Got pain in your thigh, butt, or legs?
Tight hamstrings could be the problem. This set of muscles are a common problem and responsible for all sorts of aches and pains in your lower back and legs. They contribute to strains, low back pain, and Sciatica which causes tingling and numbness from your back through your buttocks and down your legs.
The main focus of this article is to stretch and exercise your hamstrings, and not so much on bodybuilding techniques.
Hamstrings take a lot of abuse and are responsible for sidelining athletes, would-be athletes, runners, walkers, and most anyone exercising.
Taking the time to regularly exercise and stretch your hamstrings can:
- Save pain and aggravation in the future
- Relieve back and leg pain now
- Protect against future injury
- Make sports and exercise more enjoyable
What Are Hamstrings?
Each (one on each leg) consist of a group of 3 muscles on the back of your thigh:
- Biceps Femoris
This group of muscles on each leg is primarily responsible for hip extension, and bending and flexing your knees.
But they are also important to rotate the lower part of your leg, helping to stabilize the ACL, and evenly dispensing weight down your legs.
As you can see, hamstrings aren’t something to take lightly.
Anytime you’re moving on your feet they are on the job and working for you, especially when you are running or walking for exercise, and even bending forward.
When hamstrings are tight they can hurt your legs, butt, lower back, affect your mobility, even affect your posture.
Exercising and stretching these muscles is the way to recovery and fewer problems in the future.
What Exercise For Hamstrings
There is a multitude of exercises and stretches that work to strengthen and lengthen these muscles. The ones I’ve listed below are the most popular, and the ones I use to keep my hamstrings relaxed, flexible, and lengthened.
Common exercises for hamstring muscles include:
- Static Stretches
- Stretching hamstrings with a strap
- Yoga poses
Here’s some explanation of each technique:
Until you have developed proper form, become accustomed to the technique, and begin the stretching and building of your muscles – use only a bar without any added weights for this exercise.
Without proper form and keeping your back straight at all times, deadlifts can injure your back.
As your form improves and you’re doing the deadlifts correctly, add weight or put a dumbbell in each hand.
As you can see from the image below, you’ll want to stand with your feet a little wider than your hips.
Using an overhand grip and keeping your back straight push your hips back. Let your torso go down just past a 90-degree angle from your legs.
As you straighten from your hips, keep the bar close to your thighs and legs until they get to just below your knees.
If you start feeling the stretch before then, stop there instead of continuing down. Keep your legs straight as you begin, but slightly bending your knees at the bottom is ok.
Static stretching is very common and used for warming up muscles, improving flexibility, and are great for hamstrings. You see them anywhere you see athletes or people exercising in almost any form.
You’ll often see runners doing various types of static stretches before and after a run. These are the most common form of stretching, are usually a safe method, and good for improving your flexibility.
As you enter the stretching position, use a slow and constant speed, and then hold the stretch for some extended period of time.
Stretch out to the point of a little discomfort or tightness, but if it’s painful — you’ve gone too far!
When you find the place of mild tension and no pain, hold there for at least 30 seconds.
If you’re doing any sports or exercise activities and are prone to tight hamstrings, you should do static stretches before you start.
Doing these types of exercises 3 times a day will help you avoid hamstring strains.
Research indicates that if you’re over 70 you should hod these stretches for as long as 60-90 seconds for the best results.
Stretching Hamstrings With A Strap
So stretching with a strap could go under the heading Static Stretches, or Yoga. But this stretch is so great for my hamstrings, I put it here by itself.
To tell you the truth, most stretches for hamstrings put an awful lot of strain on your lower back. Not so with a strap, and that just makes it much better. This really isolates and targets the intended group of muscles.
When it comes to the strap itself, you can find them for sale in department stores, sports stores, and Amazon. However, you can do just as well with a belt, or anything flat (flat is better because it’s more comfortable).
Dr. Jo does such a great job of explaining how simple this exercise is that I won’t bother explaining it here.
Just watch the video and see just how simple this stretch is, use it, and see how effective it is.
Yoga Poses For Stretching
Yoga is my favorite exercise for stretching my hamstrings and keeping them fluid and flexible.
Yoga for exercise consists of “poses”, and each and every pose is designed to stretch different parts of your body.
In fact, yoga and stretches are synonymous to many people.
One reason I depend on yoga so much is that it’s actually a more long term solution to tight hamstrings than stretching out for few minutes before I run, or walk.
Spending 30-45 minutes 2 or 3 times a week helps me with body alignment, strength, lengthening muscles and tendons, and balance.
Yoga stretches are built with a focus on your breath and teaches you how breathing can actually help you go deeper into your muscles and stretching.
I learn how to listen to my body as I’m stretching and when I’m exercising.
Check out this handy easy yoga stretches article to get you started.
And the great part is that I can do the poses I learn anytime or anywhere I need to extend my muscles and tendons to make me move with more freedom and avoid injury.
A key benefit of all stretching is improved flexibility. Hard workouts and age naturally tend to shorten muscles and make them tighter.
Stretching Hamstrings Can Takes Time
It’s important to remember that all of these exercises are stretches, and lengthening muscles doesn’t happen right away.
It’s easy to notice an improvement in things like pain and ease of running, and bending over — and then stop your stretching activities altogether.
Don’t do that!
A well-developed habit of stretching before and after every exercise time will aide in keeping you pain and injury-free.
If hamstring problems are ongoing or chronic, there’s a good chance you need to do more stretching.
Not more intense stretching, but more often. Overdoing and pushing too far into stretches will only cause more problems, and pain.
The answer could be habitual stretching. Stretching and exercising your hamstrings several times a day and before and after any physical exercise is the key to relief.