The hamstrings are responsible for movements such as hip extension and knee flexion, crucial for everyday activities like walking, running, and climbing stairs. Tightness may occur due to a lack of flexibility or strength, muscle imbalances, or poor posture. One study, in particular, shows that stretching decreased hamstring stiffness and improved knee range of motion. Read our guide to unlock two hamstring exercises to improve your flexibility today!
The hamstring consists of three muscle groups: the semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and biceps femoris. They are located at the back of the thigh, attaching the pelvis to the lower leg bones (tibia and fibula).
The hamstrings facilitate hip extension and knee flexion, enabling us to walk, run, kick, and jump.
Hamstring tightness may occur due to poor posture, muscle imbalances, or a lack of strength or flexibility. Regular stretching can improve this.
Stretching can reduce the likelihood of injury. Flexible hamstrings are less susceptible to strains and tears due to increased muscle plasticity, allowing them to meet the demands of various activities.
If you have a hamstring injury, avoid overstretching and focus on gentle, active stretches until you recover.
Hamstrings help us perform many daily tasks; therefore, it’s crucial we take care of them. Stretching can help reduce aches and pains, improve posture, and prevent injuries. Regular active stretching has been shown to increase knee range of motion by up to 10%. One-third of Americans have experienced knee pain at some point. Could regular hamstring stretching be the answer to ease issues like this? Read our guide to deep dive into all things hamstrings with easy exercises you can start practicing today.
Why do we get tight hamstrings?
Tight hamstrings can be the result of different factors such as lack of strength, flexibility, sedentary lifestyle, overuse injuries, or postural issues. A sedentary lifestyle can cause muscles to be in a constant shortened state, decreasing flexibility over time. Overuse injuries, on the other hand, may cause the hamstrings to tighten as a protective measure whilst the body attempts to heal itself.
Muscles work in an opposing way. For example, when the hamstrings lengthen, the quadriceps shorten. This helps protect and stabilize the muscles and joints, allowing for smooth movement. In order for this muscular relationship to work effectively, strength and flexibility levels need to be balanced.
Types of stretching
Incorporating passive and active stretching can help balance out strength and flexibility levels. Passive stretching involves using an external force such as body weight, the floor, or a partner in order to move a joint or limb through its range of motion. Passive stretching is often relaxed, holding stretches for longer durations in order to gradually lengthen the muscles and connective tissues. One study, in particular, showed that passive stretching had favorable effects on hamstring flexibility compared to active stretching.
On the other hand, active stretching requires muscle activation in order to
move a joint or limb through its range of motion. This involves
contracting one muscle group whilst simultaneously lengthening the
opposing one. This can help to increase flexibility within the muscles
and connective tissues. Active stretching may provide better strength
benefits compared to passive stretching and is generally considered
better for warm-ups.
Benefits of hamstring stretches
The benefits of hamstring stretches include but are not limited to:
- Improved flexibility. Regular stretching helps lengthen the muscles whilst improving knee range of motion and hip extension.
- Reduced back pain. Tight hamstrings can trigger back pain by pulling on the pelvis.
- Improved posture. Regular hamstring stretching can address muscle imbalances and alignment issues.
- Prevented injuries. Those with flexible hamstrings are less susceptible to strains or tears.
- Reduced stress levels. Regular stretching may balance cortisol (stress hormone) levels within the body.
Exercises for improving hamstring flexibility
Here are some exercises to improve the flexibility in your hamstrings:
Lying hamstring stretch with band
- Lay down comfortably on your back. Bend your knees, feet roughly underneath knees.
- Pick up your right leg to table top and wrap your band around the arch of your foot (double loop it like a stirrup so it’s secure).
- Extend your right leg into the air, holding each side of the band with either hand.
- Flex and point your right foot into the strap whilst keeping your quad muscles engaged.
- You can pull the strap further into your body to increase the stretch if needed.
- Keep going for thirty seconds or up to one minute, then switch.
Kneeling active hamstring stretch with blocks
- Place your blocks in front of you then come to a kneeling position, with knees, hips, shoulders, and head stacked. Lightly place your hands onto your blocks.
- Step forward with your right leg, lining your foot up with your hip. Flex the foot, with your heel on the floor. Hinge your hips forward, sending your tailbone back until you feel a stretch. Hold.
- Activate. Press your heel into the mat for ten seconds whilst activating your quad muscle.
- Release. Relax a little deeper into the stretch. Hold for ten seconds. Maybe walking your blocks further forward.
- Repeat this activation and release technique three times on the right leg. Switch to your second side.
It’s important to look after our hamstrings through strength and flexibility training. The hamstrings help us carry out essential movements and assist in daily activities. Regular hamstring stretching can help ease aches and pains, improve posture, and reduce the risk of injury.
A combination of passive and active stretching may deliver better results. Focus on balancing out your strength and flexibility levels. This will enhance performance across the board whilst ensuring safety when training.
Add our easy hamstring stretches to your daily routine to feel a difference in your hamstring flexibility over time. Remember, consistency is key. Please note that if you are injured, avoid hamstring stretches until you are given to go-ahead by a healthcare professional.
- J Sports Sci Med. Dynamic Stretching Has Sustained Effects on Range of Motion and Passive Stiffness of the Hamstring Muscles.
- J Phys Ther Sci. Immediate effect of passive and active stretching on hamstring flexibility: a single-blinded randomized control trial.
- Int J Sports Phys Ther. Hamstring Injury and Rehabilitation and Prevention of Reinjury Using Lengthened State Eccentric Training: A New Concept.