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Best Hamstring Stretch To Improve Flexibility


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Whether from exercise, or even more commonly, from sitting at a desk all day, tight hamstrings are a common issue. Stretching these muscles out is important because they affect the lower back, knees, and hips; tight hamstrings can possibly lead to injury while doing physical activity, or even problems that don’t arise until later such as back and knee pain.

To keep yourself in the best shape, stretching is an essential and often neglected part of an exercise program. We have five experts weigh in with their recommendations on the best stretches to keep your hamstrings from feeling tight.

Best Hamstring Stretch #1 – Standing Stretch

marc perry

The hamstrings are a tricky muscle because the tightness of your hamstrings is likely affected by hip positioning and musculature. With that said, to directly target the hamstrings, I like to stretch them out while standing up and extending one leg out on a platform, or ideally, a bar that is around chest height for a deeper stretch. Stretching your hamstrings while standing up is dynamic because you can alter the toe position of your back foot, which changes the stretch. In addition, a simple way to make the stretch more intense is to slowly twist your body in the direction of the extended leg while reaching with the opposite arm. For example, if you are standing with your right leg extended, you can reach toward your foot with your left hand while twisting your body to the right. Like any static stretch, do this under control.

- Marc Perry ,CSCS, CPT

Best Hamstring Stretch #2 – Supine Hamstring Stretch

Kristin Rooke

Downward facing dog, or a supine hamstring stretch. I like down dog because you can make the stretch dynamic by moving through a few vinyasas. Start in a high plank on your hands and toes. Without moving your hands or feet, just press your hips back towards the wall behind you as you lengthen your heels to the ground. Try not to round your spine. Reach your tailbone to the sky and take nice deep breaths. Inhale forward to a plank, exhale press back to down dog. Breathe into it and you’ll find more length.

- Kristin Rooke

Best Hamstring Stretch #3 – Fire Up The Glutes

john leyva

Strengthening your anterior core (deep abs musculature) and getting your glute muscles to fire correctly are probably my favorite method for “stretching the hamstrings.” Hamstrings are usually too tight for a variety of reasons, but most people that sit all day have “tight hamstrings” because they are sitting in a rounded position for hours on end, while simultaneously not truly activating their glutes while working out. This causes their hamstrings to take on a brunt of the work that they weren’t intended to handle. By getting people to work their butt muscles more, while strengthening the anterior core, you allow the pressure to be taken off the hamstrings and back onto the core musculature and glutes, where it belongs.

- John Leyva

Best Hamstring Stretch #4 – Triplanar Stretch

Stephen Bergeron

I like to use a triplanar stretch when targeting the hamstring group. I have found that the easiest one to perform is done using a yoga strap or belt. Lie on your back and loop one end of the strap around one of your feet. Keeping both knees locked and your toes back towards your head, pull the band back until you feel a stretch through your calf and hamstring. Hold this position for 20 seconds then move the leg outside your body making sure to keep your back flat. Hold for another 20 seconds. Finally, move the leg across your body. It is important to keep your butt flat on the ground. Hold for another 20 seconds then switch legs and repeat.

- Stephen Bergeron

Best Hamstring Stretch #5 – Reposition The Pelvis

miguel aragoncillo

There are a couple schools of thought when stretching the hamstrings: relieving tension or that tight feeling when you bend down to touch your toes, and achieving true “length” in your hamstring muscles. I’m not the biggest believer in just tugging on hamstrings to achieve either thought process, but I do believe in repositioning the pelvis in order to achieve both.

We can first relieve the tonicity of the hamstring muscle group by relieving what is often called anterior pelvic tilt. We can accomplish this through a number of different methods – whatever you choose is entirely up to you. If that doesn’t clean up the malady, then perhaps we truly have “short” muscles, not just tight ones. And in this case, I would recommend simply laying on your back, grabbing a rope or band, wrapping it around your foot, and hoist your leg straight in the air until you feel tension. Hold for a lengthy duration!

- Miguel Aragoncillo

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9 Responses to “Best Hamstring Stretch To Improve Flexibility”

  1. Hank
    March 15, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

    I like the variety of stretches given in this article. However, I would think it might be better if they were given to target certain hamstring problems or associated conditions. If they were more specific in terms of what part of the hamstrings or other muscle groups would be best targeted with what kind of stretch. I know that the stretch with the towel or rope lying down and standing stretch were given to me for a lower back strain by a physical therapist and that worked. I had trouble following the downward dog and never heard the term “vinyasas.”

    • March 24, 2013 at 9:25 pm #

      Thanks for the feedback, Hank. That’s very helpful. I think a separate article and video on hamstrings stretching 101 would probably be best, then we can link to this best of post. I do plan on doing a lot more videos soon.

  2. Sree
    March 15, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

    A very enlightening article Mark! I was amazed to learn that a sedentary activity such as siting actually causes hamstrings to become tight! My personal favorite is a stretch where the individual can stand and slightly bend one leg while extending the other at angle such that your foot is on your heel and the toe is in the air. By leaning over and touching the toes with the same side hand (right hand touching right leg extended etc.) it gives me great relief. Just following the Built Lean articles and the tips they offer has had a great change in my lifestyle and food choices. I am right now on the wall about choosing the program because I’m concerned i cannot stick to the strict dietary requirements for the evening. Any suggestions?

    • March 15, 2013 at 10:02 pm #

      @Sree – Happy to hear you are enjoying the articles. I wish I could give you one simple suggestion that would change everything, but ultimately, I think it’s a mindset. I like to think the program I developed can help you create the right mindset so that you can make tough nutrition changes. In my opinion, a combination of nutrition guidelines that you follow, focusing on foods that fill you up without providing too many calories, and patience can make a big difference.

  3. Brett
    March 15, 2013 at 7:29 pm #

    Hi Mark

    Can you please do a video showing these stretches. I have office worker syndrome and hence very tight hams.

    Cheers
    Brett

    • March 15, 2013 at 10:07 pm #

      @Brett – thanks very much for the suggestion. I’m dying to get back to doing videos in a big way, I just think it will take another 1-2 months. I’ve been backed up with a lot projects like handling and improving our customer support (I guess that’s a good problem to have!), making improvements to the BuiltLean Program, and continued website refinements, but I will definitely get back to doing videos for sure and thank you very much for the encouragement! I really enjoy them and can’t wait to do more.

  4. Jorge
    March 15, 2013 at 10:53 pm #

    Mark,
    Perhaps instead of videos a couple of simple pictures.
    Thanks for all your advice and tips.
    Jorge

  5. brady
    March 16, 2013 at 10:24 am #

    An interesting article. Some guidance on static stretch hold times (30 sec, 1 min, 10 min…?) necessary to make significant flexibility gains would be appreciated. Some advice about static vs dynamic stretches for loosening up the tight “office worker” hamstrings would be a welcome addition to this article too.

    • March 24, 2013 at 9:29 pm #

      @Brady – Somewhere around 15-30 seconds is considered ideal for a static stretch. This helps the muscle relax and elongate. Dynamic stretching is ideal before a workout, whereas static stretching is ideal after to help increase overall range of motion.

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