Hamstring pain can be terribly ruthless, especially if you have had an injury. Runners and athletes often suffer from pulled hamstrings, though long periods of sitting (like at a nine-to-five office job, for example), can also cause discomfort. As with any muscle group, staying flexible is important way to avoid pain.
Hamstrings are essential in running, jumping and walking movements, and they even allow us to stand up straight and move efficiently. One of the key points to remember when completing stretching and bending exercises is to never force a stretch to the point of pain. We recommend warming up the muscles with 10 minutes of gentle cardio before going into your stretches. Bend your knees when you need to, and if in pain, seek professional guidance.
1. Basic Stretch
- Begin on the floor with legs extended out in front of you.
- Bending at the hips, reach forward and touch your toes.
- Feel the stretch through your hamstrings.
- Continue to slowly move your hands down the outside of your foot for a deeper stretch.
Be careful not to over exert. For an advanced workout, curve your spin and try to lie flat on your legs and extend your hands along the floor. Hold for a count of five. Relax, breathe and feel the stretch.
2. Morning Toe-Touch
Legendary fitness guru and body builder Jack LaLanne is a master of stretches. He begins every workout with a series of hamstring stretches that keeps you flexible and energized all day. LaLanne recommends completing this stretch early in the morning, just after you get out of bed.
- Begin by standing up straight.
- With back straight, bend as far forward as you can without straining your back, aiming for your toes.
- Hold for a count of five.
- Return to starting position.
- Relax and repeat.
3. Reclined Hamstring Stretch
A relaxing stretch that targets each hamstring individually.
- Begin by lying on your back.
- Raise your left leg as high as you can, keeping your pelvis flat.
- Hold your lower thigh and gently pull your right leg closer toward your head. Flex your foot.
- After 30 seconds, switch legs.
4. Hurdler Stretch
Find a comfortable spot on the floor. Use a mat if desired.
- Begin by sitting on the floor.
- Take a deep breath and relax.
- Place your right leg straight out in front of you and bend your left leg at the knee.
- Position the sole of your left foot against your right inner thigh.
- Extend your arms and bend gently at the waist, reaching for the toes of your right foot.
- Bend as far as you can without straining.
- Hold for a count of 12. Return to beginning position.
- Repeat with your left leg.
5. Standing Hamstring Stretch
This stretch gets deeper at the hamstrings and is perfect for doing on a park bench.
- Begin by standing.
- Prop your heel on a surface that is a little lower than your hip, such as a chair or a park bench.
- Flex your foot.
Increase the stretch by bending forward toward your flexed foot. Hold for 30 seconds and switch legs.
5. Cross-Leg Hamstring Stretch
This exercise is similar to the morning toe touch, except you cross your ankles first. It may be difficult for some, but bend as far as you can without straining your back.
- Begin by standing in a relaxed position.
- Cross your left foot in front of your right foot, so that legs are crossed.
- Keep knees straight as you bend at the waist.
- Slowly lower your forehead to your left knee.
- Hold position for a count of 12. Return to standing position.
- Relax and repeat crossing your right foot over your left foot.
If you’re a runner or an athlete, or even if you’re simply sedentary most of the day, make sure you stretch and bend your hamstrings to prevent tightness and injury.