If you play sports or do any type of physical activity, you’ve likely experienced tight hamstrings. From running to cycling to bootcamp classes at the gym, whenever you’re using your lower body, your hamstrings run the risk of tightening up. Tight hamstrings can cause stiffness and limit your mobility, getting in the way of your fitness routine. We’re letting you in on the best stretches for tight hamstrings so you can loosen up and reach your fitness goals.
8 Symptoms of Tight Hamstrings
- Tightness in your back
- Tightness in your thighs
- Unable to sit with your legs out straight
- Knee pain
- Tenderness/weakness in the muscles
- Difficulty walking or standing
5 Causes of Tight Hamstrings
- Poor posture – if the pelvis is tilted too far forward when seated, this puts the hamstring into a lengthened and weakened position.
- Genetics – you may be predisposed to tighter hamstrings.
- Sports/exercise – any movement that requires repetitive sprints or a sudden change in direction. For example, netball, HIIT and some forms of circuit training.
- Compensation – when other muscles are too weak and not doing their job. For example, weak glutes or hip flexors can cause your hamstrings to work harder and tighten.
- Overuse or underuse – can cause hamstrings to tighten.
7 Tips to Prevent Tight Hamstrings
- Warm up with light walking or jogging before engaging in sports or physical activity.
- Do regular hamstring stretches before and after you exercise.
- Focus on building overall strength in your body.
- Foam roll after you exercise to prevent muscle tightness and soreness.
- Eat a healthy diet and drink lots of water to fuel and replenish your muscles.
- Recovery days are crucial to prevent muscle tightness and injuries.
- Perform cross training (combine cardio and strength training) to prevent weak muscles around the hamstrings.
8 Stretches for Tight Hamstrings
1. Toe Touch
Stand up straight with your legs about hip width apart. Bend forward at your waist and try to touch your toes with your fingers, stretching as far as you can. You may also want to have a slight bend in your knees. Lift your pelvis upwards to stretch the hamstrings. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat three to five reps. You can also do this sitting down with your legs straight, reaching forward to touch your toes.
2. Supine Hamstring Stretch
Lie down flat on your back with your legs straight and arms by your side. Bend the right leg in, holding the back of the knee with both hands and bring it towards your chest. Slowly straighten the leg until you can feel the stretch (raise it as high as you feel comfortable). You can also use a resistance band or towel around your foot if you struggle with flexibility. Hold the stretch for 30 to 60 seconds and repeat two to three times. Switch legs and repeat.
3. Downward Dog Bend and Stretch
Start on all fours in a table top position. Lift your hips up and back, gently straightening your legs into a downward dog. Bend both knees slightly, reaching your tailbone toward the ceiling. Hold for three counts. Straighten your legs to fully extend into the downward dog position. Hold for three counts. Do five to ten reps.
4. Standing Hamstring Stretch
Place your heel on a slightly raised surface, such as a stair or curb. Keeping the spine straight, bend at the hip and bring the chest toward the thigh. Your standing leg (the one that’s not being stretched) should also bend slightly at the knee. Hold this stretch for 20 to 30 seconds, remembering to breathe into your stretch to make the most of it. Repeat three to five reps on each side.
5. Hurdler Stretch
Sit on the floor with one leg extended and the other bent. Allow your bent knee to lower toward the floor while the sole of your foot is up against your inner thigh. Bend at the waist, lowering your upper body as far as possible over your leg. Reach your arms forward to grab the sole of your stretched out foot or place your hands on the ground beside your foot. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, switch legs and repeat. Breathe deeply and concentrate on releasing muscle tension in your lower back and hamstring.
6. Lunging Hamstring Stretch
Start in a lunge position with your right leg forward. Your palms should be on the floor, framing your right foot. Make sure your knee is not bending over your toes. Hold the lunge position for three counts. Send your hips back and gently straighten your right knee, keeping the spine long. Hold for three counts. Do three to five reps, switch sides and repeat.
7. Moving Low Lunge
Start in a lunge with your right foot forward, dropping the left knee to the floor to move into a low lunge. This will open the front and back of your hips. Keeping your back toes tucked, lean back to sit on your back foot, straightening your right leg. Reach your arms forward and keep your spine long. Hold for three counts. Shift your hips forward into a low lunge to stretch your left hip flexor. Hold for three counts. Do three to five reps, switch sides and repeat.
Start in a standing position, with your feet hip-width apart. Bend forward at the waist and touch the floor (bending your knees slightly if necessary), then walk your hands forward into a standard plank position. Keep your core tight and legs straight. Pause then walk your hands back to your feet and straighten back up into starting position. Repeat 10 times.
Tight hamstrings are super common, especially if you play sports or workout regularly. Do these stretches to prevent and treat tight hamstrings and get your body feeling more relaxed!
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