Four Effective Hamstring Stretches You Should Be Doing

Whether you run, bike, do yoga or are a desk jockey you most likely know how important it is to keep your hamstrings flexible. Too tight hamstrings can lead to back, hip and knee injury, impair athletic performance and decrease everyday function. Take into account that many of us sit for long periods everyday commuting to and from work, siting at our desk for 7 to 8 hours, then doing more sitting while watching television or surfing the Web after dinner. All this inactivity can contribute to poor posture, weak gluteal muscles and tight hamstrings. If we are active some of us neglect the most important part of our workout…stretching. Maybe you don’t think it’s worth taking the time to do but you will change your mind once you strain a hamstring muscle! A pulled hamstring requires a longer recovery time and can be painful.

Try a few of our favorite stretches, completing them 3 or 4 times a week to increase your flexibility. Always perform a light warm-up, such as marching in place, jumping jacks or bodyweight squats, for 3 to 5 minutes before you stretch.
If you do all four exercises it will take you about 8 minutes
to complete. If your hamstrings ask for a little more love repeat the exercises one more time through.

1. Standing Scissor Stretch-Stand with your feet in a staggered stance, 8 to 10 inches apart, bend at the waist and try to straighten the front leg as you bring chest close to the leg. If you are very tight place the hands on your shin instead. Hold stretch for 15 to 30 seconds without bouncing. Repeat stretch with the other leg in front. 
2. Modified Forward Bend Stretch-Place one foot on a step or stool slightly lower than your knee. Place hands above knee and bend from the waist keeping back straight and abs tight. Lower your chest until you feel the stretch in the hamstring and calf muscles.  You may not have to go very low to feel the stretch if your very tight so ease into it gradually. If you can hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat with other leg. 
3. Seated Hamstring Stretch-This one is good for those who are a little more limber in the hips, low back and hamstrings. I like this one since it also stretches the muscles on the opposite hip. Start seated with legs straight out in front of you. Bend one knee so bottom of foot is near the inner thigh of straight leg. Lean from the waist and try to grasp ball of foot or ankle. Exhale and drop lower into the stretch, holding for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat  the stretch on the other side. 
4. Assisted Towel Stretch-Favored by Physical Therapists and Coaches alike,  this one allows you to get a great stretch by giving you a little leverage with a towel or strap placed around the bottom of your foot.Lie on your back with legs straight. Lift one leg up over your hip and place a strap or towel under your foot. Hold onto the other end of the strap and keeping your leg as straight as possible, bring it towards you by gently pulling on the strap to aid the stretch in the hamstring and calf muscles. Hold the stretch until you feel the muscle start to loosen up. Lower leg, remove strap and repeat on other side.

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