If you run, bike, are desk-bound all day, or have been sitting in a car or plane traveling, your hamstrings could use some extra love and length. It not only feels good to stretch this commonly tight area, but hamstring flexibility is also important for the health of your back, hips, and knees. Here are six easy and essential stretches that target the backs of your legs. To avoid injury, it's best to do them at the end of a workout, when the muscles are warm.
Tipover Tuck Hamstring Stretch
This stretch is good for your hamstrings and also loosens tight shoulders.
- Stand with your feet hips-width distance apart. Interlace your hands behind your back. Keeping your legs straight, bend at the hips, tucking your chin and bringing your hands over your head.
- Relax the back of your neck, and if the stretch is too intense, release your hands, placing them on the backs of your thighs, and soften your knees. Hold for 30 seconds and slowly roll up to standing.
Scissor Hamstring Stretch
Easy to do anywhere and safe for injured backs, this hamstring stretch is great if you're really tight.
- Stand with your feet together. Step your right foot back about two feet and bend forward from your hip joint, keeping your back and both legs straight. After holding for 30 seconds, switch sides.
Standing Hamstring Stretch
If the previous stretch isn't deep enough for you, then try this variation. It's perfect for doing on a bench after a run in the park.
- Prop your left heel up on a surface that is a little lower than your hip, such as a chair or bench. Flex your foot.
- To increase the stretch, bend forward toward your flexed foot by creasing at your hips. Hold for 30 seconds and switch legs.
Modified Hurdler Stretch
This basic stretch is perfect for targeting one leg at a time, and is great for those with really tight hamstrings.
- Sit on the floor and straighten your left leg in front of you. Bend the right knee, placing the sole of your right foot against your left inner thigh.
- Fold over your left leg, keeping your back straight. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch legs.
Forward Bend With Rounded Back
This stretch targets both hamstrings as well as the lower back.
- Sit on the floor, extending both legs straight out in front of you, legs together.
- Fold your torso over your thighs, gently rounding the back but keeping the legs straight. Hold here for 30 seconds and then sit up.
Reclined Hamstring Stretch
Here's a relaxing way to stretch one hamstring at a time.
- Lie on your back. Raise your left leg as high as you can, keeping your pelvis flat on the ground. Hold your lower thigh and encourage the leg to move toward your head. Flex your foot to stretch your calf too.
- To deepen the stretch, place a yoga strap or towel on the ball of your foot and use your hands to pull the strap toward you. After 30 seconds, switch legs.