Tight hamstrings can cause a lot of problems. Whether it’s mobility, postural problems, or just being more predisposed to injury they definitely need to be loosened up. So, if you’re looking to get loosened up then you need the right stretches to make sure that you’re getting there.
Let’s explore some of the best hamstring stretches together.
1. Sitting Toe Reach
It’s probably most people’s least favorite stretch, but that’s mainly because of the prevalence of tight hamstrings.
Sit on the floor and reach for your toes. You’ll feel the muscle tighten as you get closer, and few people can comfortably hold their toes the first few times they do the stretch.
For a slightly different experience, you can fold one leg in and reach for the toes with both hands on the straightened leg. Rinse and repeat with the other.
Try to hold the maximum position during your stretch for 30-60 seconds. You should be slightly uncomfortable, not in actual pain. If it’s too painful to hold for half a minute then you need to back off until you’ve progressed further.
2. Lying Hamstring Stretch
Lie on your back and place your feet on the ground with your knees bent. Then, pull your leg back towards your chest with your hand placed beneath your hamstring.
Pull to a position which is tight, but not painful, and hold the stretch for 10-30 seconds. Repeat it on the other leg.
If you’re feeling particularly ambitious you can use a strap to bring your leg back and keep it straight. Push your foot into the strap and bring your leg back, holding straight while pushing outwards to keep your leg straight.
Once again you’ll want to hold for 10-30 seconds before repeating on the other leg.
Some people even use a wall to do this stretch. You can bring your leg into position against a corner in your home and move the other leg past. Go easy if you choose to do it this way, you won’t be able to release immediately and it’s much easier to injure yourself than with the freestanding variants.
3. Standing Hamstring Stretch
This is an easy one, but you’ll also want to be careful what you use as it’s relatively easy to overdo if you’re not careful.
Place your foot and lower leg on a desk, chair, bed, or any other surface of appropriate height. Then, lean forward and reach for your toes.
Your goal is to touch your torso to your leg, but most people won’t be able to do this immediately. Just slowly work up to it over a long period of time instead. Hold the stretch for 30-60 seconds before you switch legs.
Higher surfaces will make this exercise harder, while lower ones will make it easier. For a beginner with normal hamstring mobility, something waist height is a good idea. Advanced people may want to go a couple of inches above and those with particularly tight hamstrings will want to try something lower like a chair to begin with.
You should be able to easily get your leg off of the surface when you’re done. If it’s hard enough to require you to use your hands then rethink your overall approach.
4. Towel Stretch
While sitting with your legs straight loop a towel, band, or even a t-shirt over your foot.
Then, lift your hamstring to a good stretching position, maintaining tension on the towel. Hold your foot in the upright position for 10-30 seconds then repeat the stretch on your other leg.
You need to make sure you keep your back straight throughout the stretch.
The towel stretch is a great way for those with lower back pain to get their hamstrings stretched out since it doesn’t require bending forward and possibly putting your back in a position that hurts.
This stretch works best with a few rounds of repetition. Try doing it 3-5 times on each leg for the same amount of time to get the best results.
5. Downward Dog
For those who don’t mind adding a little bit of yoga to their stretching routine, the downward dog position is a great way to stretch things out.
Place your hands on the ground in front of you, shoulder-width apart. Then straighten your legs until your body is in an inverted V-shape.
To increase the challenge of the stretch you can bring your legs closer to your hands. It’s a subtle stretch but a great one for those who have serious problems with their hamstring flexibility.
Hold the position for 30 seconds or so before releasing and you’ll be good to go.
6. Standing Toe Touch
Sometimes the classics are still the best and nearly everyone has done a standing toe touch at one point or another.
You’ll simply bend forward and reach for your toes. Ideally you’ll eventually be able to place your palms flat on the floor, but in the beginning, just focus on getting down there for the best end results.
You can also get a single leg stretch this way by staggering your stance and focusing on keeping the leg in front straight. Reach down to either side of it to initiate the stretch.
This one is easy to overdo, so just make sure that you’ve got a nice stretch and aren’t in serious pain while you’re doing it. Hold for 30-60 seconds before coming up slowly to avoid getting a head-rush and you’re there!
Make Tight Hamstrings a Thing of the Past
Getting a good hamstring stretch isn’t rocket science, but it can help with avoiding injuries, increasing mobility, and even with lower back pain. The key is to create a stretching routine and stick with it over time.
Most decent stretches have a ton of variations to keep you from getting bored, so why not start working on a routine you can live with today?