It’s a little embarrassing when a friend 10 years your senior (and you are already middle-aged) can beat you in just about any athletic endeavor. But I have such a friend who, when she finishes one triathlon or adventure race, immediately trains for the next. Although she can kick my butt, she was having problems kicking her own, so to speak, when she asked me for help. In training for an upcoming half marathon, she felt her hamstrings were getting tight because her stride was getting shorter. Her healthy hip flexion with bent knees suggested the restriction might instead be coming from the hamstring-gastrocnemius connection (what I call the hamstroc) where the two muscles interlock like a square knot on the back of the thigh just above and below the knees. When the leg straightens, they pull against each other, when the knee bends, they let go.

I showed her Sitting Seza adapted for the balls. We placed one therapy ball in the middle of her calves about an inch or two below the backs of her knees (warning: never in the hollow behind the knee!). She sat back on her heels, toes tucked under (ankles in dorsiflexion), and shifted her weight side to side to cross fiber the heads of the gastrocnemius and the semimembranosus. The wide bunny-eyed look she gave me suggested we were on the right track. We did the same thing in plantar flexion.

She didn’t thank me at the time, but later that day, after her 9 mile training run, I got a very nice email saying she felt great and knew this calf and hamstring exercise was going to help relieve her tight hamstrings. Here it is below:

Check out the Yoga Tune Up exercises and pain relief options for your hamstrings on our website.

Watch our free 5 minute foot and ankle video.

Check out our Post athletic stretch DVD

Christine Jablonski

I believe most people who end up in the fitness profession are trying to heal themselves. Fifteen years ago I sought out SPIN to rehabilitate a full knee reconstruction. Ten years ago I started Pilates to help me recover from a horseback riding accident. More recently, as still-young age and old injuries caught up with me, I began a restorative and Kripalu yoga practice. In every instance, with every discipline, I've experienced a moment of “ahhh....I want to make everyone feel this good.” And so began my path toward fitness studio ownership where I could keep my classes small and focused on my client's journeys from injury, through healing, and on to strength. In addition to figuring out how my clients and I could feel even better (as well as look better in our jeans), curiosity about human biomechanics led me to study with Helena Collins of Life in Synergy, Sadie Nardini of Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga, and of course, Jill Miller. Combing the knowledge from these tremendous teachers with my strong Pilates background has enabled me to create exceptionally effective programs for my clients, who range from joint replacement patients needing post-physical therapy help to the “uninjured” wanting stronger, better aligned bodies so they can experience life to the fullest.

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Kimberly McWilliams

Very helpful for class prep, thank you!

Patty

I am also a runner and came to yoga as a way to manage/prevent injury. I have a slight tear in one hamstring and the other leg is tight as well. I also have tight calf muscles and never associated some of my hamstring pain could be coming from this situation. I can now include in my daily routine to protect my hamstrings and my client’s as well. Thank you!

Megan

This is fantastic! Thanks for adapting a YTU pose for the therapy balls. Despite the fact that this is very painful and I can barely sit back on the balls, I know I need to continue with this. Thank you for sharing!

Saori

Thank you Christine for posting! I’m a marathon runner so this is very helpful! I love the “Hamstroc” release exercises 🙂

Helen

I love love love your word “hamstroc”! I am totally stealing it ? I’ excited to try this technique with a couple of my really tight clients. Curious – has anyone tried using plus balls for this?

Jayme

Although I proudly wear the moniker of least bendy yogi ever (when it comes to hamstrings) I am always on the look out for new methods of improving my ROM. This YTU move looks like just the thing…I may also assimilate the term hamstroc. Thanks for the great video!

Brittany Brie

I love this idea. I’m going to try it with a client i have tomorrow. Amazing how you can change it up by adding the balls for a different effect.

Annette Allen

I have eluvsion of semi membranous and semitendendous of my right hamstring, as well as a ACL ligament replacement in my right knee. So not only do I always feel impbalanced , but my right gastrocnemius compensates for my weak hamstring group. I am excited about this exercise to see if it gives me the feedback I need to rebuild and maintain my mind muscle connection in this area. Thanks.

Tim

Hi Christine,
The video clip is great! I can’t wait to start using this method.
Hamstrings, pelvic tilt, and knees are problem areas for me.

Sheena Nadeau

Sitting seza plus YTU therapy balls? Brilliant! and so painful! Great idea, thank you for sharing!

Alison Miller

I have both tight hamstrings and calf muscles so I cannot wait to try this technique later tonight. As an avid runner and yogi I try to balance out my life however hamstrings need a bit more work! Thank you!

Martha

WOW! Thank you for sharing this. My hamstrings are very tight, I can especially feel it when I am in downward dog or in forward bend. I think this ball rolling technique an inch or two below my knees on the backs of my calfs will really help! I am always wanting new hamstring stretches and think this one will be powerful in allowing me more flexibility in the poses I am working on.

Patricia

I tried this tonight in Sitting Seza and moved around a little; mostly I sat on my balls, released then sat back down.

Doing this may make Sitting Seza bearable ….

Sonia

I have both tight hamstrings and calves I definitely need to try this technique, great idea. 🙂

Beth Trimark-Connor

Laaahhhhhhhove! Love breaking up the crustaceans, deep lovely barnacles around these magnificent muscles!!!! I do this with a foam roller but tis is so much better….GOOD usage of balls!

Colleen Alber

Hamstroc!! Love it. This is a great use of the YTU therapy balls for relieving calf and hamstring tightness. Even as a stander/walker/jogger, I felt instant relief when I tried it. Can’t wait to share with my running students, family and friends AND fellow yogis desperate to go deeper in triangle.

Emma McAtasney

Oh this is fantastic! Thank you! This is one of the areas I feel the most pull when in a forward fold. Very excited to try this tomorrow morning. I have been experiencing a pulling feeling at my sit bones so I’m hoping this release lower down will have an effect higher up :). I stupidly pushed too far and aggravated an old injury. Now for a more informed recovery and practise.

Ann

LOL at the “wide bunny-eyed look”!! Not only have I seen it, I’ve done it myself in this pose. I have tight calves and find this one really useful for getting a little release. I just need to do it more often!

Elizabeth

I love when an informative blog is paired with a short and descriptive video. Thank you! I’m curious to know why one shouldn’t place the ball in the hollow of the knee? Does it create a separation between the femur and tibia putting strain on the ligaments?

Sofia Zinovyev

I cant wait to try this! This sounds such a great prep posture for warrior 3. Activating the awareness of the ankle muscles as well as stretching the hamstrings. I will try this in class soon!

Merissa

This post and video is so helpful! I’m looking forward to do this tomorrow morning before my run. Going through YTU has made me realize just how tight my hamstrings are.

Amalea Fisher

Thanks for the great video! I hadn’t thought about putting two toted balls behind on the calves. I’ll make sure to give it a try next time.

Anastasia

I have a client in his 60s who has been running marathons for years. He never goes to full extension in his stride and his knees are permanently bent. We have been doing isometric quad contractions and a lot of PNF hamstring stretches, and I can’t wait to have him try this! I have a feeling this will help tremendously, even though he might not like me very much initially.Love the name btw, hamstroc 🙂

Heather Lindsay

I love calf work! It transforms my posture by changing my gait.

Colleen

Wow! I never thought of the “hamstroc” in connection to my tight hamstrings because I feel the most tightness in my hamstrings during forward folds and other yoga poses. This is really helpful. This Yoga Tune Up ball routine “hurts so good.” This post was also useful in thinking about how both the hamstrings and calves are used in knee flexion- does this mean a wider Warrior II could be in my future?

will cristobal

thanks for the tip. i just broke out my YTU balls and gave this rub a try. ahhhhhhh…

Cheryl

So interesting — I studied ballet for years and years — and the very militant school that I studied at believed in building up the calf muscle — the common Russian methodology. Nothing long and lean here — plump it up. I could balance for days, do 4 pirhouettes and land softly, and jump comparable to the men in the class. Envious weight-lifting men would stop me on the street in awe of my calves in my 20’s and 30’s — for real. So now what? Tight hamstrings are like my calling card, and i want to cry in poses… Read more »

Overstretching Can Affect Athletic Performance | Yoga Tune Up

[…] your early morning run, you step outside in the brisk cold and start to stretch your calves and hamstrings to prepare for your long run.  After your run, you take some time to again stretch those same […]

Yoga Tune Up® Tips for Tight Inner Thighs & Groin Injuries | Yoga Tune Up

[…] she finds tremendous displeasure in Twisted Triangle.  To further complicate matters of mobility, tightness in the hamstrings can impact the suppleness in the sides of the legs, and vice versa.  If any of these areas are […]

Theresa van Vugt

I have searched and researched so many methods of release for tight hamstrings. It wasn’t until yoga tune up and now this video that it flagged the connecting points in the gastroc – it’s so easy to thing of the hamstring connection above the back of the knee, not below. I just got up and tried this after reading the blog and absolutely “felt” the release. I’m a little sore this morning and it also helped to just sit back into the balls, without moving, to let the muscle release under the pressure, before I began to move.

Jane

I am a runner new to Yoga Tune Up and I cannot wait to try this. Tight hamstrings have really had their way with me and my yoga practice and this looks like it could be the key! YAY!

Tiffani

Genius! I can’t wait to try this. So often clients complain about tight hamstrings, yes I also believe there can be other contributing factors. However sometimes it does come down to this sensitive area and what a simple way to break apart adhesions.

Dawn McCrory

This is a fantastic release for the hamstroc area. I use it regularly with my clients. I haven’t really paid attention to foot position and have instructed them to do what is comfortable. But I totally see the value in doing this ball rolling with both dorsiflexed and plantarflexed ankles. Don’t know why I didn’t consider it before. Thanks for the great idea!

Elissa Strutton

I love the visual you created with the hamstring-gastrocnemius connection as a square knot and how the movement of the knee joint allows the tension at the connection to release with flexion or increase with extension. The use of the YTU balls to cross fiber the heads of the gastrocnemius and semimembranosus sounds intense, but effective. Thanks for posting!

Kate Hall

When doing Warrior I I always feel the most tension & resistance in the “hamstroc.” Thank you Christine for your insight. I spent some quality time this weekend with my Tune-up balls investigating that place where the hamstring and gastroc come together, and so far this week I have found greater freedom in my legs while practicing Warrior I.

Lana

Super-helpful! Thank you. I’m working on the same problem right now (even though I’m not a runner). I see I need to learn more about the ‘hamstroc’.

Dana

Awesome tip since I have both tight hamstrings & calves. Gonna try this out!

Heather C

Yes tight hamstrings can be disastrous in so many ways especially knees as they assist in knee flexion as do the gastroc muscles as well. Then moving on up the biceps femoris also play a role in helping with hip extension. Being a fellow victim of tight hamstrings it has definitely awakened my empathy with others and how to help resolve this problem. Especially since the hamstrings assist with hip stabilizaiton. I love this exercise you suggest which is wonderful for plantar fasciitis as well! I wonder how the antagonist muscle comes into play the vastus lateralis if this is… Read more »

Jocelyn Larson

What a great way to utilize the balls! I am also in the same boat as your friend, constantly brutalizing my body and my really shortened hamstrings are a true reminder of that. It is important to tune in the the possible reasons that these muscles could be extremely tight and the answer is not always found in the most obvious places. I have tuned in to the antagonist muscles of the hamstrings, the quadriceps and found extreme tightness there as well. The bodies muscles work inconjunction with one another so it is important to see what is going on… Read more »

Bernadette

I’m studying Yoga Tune Up as part of the 200 Hour Yoga Teacher Training Course. Tight hamstrings have limited my ability to go deeper in certain yoga poses and has affected my running, so this article is especially helpful.

Christine

Hi Addison. Rolling the therapy balls mid-hamstring while the leg is straight can flick the sciatic nerve, as it is already under tension, so we tend not to do that with the therapy balls. Having said that, check out Kelly Starrett’s Mobility Wod site. He’s got fabulous videos for knees and hamstrings, and does use the therapy balls in the mid-hamstring, but sitting on a box so the knee is bent and the hamstring/sciatic nerve are slack. Personally, I use a foam roller on my hamstrings. Good luck–with your Hammies and your teacher training! Your are in great hands with… Read more »

Addison G

I have been searching for a good hamstring release and have not had much luck. This pose nearly made me scream! I think I found where alot of my tightness is in my legs. I know working the attachments of the muscles makes for great releases but are there any central hamstring ball therapy poses I could try? Or maybe higher in the hamstrings where the thigh attaches to the hips? Thank you!

Cameron

WOW! Another one of those YTU ball exercises that made me wince – but what a difference! I definitely saw a difference in my practice after trying this exercise – thank you!

Laurie

Fantastic! As I’ve gotten older I have noticed a problem with my hamstring flexibility. I always thought the problem came from the mid to the top of the hamstring. After watching the video and using the balls I definately felt a difference. It felt great! Thank you for the info and I look forward to sharing it with my future students.

Jamie

This was a super helpful article for me to read. I have tight hamstrings that effect all of my yoga postures, so like Bella said, I am going to try this as well. I notice that when I do the necessary work of properly stretching my hamstrings, I get further in my physical yoga practice. Thanks for this.

Cari Devine Bjelajac

This rings sooo true! Sometimes it is hard to pinpoint the exact root of the injury because so many muscles are a team… hamstroc… clever!

This is a great way to help clients with their pain, but also teach them about their bodies and empower them to find out more. Great piece!

Bella

This is interesting. I always have to bend my knees when doing a hip flexion so I am going to try this.