Why you might have tight hamstrings:
1) Genetics - born like that. Generally, women & kids are more flexible than men, and girls more than boys - which explains the different gymnastics events/skills the girls and the boys do!
2) Not enough stretching, or don't stretch right; if you do a lot of conditioning/workout, it's important to stretch afterwards so your muscles don't tighten up
3) If you have problems in your lower back it can be putting pressure on your sciatic nerve which runs down your legs and cause muscles to tighten.
How to improve flexibility:
1) Obviously by stretching!
2) Different kinds of stretching: dynamic (like leg kicks), static, passive, PNF and CRAC
The CRAC stretching is weird - we are always taught to relax when stretching!
[quote]Warm up gently either by a short run or lying on your back and pushing a straight leg down 20 times against light resistance.
Lie on back and get a partner to lift one leg up gently as far as it will go.
Contract - Push against resistance with a straight leg at 50% effort. The resistance must be great enough so that the leg cannot move.
Hold for 10 seconds
Relax and pull the leg up keeping it straight with the quadriceps muscles at the front of the legs (agonist).
Repeat the process until no more gains are possible (contract). [/quote]
Anyone's coach says to push against the pushing/stretching rather than just relax? Seems like that will cause you more likely to pull something! Maybe the difference is that gymnastics coaches push harder than what they are talking about here in the CRAC stretching!
3) Don't bounce or force when doing flexibility! It causes damage to the muscle and ligaments, tendons.
4) Sports massage to loosen tight muscles.
What problems can tight hamstrings cause?
1) More susceptible to tearing.
2) Can cause the hips and pelvis to rotate back flattening the lower back and causing back problems.
3) Perhaps not perform as well:
[quote]If your muscles have tightened up then blood has been squeezed out of them therefore your muscles are working at less than 100 % of capacity and your performance will be down as a result. Regular sports massage and stretching to improve muscle condition will not only reduce the likelihood of injury but may improve performance. [/quote]
No wonder you can watch a lot of the elite gymnasts' coaches massaging their legs before, during, and after competition - it helps as you could guess. At nationals they showed Nastia Liukin's dad massaging her legs while she was standing. Svetlana Khorkina's coach massaged her legs lying down during one of the competitions. Divers do it too.
"What do you do for lower back pain?"
"best way to get better splits/flexibility?"