Tightness in the hamstring muscles can limit your range of motion in the pelvis and increase stress across the lower back, which affects posture alignment.
Stretching your hamstrings helps increase and maintain flexibility and prevent muscle stiffness and lower back pain.
However, if your hamstrings are constantly tight, looking beyond your hamstrings may be necessary.
According to Dr. Mike Clark, DPT, CEO of the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), constant tightness in your hamstrings may be because of your weak abdominal muscles, tight hip flexor muscles (in the front of your hips), and weak gluteal muscles.
In addition to hamstring stretch exercises, several other exercises that strengthen the abdominal, hip flexor and glutes muscles may help improve the health of your hamstrings.
How to stretch your hamstrings:
There are numerous stretch exercises to stretch the hamstring muscles. The two of the most popular stretching methods are static stretching and dynamic stretching.
Two Main Stretching Methods:
- Static stretching
- Dynamic stretching
They are both frequently used by personal trainers, physical therapists, and corrective exercise specialists, yet objectives of each stretching method are different from the other.
Determining what types of stretching your hamstrings need is the first step to better health of your hamstring muscles.
Static stretching is a form of stretching you perform while the body is at rest. You typically hold each stretch position for 30 seconds in order to elongate the muscle, then release.
It is meant to target a specific muscle group, one at a time to lengthen them.
It is best performed post-workout as part of cool-down process to support muscle recovery and prevent injuries. According to Leigh-Ann Plack, PT, DPT, it can also be performed as part of maintenance stretching routine to relax muscles and improve flexibility.
There are several hamstring static stretches you can perform:
- Standing Hamstring Stretch
- Seated Hamstring Stretch
- Hamstring Stretch on the Back
Dynamic stretching, is a form of active stretching often performed as a part of warm-up.
It usually involves a sets of movement that mimics some of the exercises you plan to perform in your workout.
This movement similarities strategically prepare your body for more vigorous activity by increasing blood flow, range of motion, and body awareness of the muscles and joints.
Unlike static stretches, dynamic stretches focus on warming up many different muscle groups through active movements.
Proper dynamic stretches should achieve the followings:
- Feel a nice stretch
- Gently raise your heart rate
- Increase the core temperature of your muscles
- Safely and gently wake up your muscles
- Improve your range of motion around the joints
Some of the most popular hamstring dynamic stretches are:
- Inchworm (see the instructions below)
- Inverted Hamstring
- Elbow to Foot Lunge
They are best performed as part of pre-workout stretching routine.
Dynamic Stretch: Inchworm Stretching Exercise for Your Hamstrings.
Inchworm exercise is a dynamic stretch that stretches the glutes, hamstrings, calves, lower back, and shoulders.
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Learn how to perform this inchworm dynamic stretch properly to reap its full benefits.
How to do the inchworm exercise to stretch the hamstrings:
Step 1: Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, contract your abs, and slowly bend at the waist. Keep your legs as straight as possible until your hands touch the floor about 8 to 12 inches from your feet
Step 2: Walk your hands out into a pushup or plank position, then walk your feet in toward your hands.
Do 2 sets of 8 reps.