Simple hamstring stretching exercises to get rid of tight hamstrings
Are you passionate about physical fitness? Do you work out in the gym regularly? If yes, you must know the importance of stretching. Stretching is nothing but the initial warm-up exercises that you do to prevent injuries resulting from workouts. It is very unfortunate that not many people realize the importance of stretching. Hamstring stretches, especially, are usually ignored, because they are located on the backside of the body. When you don’t do these stretches properly, you will experience tight hamstrings during workouts. This will create pressure on your pelvis. In this article, we are going to explain about some effective hamstring stretches and why they are very important for you.
Most of the exercises mentioned below are perfect for lower hamstring stretch and upper hamstring stretch as well.
1. Sitting Hamstring Stretch
- Keep your legs straight and sit on the floor
- Stretch your arms and come forward by bending your waist. Your knees should be straight when you do this.
- Stay in this position for about 30 seconds
- Go back to your original sitting position
- Repeat thrice for best results
- Stop immediately if you experience severe thigh strain or back pain
2. Towel Hamstring Stretch
- Lie on your back and lift up one thigh
- Support this thigh with your hand or wrap a towel around it
- Now straighten the knee of this leg in a position where your foot faces the ceiling
- Lift it up well so that you can feel the stretching sensation at the back of your thigh muscle
- When you are doing it for the first time, hold this position for about 10 seconds; you can slowly increase to 20 or 30 seconds too
3. Standing Hamstring Stretch
This is one of the best hamstrings stretches that you can try anywhere. This will help in the overall stability and balance of both of your legs. Here is how you have to do it:
- Stand erect and cross your right foot over your left
- Now bend down to such an extent where the levels of your forehead and right knee are equal; work on your waist as much as you can to bend well
- While bending, don’t bend your knees at all; they should be straight
- Stay in this position for about 15 to 30 seconds based on your convenience
- Take a small break and repeat this by crossing your left foot over your right
4. Wall Hamstring Stretch
- Lie back on the floor in a position where your buttocks are placed against the wall or a door
- Lift up one leg and place the raised leg’s foot against the wall; while raising your foot, ensure that your knee doesn’t bend
- Keep your other leg straight on the floor; the perfect position is one where the flat leg and the raised leg form a right angle; this angle indicates if you are doing the stretch correctly or not
- Stay in this position for about 20 seconds before you proceed to lift the other leg and repeat the process
5. Standing Hamstring Stretch (single leg exercise)
- Stand straight and rest one heel on a stool; ensure that both your knees are straight when you do this
- Raise your arms up above your head into the air and join your hands
- While raising your leg on a stool and raising your arms above, your back should be straight, and you should use your hips for moving forward
- While moving forward, ensure that you move till you feel a hamstring stretch behind your thigh
- Hold this stretch position for about 30 seconds and repeat this thrice before you proceed to raise the next leg
6. Hamstring Stretch with strap
- Lie on your back and tie a belt or strap around your foot
- Raise this foot up and keep the other leg down; you can bend the knee of the leg that you haven’t raised to get better control and feel comfortable during the stretch
- Keep the knee of the raised foot straight and pull the strap nicely until you feel a stretching sensation behind your knee
- Do this for about 20 seconds before you proceed to raise the other leg
7. Upper hamstring stretch
The forward fold is one of the great hamstrings stretches that experts recommend for the strengthening the upper hamstring.
- Stand with your feet apart and bend in the forward position, so that your hands reach towards your toes
- While bending down, your legs must be straight, but you don’t have to lock your knees
- Bend the level of your knees and hold this position for about 30 to 60 seconds to strengthen your hamstrings
Hamstring stretches –back pain relieving exercises
Good hamstring stretches are those that loosen your tight hamstrings and provide you immense relief during your long workout sessions. Most of the times, when hamstrings are tight and when pressure builds up in the pelvis area, the spinal cord is the one that is most affected. Many people experience back pain when they don’t take care of their hamstrings. Here are some simple exercises that are designed mainly to alleviate back pain:
Chair hamstring stretch
- You need two chairs for this exercise
- As you sit on one chair, stretch your leg out and place it on the second chair placed in front of your body
- Stretch your legs one at a time and reach forward to touch your toes without bending your knees
- Do this for about 20 to 30 seconds before you proceed to stretch your other leg
Kneeling Hamstring Stretch
- Kneel down on one knee
- Stretch the other leg in front of you and ensure that the heel of this leg touches the ground with the toes pointing upward
- Now reach forward to touch the toes of your stretched leg with one hand; you may balance yourself properly with the other hand
- Ensure that your leg is stretched as much as possible for optimum benefits
- Keep touching the toes for about 20 seconds; repeat this for three sets before you proceed to the other leg
Some tips for safe hamstring stretches
If you are looking for improved flexibility in your hamstrings and want to do your stretches safely, you need to follow these tips:
1. Don’t stretch too forcefully or too quickly
When you force hamstring stretches, it creates pressure on your muscle and leads to muscle tension. In a bid to make your hamstring muscles more flexible, don’t try to introduce too many new exercises or stretches. Learn a stretch thoroughly and introduce your body slowly to the same. Ensure that you take regular breaths in between and repeat the exercises as much as you can so that you get used to it.
2. Don’t be too hard on your knees
Yes, all the stretches that we have mentioned above have clearly mentioned that you should keep your knees straight. However, when you start off, don’t give this too much of importance. It is alright to bend your knees a bit if that makes you comfortable. When you are too rigid on your knees, it can create back aches for you, especially if you are a beginner.
3. Don’t approach your hamstrings directly
The best way to carry out effective hamstring stretches is to focus on your other muscles. One of the common mistakes that most of us commit is to directly focus on hamstring stretches without checking if the other muscles are flexible or not. Ensure that you do ample warm-up exercises to increase the mobility and flexibility of your neck, hip and calf muscles first, before proceeding to do even simple hamstring stretches.
4. Stick to the time limit for each stretch
In the hamstring stretches that we had mentioned in the previous paragraphs, you would have noticed that we have asked to you to hold a position for about 15 to 20 seconds. There is a reason why we have given that time limit. That’s the maximum flexibility that you should allow for your muscles to loosen your tight hamstrings. Never attempt to try a stretch for more than the suggested time, because it can impact your flexibility to a great extent. Longer time schedules should be done only when you are specifically asked to do so.
5. Consistency is the key
Ensure that you do good hamstring stretches for a few minutes every day to improve the flexibility and the range of motion of your hamstring muscles. Most people do stretch only before an intense workout, but that is wrong. Consistency is the key if you want to get maximum benefits from your hamstring stretches.
Some hamstring stretches that you should be aware of:
1. PNF Hamstring Stretch
PNF hamstring stretch is one of the most commonly used techniques today for improving the elasticity of the hamstrings. These type of stretches are mostly done by professional athletes and expert bodybuilders to improve the flexibility of their muscles, reduce the risk of chronic injuries and improve the overall quality of endurance during workouts. Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) is one of the most active hamstrings stretches as it contracts the opposing muscles. Experts recommend that this type of stretch should be done for about twice a week, after an intense physical workout. In this stretch, you have to contract and the stretch your hamstrings and hold that position for about 6 seconds for each leg. These stretches can be done with or without a partner.
2. High Hamstring Stretch
One of the best parts of about a high hamstring stretch is that you can choose the position that you want to place your body in, before doing these. These stretches can be done in a sitting, standing and lying down position as per your convenience. These stretches are highly recommended for women when they feel excruciating pain in their upper hamstrings.
Why do you need to hamstring stretches?
We saw in the above sections that hamstring stretches help you to improve the flexibility of your muscles. In this section, we are going to see why it is important for you to do hamstring stretches regularly.
1. Reduces back pain
When hamstring muscles become tight, they put additional strain on your back and give you spinal cord issues. This is why experts recommend you to do hamstring stretches. When you do these, your thigh muscles become relaxed and this, in turn, reduces the extra pressure on your lower back. Therefore, you will not experience back aches even when you work out for a longer time.
2. Lowers the risk of sciatica
When you feel a throbbing pain that starts with your buttocks and runs all the way down to your legs, it is known as sciatica. This pain is caused when the sciatic nerve is compressed. Hamstring stretches not only help to loosen the hamstring muscles, but they also help in reducing the pressure on the sciatic nerve. Therefore, you will find a marked improvement in this throbbing pain. The highlight of good hamstring stretches is that it helps the effects of the strain to stay in your body for a long time.
3. Reduces injuries
Why do coaches and experts insist on the importance of warm-ups and hamstring stretches before starting intense workouts? It is because these stretches help to improve the flexibility of the muscles, thereby reducing the stress on them. When you proceed to do workouts without doing the stretches, it may cause your muscles to tear. This results in chronic injuries, and it takes a long time for you to recover from these.
4. Improved blood circulation
When warm-ups and stretches are done properly, it helps in improved blood circulation all over the body. Therefore, the injury-prone areas like knees, lower back and thighs stay stress-free, when you proceed to do the right type of stretches at the right time. Also, these stretches require you to hold your position for a few seconds. This improves your breathing patterns to a great extent.