Stiff hamstrings are a frequent issue that a huge number of athletes like sprinters, runners cyclists etc. but, most importantly, ordinary people who live a sedentary life tend to encounter. To deal with that issue, a series of hamstring stretches have been developed, rendering bigger flexibility of the muscles involved as well as offering alleviation from related problems, such as low back pain, sciatica or knee problems, thus upgrading a person’s overall health status.
Actually, the hamstring muscle is not a unified muscle but a group of muscles which run along the back of the thighs; hamstrings integrate the biceps femoris, the semimembranosus and the semitendinosus, which control the flexing of the knees and the extending of the hips. In a more widened aspect, hamstrings begin from the pelvis, occupy the whole length of the thighs and finish down to the lower part of the legs. Therefore, just by considering the size of that muscle group, it becomes evident that keeping your hamstrings toned and flexible can help you reach a better physical condition and avoid unpleasant situations.
Hamstring Stretching Exercises
As you may expect, the list of hamstring stretches is rather long, so a selection must be made depending on your needs or specific problems that you might be encountering, since it is impossible – and useless – to try and perform all of them. Also, especially in the start, and given that you are an ordinary person, it is likely that your hamstrings would be relatively tight, so your range of motion should be limited before it gets wider in the process. In that sense, here we will present you some basic hamstring stretches – don’t neglect to read our guide before trying any of them!
- A very common exercise for beginners, and perhaps the best hamstring stretch (an active/static one), is the seated hamstrings stretch (photo 1); during that, you sit on the floor with your hands placed on your thighs, your knees slightly bent; then, gently bend your core forward so as your hands to reach foward or beyond toes; in that position you will sense the stretch in your hamstrings.
- Another common of stretch for your hamstrings is the, active-static type, jack-knife stretch (photo 2) to perform it, assume a squat position with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands wrapping your ankles; now, start moving up by progressively extending your knees while trying to keep your upper core bent forward so that your chest remains in as greater touch with your thighs as possible during the move; when you feel the stretch in your hamstrings, stop and hold it there.
- One more, highly effective and comparatively simple passive/static stretch for these muscles is the standing hamstring stretch (photo 3), a great ; to do it, stand with your feet shoulder-width, with your right foot positioned some inches ahead of the left one and with its toes lifted; now gently bend your left knee pushing your stomach back to its inside while leaning forward from your hips and placing your palms on your left thigh to offer stability; if you do that right and remember to keep your heels pressed to the floor and not to curb your lower back, you should feel the stretch through your hamstring; once you finish, repeat with the other leg.
Watch the photos in the Photos & Videos section for better understanding! We should notice that you need to hold your stretches for at least 30 seconds; as your flexibility increases, maximize them gradually to finally achieve advanced flexibility. You can always different versions/types of the aforementioned streching exercises! For example you can apply an active color on the previously described standing hamstring stretch (by flexing your ankle – photo 4)!
Frequently stretching your hamstrings can give your overall health a nice elevation. More specifically:
It can prevent you from a potential injury in this area (hips, knees, ankles, toes etc.), as every stretching routine
- It improves the blood flow to your lower extremities
- It relaxes very tight hamstrings
- It is considered as an excellent remedy for many low back pain, sciatica, degenerative disc disease and Scheuermann’s disease issues, as it relieves the stress on the low back area caused by the tightness in the hamstrings
- Less stiff hamstrings can decrease the pressure applied on the patellar tendon, which is to blame for patellar tendonitis or the so called “jumper’s knee”
- Hip, sacroiliac and lumbar spinal joints get also benefited by hamstring stretches
What To Consider
- At the beginning, some of the exercises may be difficult to perform, but don’t let that discourage you
- Never skip a 5-10 minutes warm-up
- Always aim at feeling the stretch on your hamstrings, otherwise there is something wrong in your execution
- Do not stretch to the point of pain, this not your goal!
- Enter the stretches gently and remember to breathe normally
- Avoid bouncing!
- In case you have chosen hamstring stretching to relieve low back pain or sciatica, devote some time so as to find the proper position that will allow only a minimal discomfort from your back while still permitting you to complete your stretch
Photos & Videos
Watch the photos & video to get a better idea of the hamstring stretching possibilities:
Obviously, devoting some of your weekly time to stretch your hamstrings for 15-30 minutes can get you impressive results in terms of defeating the stiffness in that area and enabling you to accomplish a more limber lifestyle. Especially for those who spend a lot of their time sitting in front of a desk, on a couch or on a car’s seat for many hours daily, this type of stretching can render a major change in their lifestyle. Once again, please have a look at our DOs and DONT’s guide before you try any of the previously described stretches!
Category: Stretching specific Body Areas