightness in the hamstrings. Fortunately, there are numerous exercises in the Ridefit program that address this tension and bring these joints into mobility. You can download some of these exercises here in our FREE exercise guides.
Pay close attention to your form during those exercises to ensure that you are getting the maximum benefit to those hamstrings! I’d love to hear from you what changes you notice in your hamstrings – and general lower body mobility – once you’ve tried out the Ridefit exercises. Release tension in those tight hamstrings, and ride fit!

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