Stop Stretching Your Hamstrings, Please!

Want to know how many golfers we see trying to improve their golf game by stretching their hamstrings? I can hardly count that high!

Want to know how many golfers have improved their performance both on and off the course by stretching their hamstrings? ZERO.

The point of this blog is to talk specifically about stretching hamstrings and why it is almost guaranteed to be a complete waste of your time, how it may actually decrease your performance on the golf course, and how we approach the problem of “tight hamstrings” and other tight muscles in a slightly different way, that is guaranteed to give you results.

First, let’s talk about the hamstrings themselves. The hamstrings attach from below your knee to the bottom of your hip. They not only help move your knee, but also help your pelvis move. When people go to touch their toes, and can’t, their first complaint is often the discomfort felt behind their knees or in the backs of their legs, and frequently, people try to bend their knees to go down further. What they often don’t connect is that this is not a knee problem, it’s a pelvis problem. As you bend forward, your pelvis should be going into what is called Posterior Pelvic Tilt, which actually causes less tension on your hamstrings and allows you to keep the knees straight while going downwards. 

Because people don’t realize this, they work on contorting their legs in different ways to keep the knee straight and bend forward, in turn focusing only on the knee aspect of hamstring movement.

Further, let’s assume that the hamstrings are tight. Stretching is one of the last things we actually want to do to make them feel better! Static stretching has been shown to have negative effects on sprinters, and a study was even performed comparing static stretching to dynamic stretching and even nothing in golf performance (Moran, 2009). Hint – static stretching was “just as good” as…doing nothing! It also significantly decreased performance outputs such as swing speed and ball contact compared to dynamic stretching. Another study supports this – they found a 4% decrease in club speed after performing a 20-minute static stretching routine. That equates to about a 12-yard decrease for someone who usually swings 100 mph – practically an entire club length!

Instead, our team at Par4Success is going to evaluate your entire body to figure out precisely why your hamstrings are tight, beyond that, we can even tell if that is causing issues in your golf game or not! Almost every muscle is connected in some way, and without knowing these connections and doing the proper assessments, you cannot make simplistic conclusions that “I cannot touch my toes because my hamstrings are tight.”

What we most often find is that people these days, both golfers and regular folks, are locked in what is called Anterior Pelvic Tilt. You might observationally notice this by a more pronounced curve in someone’s low back. Anterior Pelvic Tilt can be caused by a lot of different things, and can be a result of a lot of different movements (or lack thereof). The important part is to realize it is happening, determine a cause, and understand how it is affecting your golf swing.

This is why we combine movement tests designed to challenge your flexibility with a biomechanical swing analysis and lastly, strength tests designed to understand how well and strongly you can move your body. Without these three physical evaluation aspects, and without a proper plan to address the deficits found in these tests, you could be completely wasting your time or even negatively impacting your performance on the course! If you want to try some of these assessments for yourself at home, or if you can’t make it into our facility in Raleigh, NC, check out our revamped Home Assessment tool, which can show you how well you perform on the flexibility tests that matter for golf!

References:

Moran, K. A., et al. “Dynamic stretching and golf swing performance.” International journal of sports medicine 30.02 (2009): 113-118.