7 Great Hamstring Stretches Anyone Can Do (2022)

Exercise

Hamstring stretches relieve pain, prevent injury, and more

By

Anne Asher, CPT

Anne Asher, CPT

Anne Asher, ACE-certified personal trainer, health coach, and orthopedic exercise specialist, is a back and neck pain expert.

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Updated on September 21, 2022

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Mohamad Hassan, PT, DPT

7 Great Hamstring Stretches Anyone Can Do (1)

Medically reviewed byMohamad Hassan, PT, DPT

Mohamad Hassan, PT, DPT, is a physical therapist at Premier Physical Therapy in Chicago.

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(Video) Hamstring Stretches for Tight or Sore Hamstrings - Ask Doctor Jo

Hamstring stretches help to relieve back pain, improve posture, and avoid soreness and injuries.

The hamstrings are a group of muscles that attach to the pelvis and the leg bones.They help you bend your knees and tilt your pelvis.

Too tight hamstrings can cause pain in your lower back, knees, and legs.Stretching your hamstrings the right way can prevent and ease pain and help maintain flexibility and mobility as you age.

This article looks at the importance of hamstring stretches. It includes seven hamstring stretches and guidance for how to stretch effectively.

7 Great Hamstring Stretches Anyone Can Do (3)

Why Stretch Your Hamstrings?

The hamstrings play an important role in posture and lower back pain. The hamstrings control movements in your legs and pelvis.

Your spine is anchored between two hip bones that comprise the pelvis. Thepelvis and the lumbar spine move together. When the hamstring muscles contract, it can cause a posterior pelvic tilt. This is a tipping of the tailbone down towards the back of the thigh.

The hip muscles and hamstrings alter, and sometimes correct, the position of the pelvis. Tight hamstrings contribute to lower back pain. Chronically contracted hamstrings pull on the pelvis and flatten the normal arch of your lower back. This can overstretch and weaken muscles, causing lower back pain.

Properly stretching your hamstrings helps to ease and prevent back pain. There are several different ways to stretch your hamstrings.

When you stretch, you should not feel pain in your lower back, hips, or legs. If you do, try a different stretch and be careful not to stretch too far. People with chronic lower back pain or disc disease should start with the beginner supine hamstring stretch.

Hold each stretch for about 30 seconds at a comfortable level. Repeat on the other leg. Stretch each leg three or more times.

1

Toe Touching

7 Great Hamstring Stretches Anyone Can Do (4)

One way to stretch your hamstrings is by touching your toes. While standing, bend forward at the hips and try to touch your toes with your fingers.

Here are a few tips to make this safer and more effective.

  1. Don't bounce. Bouncing activates a mechanism called the stretch reflex. This can result in more muscle contraction, not less.
  2. Lift the sitting bones toward the ceiling. This elongates the hamstring muscles.
  3. Make sure your hips are directly over your feet. Your buttocks should not be behind your feet. This mistake makes the stretch less effective.
  4. If your core muscles are weak, consider using a table or other surface to help you come back up to standing.

A rule of thumb for your safety: Only go as far as you can without back pain or a feeling of insecurity.

2

(Video) How To Stretch Your Hamstrings The RIGHT Way [WORKS FAST!]

Supine Hamstring Stretch

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Lie on your back and bring one leg straight up. This move is common in yoga, at the gym, and in fitness studios. It stretches the hamstring muscles and takes them out of contraction.

The ultimate goal is to bring your leg up high enough that you can touch your toes. With repetition, you may even be able to bring your straight leg towards your head. But you don't have to go that far to get a good stretch.

3

Beginners Supine Hamstring Stretch

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Not everyone can touch their toes while doing the supine hamstring stretch. That's okay. Try one of these variations while you still have some of that initial stiffness.

Place a strap or belt around the bottom of your foot. If you can't reach your toes, you can use the strap to pull your leg towards your head.

You can also grab the part of your leg above your foot instead of your toes. Just grasp whatever part you can comfortably reach, as pictured above. Bend the opposite leg to help stabilize and align your trunk as you stretch.

Hamstring Stretch to Release Your Back

4

Standing Hamstring Stretch

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There are a few reasons why you might not feel comfortable lying down and getting back up from the floor. You may be pregnant, for example, or you may have an injury or pain.

If this is you, try a one-legged hamstring stretch. This can be done from a standing position.

Extend one leg out. Keep your back straight. Bend from your hip joints to bring your chest toward your thigh. The opposite leg will bend at the knee.

Go only as far as you can without pain, strain, or shakiness. If you need extra support, hold onto a piece of furniture or the wall.

5

Easy Hamstring Stretch for Athletes

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If you are active, try this easy stretch. Place the heel or ankle of one leg on something about waist high or a little lower. Bend at your hips to bring the front of your trunk towards your thigh.

For best results, keep your back straight. A straight back will also provide some protection for your spine.

6

Advanced Hamstring Stretch for Athletes

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If the previous hamstring stretch for athletes isn't challenging enough, try doing it while in a one-legged squat.

7

Partner Hamstring Stretching

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You can get a little more out of your hamstring stretch with the help of a friend or bodyworker. While in the supine position, have this person help you bring your leg towards your head.

Make sure you give your helper plenty of verbal feedback so you won't over-stretch. The ideal intensity is somewhere between comfortable and challenging.

(Video) Hamstring Strain Stretches & Exercises - Ask Doctor Jo

Summary

If your hamstrings are too tight, you may experience low back pain. Stretching your hamstrings can help ease and prevent this kind of pain.

Try touching your toes from a standing position. You can also lie on your back and bring your leg towards your head. If you can't reach your toes, you can use a strap or grab on to part of your leg.

You can also try a one-legged hamstring stretch from a standing position. If you're active, try placing your heel on something about waist high. For a more advanced stretch, do this while in a one-legged squat.

You can also enlist someone to help you with your supine stretch. Just make sure to give your helper plenty of verbal feedback.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What muscle group are hamstring stretches for?

    Hamstring stretches improve flexibility in the three muscles on the back of the thigh. These are called the semimembranosus, semitendinosus, and biceps femoris. Located between the hip and the knee, these muscles are responsible for:

    • Flexing the knee
    • Rotating the lower leg when the knee is bent
    • Extending the hip when the trunk is fixed
  • What do hamstring stretches do?

    Without stretching, the hamstrings are constantly contracting. This helps take up the slack that happens when the core muscles cannot stabilize the hips. This can lead to tightness and an increased risk of a pulled hamstring. Stretching your hamstrings can help you:

    • Avoid hamstring injury
    • Increase joint flexibility
    • Improve posture and stability
    • Optimize performance

    Learn More:3 Approaches to Strong Hamstrings

  • Can hamstring stretches relieve lower back pain?

    If your hamstrings are tight, you may tend to use your lower back rather than your hips to initiate movements. When you regularly stretch your hamstrings, your hips are better able to stabilize your core. This helps them take over the responsibility of bending and straightening the upper body.

    Learn More:Low Back Bending the Right Way

  • Can hamstring stretches relieve knee pain?

    If your hamstrings are tight, the quadriceps muscles in front of the thighs take over. This places excessive stress on the tendon that connects the quadriceps to the knee. Stretching the hamstrings helps prevent injury before sports and may also ease knee pain. This is because it transfers the responsibility of knee bending to the hamstrings.

2 Sources

(Video) The Hamstring Stretch That Rules Them All #shorts

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

By Anne Asher, CPT
Anne Asher, ACE-certified personal trainer, health coach, and orthopedic exercise specialist, is a back and neck pain expert.

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(Video) BEST Hip, Piriformis & Hamstring Stretches, Increase Flexibility To Stop Pain

FAQs

What is the most effective hamstring stretch? ›

Stretches to loosen tight hamstrings
  1. Lie down on the ground with your back flat and your feet on the ground, knees bent.
  2. Slowly bring your right knee to your chest.
  3. Extend the leg while keeping the knee slightly bent. ...
  4. Hold for 10 seconds and work up to 30 seconds.

What happens if you stretch hamstrings everyday? ›

Hamstring stretches can increase flexibility and improve the range of motion in the hip. Both of these benefits will help people perform daily tasks, such as walking upstairs and bending over, with ease.

How many hamstring stretches should I do a day? ›

Hamstring stretches have been shown to be most effective when done for a duration of 30 to 60 seconds. Stretching should be done twice daily and on a regular basis.

How long does it take to fully stretch your hamstrings? ›

Your Hamstrings Aren't Tight

Normal muscle tightness gets better within a 1-2 months of stretching.

What problems do tight hamstrings cause? ›

Tight hamstrings can lead to lower back pain, bad posture, imbalances of muscles, and knee pain. If your hamstrings aren't flexible enough they will be more susceptible to injury. Once your hammies are tight, other muscle groups will follow resulting in stiff joints and posture problems.

Can massage loosen tight hamstrings? ›

Deep tissue massage has been linked with increased flexibility of the hamstring. Coupled with dynamic stretching or static stretching and a proper strengthening program we can see an improvement in the function of the hamstring. Massage has a positive effect on blood flow to the area and lymphatic drainage.

Why do hamstring stretches hurt so much? ›

Your hamstrings and backside muscles end up in a lengthened position while you sit. Because of this, the tight muscles cause your pelvis to tilt forward slightly and this causes your hamstrings to naturally stretch. This means they don't like stretching any more, which gives you the sensation of tightness.

Why do hamstrings get so tight? ›

Causes of tight hamstrings include prolonged sitting, insufficient stretching before physical activity, muscle strain or another injury, and having short hamstrings or other physical characteristics that make hamstring strain more likely.

What do tight hamstrings feel like? ›

“You're making it work harder than it's supposed to have to work to accomplish the activity,” Fietzer says of the low back. Or, if you're standing upright with tight hamstrings, your pelvis might tilt forward, getting your whole posture out of alignment and causing pain in other parts of your body.

How do you stretch your hamstrings in your bed? ›

Hamstring stretch on the edge of a bed

Lay one leg along the edge of the bed while the other leg is placed down with the foot resting on the floor. Bend forward at the hip, keeping the spine straight. Try to keep the leg on the bed as straight as possible without pain. Hold this stretch for 30 seconds.

How do you get super flexible hamstrings? ›

Simple Hamstring Stretch
  1. Sit on the floor with both legs out straight.
  2. Extend your arms and reach forward by bending at the waist as far as possible while keeping your knees straight.
  3. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds.
  4. Relax back into the starting position.
  5. Repeat three times.
27 May 2022

How do you unlock your hamstrings? ›

Unlock Your Hamstrings! (TRY THESE TESTS) - YouTube

Can tight calves cause tight hamstrings? ›

Tight calf muscles can cause issues up and down 'the chain', downward tension would increase tension through your achilles tendon and onwards to the plantar fascia (in your feet). Upwards tension might give rise to issues in your hamstring's or even your lower back.

Why do tight hamstrings cause lower back pain? ›

Tight hamstrings will pull on the ischial tuberosities, one of the areas of your pubic bone. This tends to tilt your pelvis back. Joints adjacent to this move in what's called a “coupled” fashion, so when the pelvis tilts back the vertebrae in your lower back flex forward.

Do hamstrings get tighter as you age? ›

This muscle tends to get really tight as we age because we spend so much time sitting. Surprisingly, tight hamstrings contribute to lower back pain. Stretch: To stretch the hamstring, while standing, put your heel on the seat of a straight-vacked chair, foot pointing toward the ceiling.

Why are hamstring stretches important? ›

Hamstring stretches help to relieve back pain, improve posture, and avoid soreness and injuries. The hamstrings are a group of muscles that attach to the pelvis and the leg bones. They help you bend your knees and tilt your pelvis, but can lead to pain in your lower back, knees, and legs.

What muscles do hamstring stretch work? ›

Semimembranosus, closest to the middle of your body. This hamstring flexes your knee joint, extends your thigh at your hip and offers medial rotation for your hip and lower leg. Semitendinosus, between the semimembranous and the biceps femoris. The function of this hamstring matches that of the semimembranosus.

How can I loosen my hamstrings without stretching? ›

6 Ways To Decrease Hamstring Tightness Without Stretching

How do you get tight hamstrings? ›

Causes of tight hamstrings include prolonged sitting, insufficient stretching before physical activity, muscle strain or another injury, and having short hamstrings or other physical characteristics that make hamstring strain more likely.

Videos

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