Hamstring Stretches

Starting Hamstring Stretches

Tight hamstrings are a common problem in many people. If your hamstrings are tight, or if you have suffered and injury to your hamstrings - like a muscle strain - you may benefit from the skilled services of a physical therapist to help you recover. Your PT can teach you hamstring stretching exercises, like the ones in this hamstring stretching program, to help you improve overall hamstring flexibility.

Why should you stretch your hamstrings? Some reasons that people work so diligently on hamstring flexibility may include:

  • Prevent injury
  • Prevent or treat low back pain
  • Improve overall mobility

Here is a general hamstring flexibility program that you can do to improve the way your hammy's move. Before starting this, or any other exercise program, check in with your doctor to ensure that exercise is safe for you to do.

Let's get started with this simple hamstring stretch. If you have low back pain or sciatica, this exercise may place strain on your back, so proceed with caution with this hamstring stretch.

  1. Sit on the floor with both legs out straight.
  2. Extend your arms and reach forward by bending at the waist as far as possible while keeping your knees straight.
  3. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds.
  4. Relax back into the starting position.
  5. Repeat 3 times.

Be sure to stretch until a gentle pull is felt in the back of your thighs. If you feel any excessive pain, you should stop the exercise.

The Hurdler Hamstring Stretch

Photo of a young active woman stretching her hamstrings.
The hurdler stretch is an effective way to stretch your hamstrings. Take a Pix Media / Getty Images

The hurdler hamstring stretch is a simple exercise that can be done right on the floor.

  1. Sit on the floor with one leg out straight.
  2. Bend the other leg at the knee and position the sole of that foot against your opposite inner thigh.
  3. Extend your arms and reach forward over the one straight leg by bending at the waist as far as possible.
  4. Hold this position for 10 seconds.
  5. Relax.
  6. Repeat with the other leg.

Hamstring Stretch in Standing

The next hamstring stretch is a simple one to do anywhere at all. It is done in the standing position. Here is how you do the standing hamstring stretch:

  1. Stand and cross your right foot in front of your left.
  2. Slowly lower your forehead to your right knee by bending at the waist.
  3. Keep both knees straight.
  4. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds.
  5. Relax.
  6. Repeat for the other side by crossing your left foot in front of your right.

The Runner's Hamstring and Calf Stretch

Photo of a woman stretching her calf.
You can do the runner's stretch to improve hamstring and calf flexibility. Buff spandex / Getty Images

The runner's stretch is a common flexibility exercise for your hamstrings or calf muscles.

  1. Stand one foot from a wall and place your hands on the wall at shoulder height, shoulder-width apart.
  2. Take a step back with one leg while pushing into the wall.
  3. Keep your back straight and press your heels into the floor.
  4. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
  5. Step forward and repeat with the other leg.
  6. Repeat the exercise 3 times on each side.

The Towel Hamstring Stretch

A towel can be used to help stretch your hamstrings.
Use a towel to safely and effectively stretch the hamstrings. Brett Sears, PT, 2012

Your PT may teach you to use household items to perform your stretching exercises, and most folks have towels to perform their towel stretches. The towel hamstring stretch is a simple one to do. Here's how:

  1. Lie on the floor on your back.
  2. Loop a long bath towel around your toes.
  3. Hold the ends of the towel in both hands, and then slowly lift your leg, using the towel to pull your straight leg up.
  4. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, and then relax.
  5. Repeat 3 times. 

The Standing Hamstring Stretch

The standing hamstring stretch can be a safe and effective way to stretch your hamstring muscles.
The standing hamstring stretch is an easy way to stretch your hamstrings while on the go. Brett Sears, 2012

The standing hamstring stretch is quite possibly the easiest hamstring stretch to do. It can be done anywhere (home or office), and it requires no special tools. Here is how you do it:

  1. Stand up straight with one heel resting on a small stack of books or stool.
  2. Keep your knee straight.
  3. Reach both arms up in the air and reach toward the point where the ceiling meets the wall.
  4. Keep your back straight - you should be pivoting forward on your hips.
  5. Reach forward and feel a stretch in your hamstring behind your thigh.
  6. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds, and repeat 3 times.
  7. Switch legs on the stool and repeat.

Keeping your hamstrings flexible can help you feel better and move better after injury or illness. Maintaining mobility in your legs and thighs can also help you maintain optimal athletic performance.

If you are feeling tightness in your hamstring muscles, check in with your doctor, and visit your physical therapist to learn the best ways to improve hamstring flexibility. Your PT may prescribe exercises like the ones in this exercise program to help you stretch your hamstrings.

Edited by Brett Sears, PT.

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