Advertisement

How should I do hamstring stretches?

Edward Phillips
Physical Therapy
Here's how to do a hamstring stretch:

Reps: 3-4
Sets: 1
Intensity: Moderate
Hold: 10-30 seconds
Rest: No rest needed

Starting position: Lie on your back with both knees bent and feet flat on the floor.

Movement: Hold your right leg with both hands behind the thigh. Lift your right foot toward the ceiling as you extend your knee. Straighten the leg as much as possible without locking the knee. As you do so, flex the ankle to stretch the calf muscles. Hold. Repeat with the left leg. This is one rep. Continue alternating leg positions until you finish all reps.

Tips and techniques:
  • Stretch the leg extended toward the ceiling to the point of mild tension without any pressure behind the knee or any pain.
  • Relax your shoulders down and back into the floor.
  • Breathe comfortably.
Too hard? Sit up straight in a chair and extend one leg straight out in front of you with the toes pointing to the ceiling. Hinge forward from the hip while maintaining a neutral spine. Finish all reps, then repeat with other leg.

Too easy? Stand upright and extend one leg straight in front of you with your foot on a chair or counter. Flex your ankle. Hinge forward from the hip while maintaining a neutral spine. Finish all reps, then repeat with other leg.
Sadie Lincoln
Sadie Lincoln on behalf of barre3
Fitness
Tight hamstrings are a very common condition that is best alleviated by light daily stretching. Simple movements like standing with your feet hip-width apart and slowly hinging forward reaching your fingers towards your toes, making sure to keep a slight bend through your knee, is a wonderful place to start. Take a few deep inhales and slowly work your way back to a standing position. Repeat 3 times. Can’t reach your toes? In our barre3 classes we like to rest our hands on a ballet barre as our prop for forward folds to stretch the back of the leg, but a sturdy, waist-high kitchen countertop or table are great options too.

Sit on the floor with your legs together and extended in front of your torso. If your torso is leaning back, it may be because tight hamstrings are dragging the sitting bones toward the knees and the back of the pelvis toward the floor. It may be helpful to sit on a blanket or a bolster to lift the pelvis.

A simple way to check alignment is to sit with your back against a wall. The sacrum and the shoulder blades should touch the wall, but not lower back or the back of the head. Put a small rolled-up towel between the wall and the lower back.

Sit towards the front of the sitting bones, and adjust the pubis and tail bone equidistant from the floor. Without hardening the belly, firm the thighs, press them down against the floor (or your support), rotate them slightly toward each other, and draw the inner groins toward the sacrum. Flex your ankles, pressing out through your heels.

To lengthen your front torso perpendicular to the floor, think of energy streaming upward from the pubis to the sternum, then down the back from the shoulders to the tail bone. Then imagine the tail lengthening into the floor.

Imagine your spine as the "rod" at the vertical core of your torso, rooted firmly in the ground. Hold this pose for one minute or longer.

Grant Cooper, MD
Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation

To do hamstring stretches, stand with your legs shoulder-width apart and bend forward slowly, keeping your entire back and knees straight, and bending only from your hips. Reach out for the ground with your palms down, trying to touch the floor. Feel the stretch in the back of your thighs. Take it very slowly at first, and remember to feel the stretch but don't cause pain. (Don't sacrifice form for increased "motion.")

If you bend from your lower back or bend your knees, you will certainly be able to reach lower. However, the purpose of this exercise is to stretch the hamstrings in the back of your thighs, not necessarily to actually reach the floor. Bending your knees and/or lower back will only stress these joints and will not help stretch your hamstrings.

Some people, who can't come close to the floor while doing hamstring stretches, find it helpful to perform a modified version. To do this, place a chair in front of you and reach down for the chair. If you can't reach the chair without breaking form, place pillows on the chair until you can reach over and touch the pillows, bending only from the hips. As you become more flexible, you will be able to remove the pillows from the chair. Eventually, you will be able to forgo the chair and reach down to your ankles, and perhaps your feet and even the floor.

The Arthritis Handbook: Improve Your Health and Manage the Pain of Osteoarthritis (A DiaMedica Guide to Optimum Wellness)

More About this Book

The Arthritis Handbook: Improve Your Health and Manage the Pain of Osteoarthritis (A DiaMedica Guide to Optimum Wellness)

According to conventional wisdom, arthritis pain is an inevitable part of aging. Not so, says Dr. Grant Cooper in this practical, accessible guide. For those who do develop osteoarthritic conditions,...

Continue Learning about Flexibility Training

What You Can Do to Protect Your Metabolic Flexibility
What You Can Do to Protect Your Metabolic Flexibility
You already know that sitting too much is one of the worst things you can do to your health. Around 50 million of you are profoundly sedentary. Sittin...
Read More
How do I do the TFL (tensor fascia lata) and quadriceps stretch?
National Academy of Sports MedicineNational Academy of Sports Medicine
PreparationKneel with front leg bent at a 90-degree angle.Externally rotate back leg.MovementDraw ...
More Answers
What are the benefits of flexibility training?
Jonathan PenneyJonathan Penney
Flexibility training is phenomenal to complete and should be completed daily. Every individual shoul...
More Answers
Are There Specific Stretches I Can Do to Prevent Hip Pain From Occurring?
Are There Specific Stretches I Can Do to Prevent Hip Pain From Occurring?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.