While opinions continue to be divided on whether stretching should be done before or after your workout routine, the consensus is that it should be part of your routine, nonetheless. Stretching can help increase your range of movement, boost your performance and most importantly, reduce the risk of serious injury. It can also help improve your muscle elasticity: which is defined as the ability of your muscles to hold an extended state for a period of time and contract rapidly back into position when the muscle is relaxed.
Your hamstring muscles run along the back of your thigh down to the back of your knee; they help in bending your knee and bending your hip. In a sitting position, your hamstring muscles stay in a shortened position for an extended duration. This is especially true for those who spend the majority of their days tied to a desk. Over time, your muscles adapt themselves to this prolonged position, and in turn, limit your range of movement, reducing your limberness and forcing you to shift the majority of your movement from your hips to your lower back. This can spell a load of long-term issues that includes back trouble, spinal nerve entrapment, and poor posture.
Therefore, in order to increase joint mobility and flexibility in your leg muscles and lower back, you need to work a series of stretching exercises for your hamstrings into your full-body stretch routine. Here are 5 hamstring stretch exercises – which include both single and assisted routines – that are focused on your hamstring muscle.
A word of caution: If you already have lower back or sciatica issues, proceed with caution before attempting any of hamstring stretch exercises. Check with your medical and fitness advisor before proceeding.
1. The Simple Hamstring Stretch
This is a sitting exercise that is as simple as it sounds.
Sit down with both your legs stretched out straight before you. Now, bend forward at your waist, extending your arms and reaching them past your knees, while keeping your legs straight. Continue to stretch until you can feel a slight pull on the back of your upper thighs. Hold this position for about 15-20 seconds, and then relax back into your position. Repeat about 3 times to get the best stretch.
2. The Hurdle Stretch
This is a variation of the simple stretch which involves working on one leg at a time. To begin, sit with your right leg stretched out. Bend your left leg at the knee, so that the sole of that foot is pressed against the inner thigh of your right leg. Now, as with the simple stretch, bend forward at your waist over the stretched leg as far as you can. Hold this position for about 10 seconds, and then relax back into position. Repeat the above steps for your left leg. Repeat the whole exercise 3 times.
Don’t be anxious if you can’t reach your feet on the first try: that flexibility will come in time as long as you continue to work on it. Don’t, at any rate, strain too far to the point where you’re bending your spine instead of your waist.
3. Standing Hamstring/Calf Stretch
This is one of the hamstring stretch exercises that can help stretch both your hamstring and calf muscles. Start by extending your right foot in front of you. With your hands on your hips, pivot your waist forward over the extended leg, and slightly bend your supporting (left) knee. Keep your back straight, however. Slowly flex your right toes, pulling them upwards towards your body. Hold the position for 10 seconds. Switch to the other leg and repeat!
4. Assisted Single Leg Hamstring Stretch
While this is an assisted stretch, you can accomplish a similar stretch routine with a belt or towel. In this manner, this is one of the hamstring stretch exercises that can be modified. First, lie down with your arms and legs on the floor. Keeping your right leg straight, have your partner lift the leg off the floor towards your hip, pushing it until you feel the pull on your hamstring. Stay in the position for 10 seconds. Now, with your leg still stretched upwards, push against your partner’s resistance by flexing your ankle towards the ground. Hold this position for 5-6 seconds. Repeat on the other leg.
If you’re attempting this on your own, loop a belt or towel around your foot and use it to pull your foot straight upward towards to your waist.
5. Assisted Double Leg Hamstring Stretch
This is another of the hamstring stretch exercises that work better with a partner. Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out and as far apart from each other as they will go. Have your partner settle behind you. Now, bend forward at your waist, pushing your chest towards the ground, till you the feel the pull on the back of your legs. Have your partner push at your lower back, assisting in the stretch. Hold the stretch for about 10-15 seconds.
Don’t be discouraged by the partner stretches. If you have no one to help you exercises, Stretch Station is here for you. Our team of professionals is trained to help you improve your flexibility and range of motion all through assisted stretching.
These stretches can help improve your flexibility and prevent the risk of injury and strain during intense workouts. They’re especially ideal for those whose jobs are mostly sedentary, and can avoid their hamstrings from losing their flexibility, and improve their range of movement In this manner, stretching and regularly bringing blood flow to your muscles are a key factor to the importance and purpose of flexibility.