The Sit, Hip, & Ham Bones.
Let's start off by acknowledging that these 3 terms are as "real" as a term defined in the Urban Dictionary. But, I hear them all the time in my training space...
Sit Bone: The bottom part of the pelvis - specifically, the portion that bears weight when seated.
Hip Bone: Technically, it's the whole wing of the pelvis, but we typically refer to it as just tip of the pelvis that we may or may not be able to see when we suck in our stomach.
Ham Bone: Defined as having tight and painfully inflexible hamstrings to the point where they feel they are more likely to be broken (bone) than stretched (fascia).
These three are all closely interconnected, as the movement and position of the pelvis is directly related to the musculature that supports it. Specifically, I'm going to discuss hamstrings for a few reasons:
1). Super common. A "tight" or "tricky" hammy seems to represent the majority of questions/concerns I receive from my remote (web-based) clientele.
2). Largely misunderstood. Tight hamstrings are most often ignored by self-coached strength regimens because they are already "strong and engaged." SPOILER ALERT: Chronically tight musculature generally fails in strength tests and is highly prone to injury.
3). Applicable elsewhere. "Stretching them a lot" rarely mitigates hammy issues, nor does it generally improve hip mobility or performance. The relationship between your hip musculature is similar to most other joint systems in terms of balance and position - i.e. your pecs as they relate to the shoulder.
Let's chase back up the neuromuscular chain to discover how your chronically tight hamstrings may have started:
Let's say your neck is out of alignment from bending over your phone (or your aerobars for that matter). A forward skeletal imbalance is going to cause an anterior muscular overload - chest, hip flexors, and quads - for counterbalance. Tight pecs, flexors, and quads are going to impact shoulder functioning, glute functioning, and overall postural strength resulting in neck and lower back pain, decreased ROM/joint mobility, and you may have guessed it, uncomfortably tight hamstrings. Go ahead, you can call them Ham Bones.
If this is sounding all too familiar, let's think about the bigger picture - namely, what's the fix?
It may be counterintuitive, but if a muscle is chronically TIGHT, or habitually WEAK, you've got to look to the surrounding structure - bones, muscles, tendons, fascia, etc. - rather than to pound that area with foam rolling, stretching, or increased weight in the gym. I once heard this phrase from Erin Carson, CSCS and SE expert out of Boulder, and I'll never forget it, as she so simply stated the rule of thumb for this concept:
"STOP PISSING OFF ALREADY PISSED OFF TISSUE."
Potential Solution #1: Try on a little ILS.
That's right... get your chin up and lift your chest. Rotate those shoulder blades into your back pockets and zip up into your very best posture. It feels great to stand tall and move confidently, and I promise that if you can get your HEAD in great alignment to your shoulders and hips, your hamstrings are going to move better.
When your head tilts forward for hours on end, so do the corresponding discs of the vertebrae and affecting and/or pinching a vital communication channel all the way down to your SI joint. There is no pain like that generated from the sciatic nerve - hip to heel. You're going to want to blame it on your hamstrings, but they are the effect, not the cause.
Potential Solution #2: The nearest exit may be behind you.
There is a technical term for this which is worth noting, but not remembering, as in my experience, it's never once come up at a Trivia Night. Stand up (like, right now...) and try to touch your toes. Bad? Now, take 20-30sec and stretch your right and left hip flexor and try again. Better? Because your hip flexors were locked, they were preventing your hamstrings from moving well by jamming movement from your Hip Bones.
Potential Solution #3: Cookie bellies, muffin tops, and The Paunch.
We're talking abs - specifically the area from your ribs to your undercarriage, as our bodies compensate both for carrying extra weight and to hide the weakness - tilting the pelvis as a compensatory adjustment.
Specifically, either your Sit Bones rotate "up" and your Hip Bones tuck "under" (Anterior Tilt: Hip flexors are shortened and tight; Hamstrings are lengthened and eccentrically loaded)
OR, your Sit Bones rotate "under" and our Hip Bones rotate "up" (Posterior Tilt: Hip flexors are lengthened and weak; Hamstrings are shortened and tight).
TRANSLATION: Hammies always feel stressed when your pelvis is out of alignment. Work on your core!
Potential Solution #4: Stretch. :)
There. I said it. Stretching is by no means a cure-all or a remedy, but it should be used as a tool in your toolbox, man cave, or she-shed. The most surprising piece of news is that you don't (and likely shouldn't) have to apply stretching evenly. A training goal should always include structural balance, which may include mobilizing your body parts somewhat uniquely based upon whatever (nature and/or nurture) has caused the imbalance.
As for potential solution #4, this is a HUGE topic. I'll spend more time on it in my next post! In the meantime, let's get to work on those Ham Bones.