A Quick Test for Tight Hamstrings

There is much discussion about what constitutes tight hamstrings. What most people don’t understand is that the anatomy of the hamstring means that a short muscle can sometimes be mistaken for one that is “tight.” This muscle fiber shortening can be the result of immobilization or lack of movement, and it’s evidenced in people who have been non-weight bearing on one side after an injury. Here’s what to know about muscle tightness, plus a quick test for tight hamstrings.

True Tightness in Hamstring Muscles


If a hamstring is truly tight, it’s directly related to the neuromusculoskeletal system. It works like this – the brain detects instability in the body, and so it sends a message through the nervous system to increase tone in the hamstrings. It’s a defense mechanism, but a consequence can be a sensation that makes us want to stretch. That’s true even if the tightness is related to a need for stability.

A Quick Test

Testing for hamstring flexibility at the knee is simple. Follow these steps:

  • Begin on your back with one leg extended straight on the ground.
  • Bend the other knee to a 90 degree angle with the foot relaxed.
  • Slowly extend the leg of the knee that is bent. It should extend completely, or reach about 10 degrees shy of extension. Normal hamstring flexibility at the knee joint is 170 to 180 degrees.

If your test is positive, try looping a luggage strap or towel around the foot, and then repeat the test steps. It’s an effective way to stretch the hamstrings, which can help reduce injuries.

Questions about tight hamstrings, this test, or other aspects related to fitness and wellness? Contact the certified personal trainers here at Framework Personal Training in Reno today.

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