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8 Stretches To Release Tight Hamstrings

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8 Stretches To Release Tight Hamstrings
Hamstring Stretches

When you exercise your hamstrings and then sit all day, the muscles in your legs can tighten up. Stretching your hamstrings, glutes and hip flexors can help to keep your back, hips and knees healthy. 

The hamstrings are a group of muscles that extend from your hip to your knee, along the back of your upper leg.  The hamstrings work closely with the glutes and quads to move the legs. They help to flex the knee joint and to extend the leg backwards — you use them when walking, running, jumping and doing leg exercises

For anyone who runs, rides a bike or hikes on the weekend, you may have felt tight hamstrings! These stretches can help you to reduce stiffness and increase flexibility in your hamstrings. 

Dynamic hamstring stretches

During dynamic stretching, you continue to move throughout the stretch, rather than holding a fixed position. This type of stretching is ideal before exercise to warm up the muscles and joints. 

Foam rolling

Foam rolling helps to increase blood flow to the hamstrings, loosening the connective tissue around the muscles to enable smooth movement. Foam rolling can be done before your workout, as part of your warm up, or at the start of a recovery session to warm up the muscles before stretching.

Here’s how to foam roll your hamstrings:

  1. Position the foam roller horizontally in front you. Extend both legs and place them on top of the roller, crossing your left ankle over your right.
  2. Allow the foam roller to press into the middle part of your hamstring muscle (about [10cm] below your glute). This may require you to lift your body off the floor, as shown.
  3. Slowly roll the foam roller along the length of your hamstring. Once you reach a point of tenderness (called a trigger point), pause and hold that position for ~60 seconds or until the pressure/pain is significantly reduced. You can choose to perform small strokes over the point of tenderness if you would prefer.
  4. Continue to roll down the length of your hamstring, pausing on trigger points as needed.
  5. Repeat on the other side.

Alternate hamstring stretch

This hamstring stretch helps to get the blood flowing to your hamstrings and calves. 

Here’s how to do it: 

  1. Plant both feet on the floor, hip-width apart.
  2. While keeping your legs straight, bend forward from your hips and reach for your toes with both hands (or as far as you can). Rest your hands on the mat, feet, or on your shins — whichever is most comfortable.
  3. Press further into your left heel and bend your right knee. Press further into your right heel and bend your left knee. 
  4. Press further into your left heel and bend your right knee. Press further into your right heel and bend your left knee.
  5. Continue alternating between right and left for 30 seconds, breathing deeply throughout.

Single leg Romanian deadlift

This exercise warms up your hamstrings and helps to switch on your glutes and core in preparation for your workout. Aim to keep your hips even and aligned throughout the movement. 

Here’s how to do it: 

  1. Plant both feet on the floor shoulder-width apart. This is your starting position.
  2.  Bend your left knee slightly and set this as a fixed angle. Without changing the angle of your left knee, hinge forward from your hips until your torso is parallel to the floor, extending your right leg behind you. 
  3. At the same time, extend your arms towards the floor. Ensure that you keep your hips level, maintain a proud chest and that your head is an extension of your spine. You should feel tension in your left hamstring (back of your leg).
  4. Push through your left heel and, using your glute and hamstrings, extend your hips to return to the starting position.

Inchworm

Activate your entire posterior chain, including your hamstrings, with this full-body stretching and strengthening exercise. 

Here’s how to do it: 

  1. Plant both feet on the floor shoulder-width apart. Bend at the hips and while keeping your legs as straight as possible, place your hands on the floor directly in front of your feet. This is your starting position.
  2. Without moving your feet, walk your hands forward until your body is in one straight line from your head to your heels, resting on the balls of your feet, ensuring that your legs remain as straight as possible.
  3. Without moving your feet, walk your hands backwards to return to the starting position, once again, ensuring that your legs remain as straight as possible.

Static hamstring stretches

Static stretching should be done when your muscles are warm for best results and to prevent injury.  This type of stretching is best completed after your workout, during your cool down. 

Always remember to keep breathing naturally throughout the stretch. You should feel a gentle pulling of the muscle, but never pain. 

Lats and hamstrings

This stretch targets the side of the body, as well as the hamstrings. 

Here’s how to do it:

  1. While seated on a yoga mat, extend your left leg out to the side. Lift and turn out your right leg so that your foot is resting against the inside of your left leg.
  2. Extend your arms towards the ceiling and rotate your body towards your right (bent) leg.
  3. While maintaining the rotation, lower your torso towards your left (straight) leg, ensuring that your left leg remains straight and your arms are extended.
  4. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds, breathing deeply throughout.

Single leg calves and hamstrings

This stretch is good to do at the end of an outdoors workout when you might not want to sit on the ground. 

Here’s how to do it: 

  1. Plant both feet on the floor, hip-width apart.
  2. Release your right leg and take a small step forward, resting your heel on the floor with your foot flexed.
  3. Hinge forward from the hips and reach your right hand towards your right foot. If you can reach, gently pull your toes back towards you. 
  4. Hold this position for 30 seconds before repeating it on the other side.

Lying single-leg hamstring stretch

Relax into this stretch during your evening routine to loosen tight hamstrings. You can increase the intensity of this stretch by using a strap or towel lopped over your foot. 

Here’s how to do it: 

  1. Start by lying flat on your back on a yoga mat. Bend your knees and position your feet firmly on the mat, ensuring that they are hip-width apart and your spine is in a neutral position. 
  2. Extend your right leg towards the ceiling and place your hands behind your knee, shin or ankle — whichever is most comfortable, ensuring that your tailbone remains on the floor.
  3. Hold this position for the specified amount of time, breathing deeply throughout. 
  4. Each time that you exhale, draw your leg in towards your torso to increase the stretch, ensuring that your spine remains in a neutral position and your tailbone remains on the floor.
  5. Repeat this stretch on the other side.

Standing wide-stance hamstring stretch

Relieve tension in your hamstrings and lower back with this standing hamstring stretch. 

Here’s how to do it: 

  1. Plant both feet on the floor hip-width apart. Release your left leg and take a large step out to the side. Ensure that both feet are facing forwards. 
  2. Bending from the hips, reach down to the mat (or as far as you can), placing your hands on the floor or on the opposite elbow — whichever is most comfortable.
  3. Hold this position for 30 seconds, breathing deeply throughout.
  4. Each time that you exhale, bring your torso further towards the mat to increase the stretch, ensuring that you are bending from the hips and not rounding through your spine.

Seated single-leg hamstring stretch (Hurdler stretch)

This stretch targets one leg at a time, and it is especially effective if you have really tight hamstrings. You don’t have to touch your toes, focus on reaching towards your feet to feel the stretch in the back of your legs. Try holding the stretch for 30 seconds. 

Here’s how to do it:  

  1. While seated on a yoga mat, extend both legs out in front of you.
  2. Lift and turn out your right leg so that your foot is resting against the inside of your left leg, as shown.
  3. Bending from the hips, reach for your left foot with your left hand (or the action of). If you can reach your toe, gently pull it back towards you. 
  4. To increase the stretch, attempt to lower your torso towards your left leg, once again ensuring that you are bending from the hips.

Forward follow (Rag doll)

This gentle stretch for your hamstrings is perfect if your struggle to touch your toes. 

Here’s how to do it: 

  1. Stand with your feet, hip-width apart and arms resting by your sides. 
  2. With your legs as straight as possible, hinge forward from the hips as far as you can so that you feel a stretch in your hamstrings and lower back. 
  3. At the same time, bend your elbows to rest each hand on the opposite elbow.
  4. Hold this position for 30 seconds, breathing deeply throughout.

Stretch your hamstrings to help keep your hips flexible! 

Tight hips are a common issue for many people, with so many people spending a lot of time sitting. Even a few minutes of stretching your glutes, hamstrings and quads each day can help to increase the mobility of your hips. 

Using these hamstrings stretches regularly can help to prevent lower back pain, reduce the risk of injury and improve your posture. 

Looking for more stretches to release tight hips? Hip flexor stretches are important to keep your hips flexible after a day of sitting. 

How do you make time for stretching? Let us know in the comments!

* Results may vary. Strict adherence to the nutrition and exercise guide are required for best results.

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