Hamstring Stretches

Hamstring Anatomy
Hamstring stretches are a vital part of any flexibility program. They tend to be one of the most restricted muscle groups in the body, and poor flexiblity of the hamstrings are a common finding of mobility restrictions with my patients and athletes in general. It can also contribute to hamstring injury.

What are the best hamstring stretches? Read on to find out.

Functional Stretching

If you think about the stress that gets placed on the muscles of the body during athletic activities, it is very rare to find a time when the muscles are stretched in a static or non-moving position. Yet, the vast majority of stretching we do to improve our flexibility and to prevent injury is done in a static way.

Most traditional stretching is done in a static position and held for 30-45 seconds. Functional stretching is done in a dynamic position, and the stretch is only held for 1-3 seconds. This is much more like the stretches and stress placed on the muscles during sports.

Seated Hamstring Stretches
I use two different types of stretches with my patients, and each one involves a stretch accompanied by either muscle firing, or in a more functional position than with the leg just out straight.

Don't get me wrong, the traditional way of stretching the hamstrings pictured at the left works, but to really improve function and mobility, a more active approach is necessary.

That is why I recommend to all of my patients the two following hamstring stretches.

The Standing Hamstring Stretch

Standing Hamstring Stretches
To perform the standing hamstring stretch, first place your foot up on a chair or table. The picture shows a chair, but the back of the couch, or the bed, or anything about the height of your knee or waist is fine.

Place your foot on the chair, and then bend your knee enough to allow you to lean all the way over and place your chest on your thigh. Try to keep your back flat and bend at the hips.

Next, place your arms around your upper leg, and hug your thigh tight to your chest.
Standing Hamstring Stretches - End

Slowly straighten out your leg, but make sure that you keep your chest and thigh tight together. You will feel a good stretch in your hamstrings. The key to this exercise is to make sure that your back stays flat, and that your thigh and chest stay close together. Hold for 2-3 seconds, and then return to the strarting position. Repeat 5-10 times.

This exercise stretches your hamstring in a position that allows the knee to be bent and the muscle in a shortened position.

Think about how sports stretch your hamstrings...it is usually not in a straight leg position.

The Active Hamstring Stretch

The second hamstring stretch that I use with just about every patient I have is the active hamstring stretch. This one involves an active use of the hamstrings, quads, and calf while stretching the muscles. And it helps to improve mobility at the hips as well. It is an outstanding stretch, and
Foot Position Heels Up
one that I use myself in my own workouts.

To start, you need to place your feet on a small board. A 2X4 works well, and is not hard to find. You will do this stretch with both your heels up and with your toes up. The board allows for a change in your center of gravity, and a different muscle firing pattern.

Foam Roll Between Knees

You also need to place something between your knees to squeeze. I use a small foam roll with my patients, either a 4 or 6 inch diameter roll. But, a rolled up bath towel works just as well. The reason you need this is that it works to get your lateral hip muscles relaxed. This allows for more motion at your hips, and a better stretch on your hamstrings.

Place your heels on a board, foam roll between your knees. Now you are ready to begin. Start by reaching straight up in the air. Reach high and feel a little stretch in your abdominals.

Next, bend over at the waist and place your palms flat on the floor. Bend your knees as much as you need to to get your palms completely flat. This is important. By bending your knees, you get your hips into a good position to allow stretch on your hamstrings.

Now, once your palms are flat, keep them there and lift your hips as high as you can. You should feel a good stretch in your hamstrings. By lifting your hips, you are activating muscles to move into the stretch. This helps improve the stretch, as well as replicate the type of stress placed on the muscles during sports activities.

Hold the stretch for 1-2 seconds, and then return to the overhead reaching position and repeat 5-10 times. Now, switch over to the other side of the board, and place your toes up. Repeat the stretches.

Active Hamstring Stretch Active Hamstring Stretch - Middle Active Hamstring Stretch - End

A Complete Hamstring Prevention and Treatment Program

Hamstring Solutions
Hamstring injuries have a tendency to become chronic. This is because the rehabilitation often fails to address the underlying causes of the injury.

In order to completely recover from a hamstring injury, you must address the mobility, flexibility, balance, and strength issues that led to your injury. Otherwise, you are doomed to suffer a recurrence.

Hamstring Solutions is a complete program designed to put your body back into balance, and to address all of the underlying mobility, flexibility, balance and strength deficits. This program not only will treat your hamstring injury and reduce your risks for re-injury, it will also enhance your sports performance. A balanced body is a stronger body, and Hamstring Solutions can give you both!

Learn More


Active hamstring stretches are a great way to improve flexibility, mobility, and your sports performance. These are just two different ways to actively stretch your hamstrings. They are effective, and they work. Otherwise, I wouldn't use them with my patients everyday.

Need a little guidance to get your stretching program going?

Download a free copy of Flexibility Solutions: Lower Body - You will learn some of the best stretches for the lower body. Step by step instructions with pictures, this whole program can be done in as little as 10 minutes a day - and best of all, its free! Just use the sign up form in the top right corner.

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