Sore after a long run or lower-body workout? Did you stand for too long and feel the tightness working its way up the back of your leg? Do you finally want to be able to bend over and touch your toes without experiencing agony? These hamstring stretches will help loosen your up in all the right ways!
Tight hamstrings are a very common problem caused by tight glutes or hip flexors. Overuse from intense activities, or even sitting for too long, can cause stiffness or aching in the back of the thigh. When you regularly stretch your hamstrings, the muscle groups located at the back of the thigh, you may help prevent injury and improve flexibility. Additionally, stretching your hamstrings may also improve overall mobility and relieve lower back pain.
According to experts, a general hamstring flexibility program can help improve the way your hamstrings move. If the following stretches seem beneficial for you, go ahead and try them out, but be sure to listen to your body and don’t over-stretch. Should you want to discuss these stretches with a physical therapist or healthcare professional, you can do that as well to ensure they are safe and effective for you.
Simple Hamstring Stretch
This is the best place to start, but proceed with caution if you have low back pain or sciatica as it may place strain on the back. That is why you have to try your best to hinge at the hips and keep your back flat during the stretch. To do the stretch, sit on the floor with both legs extended out straight. Reach your arms forward toward your feet, hinging at the hips and keeping your back straight. Aim to keep your knees straight as well. Once you feel a stretch in your hamstrings, hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat two more times.
Hurdler Hamstring Stretch
This is very similar to the previous stretch, only this isolates the stretch to one leg at a time. Sit on the floor with your right leg extended straight out. Bend your left leg and bring the sole of your left foot to your right inner thigh. This mimics the position of a hurdler leaping over a hurdle. Reach your arms forward toward your right foot, hinging at the waist and keeping your back straight. When you feel a stretch, hold that position for 10 to 20 seconds before returning to the starting position. Repeat on the other leg.
Lying Hamstring Stretch
If you overexert your leg muscles, this is an excellent stretch to do during your cool down session. You’ll need a resistance band for this stretch, but you can also use a towel if you don’t have a band. Lie flat on your back and loop a towel or resistance band around the ball of your right foot. Grab the towel or band firmly with your hands. Extend your left leg out in front of you and slowly stretch your right leg up, extending the sole of your right foot toward the ceiling. Aim to keep both knees straight. Relax your right ankle and pull the towel or band to stretch your calf and hamstring. Hold this stretch for one minute and then switch sides.
Downward Dog Bend & Stretch
A lot of yoga poses help to improve hamstring mobility, and that is especially true for this variation of downward dog. Begin on all fours in a tabletop position, stacking your shoulders directly over your wrists and hips over your knees. Lift your hips up and back and straighten your legs to enter downward dog. Get comfortable in this position and do your best to widen your shoulders and keep your back straight. Bend both knees a little and reach your tailbone toward the ceiling. Hold this position for three breaths before straightening your legs to enter downward dog again, where you’ll hold for three breaths. That is one repetition and you should aim to do five to 10 reps.
Standing Forward Fold
This forward fold is an easy hamstring stretch that uses gravity to achieve a deeper stretch. Just like in the simple hamstring stretch, proceed with caution in this pose if you have a sore low back. Alternatively, choose another stretch from this list that is better for your back. Stand up straight with your feet hip-distance apart. On an inhale, extend your arms overhead and hold for a moment. As you exhale, hinge at the hips to fold forward. Aim to touch your hands to the ground, but only go as far as you can without bending your knees. If you cannot reach your toes, place your hands on your shins and rest in that position. If you want to deepen your stretch, bend your arms and grab your elbows, allowing gravity to do the work. You can also engage your quadriceps to deepen the stretch. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and then return to the starting position.