DO YOU FEEL like your legs are too tight? If you have trouble touching your toes or feel pain, stiffness, or discomfort in the back of your lower body, tight hamstrings could be your problem.
Fortunately, you should be able to stretch your legs and find a solution to your problem by paying extra attention to your hammies to improve your flexibility. You just need to know the right moves to give your lower body the focus it needs to feel loose and ready for action.
This series of simple exercises from physiotherapist Sam Becourtney, PT, DPT, CSCS of Tailor-made treatments, is designed to help this muscle group. Becourtney is joined by personal trainer Vaughn Gray, NASM-CPT, to demonstrate four stretches that can help loosen your tight hamstrings and improve your flexibility.
What are your hamstring muscles
First, a brief primer on what exactly your hamstrings are. “Your hamstring is that real group of muscles at the back of your thigh that performs two functions: extending the hip back and also bending the knee,” Becourtney explains. “It originates in the back deep behind that gluteus muscle, and it’s going to insert below the knee, which is why it has those two functions based on its attachment points.
These functions mean that your hamstrings are extremely important for all sorts of movement, from running and jumping to walking and squatting. You use muscles for many lower body exercises, so it’s easy to take their functions for granted.
Who can benefit from hamstring stretches
The groups of people who might want to check out these stretches are not limited to those with lower body tension. People with low back pain, in particular, can benefit from hamstring stretches.
“The reason for this is that hamstring strain can limit your ability to lean forward and present somewhat as lower back pain, even though the source is that hamstring strain,” explains Becourtney. “Similarly, anyone who has a limitation in forward flexion, or who may need to do so for some part of their daily functions, would benefit from the improved mobility and flexibility of these hamstrings. .”
Why should you stretch your hamstrings
Yes, there are specific populations that might benefit more from hamstring stretches, namely those who already struggle with tight hamstrings and lower back pain, but hamstring flexibility is important for everyone. .
“The importance of these stretches and hamstring flexibility in general is because tightness can present in so many ways,” Becourtney says. “One being lower back pain, as we talked about, the other being the inability to bend forward. So improving that flexibility is very important. In addition to addressing those issues, better hamstring flexibility -legs can pay off in the form of improved performance, which can be helpful for everyone from athletes to everyday people who want to feel good when they move.
4 Hamstring Stretches to Improve Flexibility
You can use this move before or after a workout, according to Becourtney.
How to do:
- From a standing position, bring one foot in front of the other with the heel on the ground and the toes pointing up.
- Sit back with your buttocks back as you lower your hands, “pick up” the floor, then stand back up.
- If you’re doing this pre-workout, hold the position for two to three seconds each time. Repeat five to 10 reps for a dynamic stretch.
- If you’re doing this move post-workout, hold the bottom for 30 seconds, two to three times. The lower you go, the more you will feel the hamstring stretch.
Flossing the hamstrings
You will be on the ground for the next move. Again, you can do this movement before or after exercising.
How to do:
- Lie on your back and grab one thigh behind your knee with both hands, creating a 90 degree bend to your torso. Make sure the opposite leg is straight to increase the stretch.
- Straighten your lifted leg and then bring it back down. Deliberately repeat the movement. If you want to increase the stretch at the top, point your toes toward you to further stretch the upper calf, suggests Becourtney.
- If you’re doing this stretch before the exercise as a dynamic move, do three sets of five to 10 reps, two to three seconds per set.
- If you’re doing it after the exercise, hold the position as you work on your breathing, lowering your toes and holding the static stretch for 30 seconds at a time for two to three rounds.
Lying Hamstring Stretch with a Towel
For this exercise, take a towel, belt or yoga strap. “Anything that will be long enough to reach behind your foot,” says Becourtney.
How to do:
- Lie on your back with one knee bent toward your chest and bring the towel or other instrument behind that foot.
- From this position, try to straighten your leg. “Now he’s using his arms to pull up on that leg, increasing the stretch he feels there,” Becourtney notes. “If you want to push more through the toes towards his head, that will give him a bit more upper calf stretch.
- If it’s too intense on your lower back or hamstrings, bend the knee that’s extended directly on the floor because “it would take the pressure off that area a little bit,” according to Becourtney.
- Before training, do this exercise for 10 seconds at a time for up to six reps.
- After exercise, do a longer hold of 30-45 seconds two to three times.
Assisted seated stretch
You will continue to use the pull tool for this last stretch, but you will sit down.
- Get into a long seated position on the floor (buttocks on the floor, legs stretched out in front of you) with your chest straight and the towel or strap wrapped around one foot.
- As you pull the foot under the towel or strap toward you, bend your trunk forward. “It’s going to increase the stretch through that hamstring…because of where it attaches behind the hip there,” Becourtney explains.
- Return to your original position and repeat. (As in the last movement, if the stretch is too intense, bend the opposite knee to relieve the lower back.)
- Before the exercise, come in and out of this position in two to three seconds at a time for 10 repetitions.
- After training, hold this position for 30 seconds, for two to three rounds, taking care to breathe deeply.
Pretty quick routine, huh? Keep doing these four hamstring stretches regularly and you will see an improvement in your hamstring flexibility.
If you want to dig deeper into these benefits, Becourtney notes that you can follow up some of these stretches with weight-loaded exercises. Romanian deadlifts with a kettlebell or barbell can reinforce this new range of motion. This is going to help create a longer lasting effect the further you go, which will help you achieve your ability to descend, improve your performance in the weight room and in sports, and reduce overall pain in the surrounding areas. .
For more tips from physiotherapists to help you move and feel better, check out all of our guides in The Fix Series.
Perri is a New York born and based writer; she has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Columbia University and is also a graduate of the Natural Gourmet Institute’s Plant-Based Culinary School, which is now the Institute Of Culinary Education’s Natural Gourmet Center. His work has appeared in the New York Post, Men’s Journal, Rolling Stone, Oprah Daily, Insider.com, Architectural Digest, Southern Living, and more. She’s probably seen Dave Matthews Band in your hometown, and she’ll never turn down a Bloody Mary. Learn more at VeganWhenSober.com.
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