Contact Us

The 13 Best Stretches For Tight Hamstrings

Published October 22, 2019 (Revised: May 30, 2020) Read Time: 9 minutes
Ben Kissam

Written By: Ben Kissam, BS

Ben has a B.S. in Movement and Sports Science and over 7 years Certified Personal Training Experience.

<script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context":"", "@type":"BlogPosting", "author": { "@type": "Person", "name": "Ben Kissam, BS" }, "publisher": { "@type": "Organization", "name": "Warrior Made", "logo": { "@type": "ImageObject", "url": "", "image": "" } }, "headline":"The 13 Best Stretches For Tight Hamstrings", "datePublished":"2019-10-22", "dateModified": "2020-05-30", "description":"Hamstring injuries are the #1 most common muscle injury, and tightness can increase your risk. But these 13 stretches will help you increase hamstring flexibility!", "image": "" } </script> <script type="application/ld+json"> { "@context": "", "@type": "FAQPage", "mainEntity": [{ "@type": "Question", "name": "Why are my hamstrings so tight?", "acceptedAnswer": { "@type": "Answer", "text": "Here are three reasons your hamstrings might be tight: <br>*Sitting too much- Prolonged sitting can shorten your hamstrings, which causes the pelvis to move backward.<br>*Slouching- Hamstring flexibility may be related to large amounts of slouching while you sit.<br>*Not exercising for a long time- the muscles in your legs may feel tight from lack of use." } }] } </script> <article> <div> <ul> <li><a href="#section1">The 13 Best Stretches For Tight Hamstrings</a></li> <li><a href="#section2">Why Are My Hamstrings So Tight?</a></li> <li><a href="#section3">How Do You Know If You Have Tight Hamstrings?</a></li> <li><a href="#section4">Best Hamstring Stretches: Wrap Up</a></li> </ul> </div> <section> <p>Are the muscles on the backside of your thigh feeling tight?</p> <p>Those are your hamstrings. And here are two crazy statistics you should know about them:</p> <p>Each year, more than 65 million people seek medical attention for muscle-related injuries.<sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">1</a></sup></p> <p>Hamstring injuries are the most common type of muscle injury, and are usually caused by sport or fitness-related activities.<sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">2</a></sup></p> <p>This makes sense, given that our hamstrings help us with pretty much any physical movement (walking, running, jumping, climbing stairs).</p> <p>But the scary part is, when your hamstring muscles are tight, you're <i>even more likely</i> to sustain an injury (and deal with other issues, such as lower back pain).<sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">3</a>, <a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">4</a></sup></p> <p>That's why stretching your hamstrings is important.</p> <p>And that's also why we put together the 13 best stretches you can use to improve your hamstring flexibility.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section1"> <h2>The 13 best stretches for tight hamstrings</h2> <p>These thirteen stretches are divided into two categories:</p> <ul> <li><strong>Stretches 1-8</strong>: dynamic stretches (great for pre-workout stretching, warmups, and exercises for active recovery days)</li> <li><strong>Stretches 9-13</strong>: static stretches (great for increasing flexibility, cool downs, or reducing soreness)</li> </ul> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src="" alt="Alternating hip/hamstring stretch"> <h3>1. Alternating hip/hamstring stretch</h3> <p>To perform:</p> <ul> <li>Start in a lunge stretch position.</li> <li>Sitting upright, lean forward to feel the stretch in your right hip.</li> <li>Return to a lunge stretch; from here, lean forward with a straight left knee to stretch your hamstring.</li> <li>Repeat 4 times on each side, then switch sides.</li> </ul> <p><strong>Hamstring flexibility workout</strong>:</p> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src="" alt="Low chair bear squats"> <h3>2. Low chair bear squats</h3> <p>To perform bear squats:</p> <ul> <li>Start in a downward dog position on a chair.</li> <li>Bend your knees and slowly bring them to the ground; keep your back flat and your shoulders engaged.</li> <li>Press your knees back up to the downward dog position you started in.</li> </ul> <p><strong>Hamstring flexibility workout</strong>: Do 3 sets of 8 bear squats, slow and controlled. Try to increase the range of motion (how far you go towards the floor) on each subsequent round.</p> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src="" alt="Side lunges"> <h3>3. Side lunges</h3> <p>To perform side lunges: </p> <ul> <li>Start in a wide stance with your toes pointed out at a 45-degree angle; bring your arms up in front of you for balance.</li> <li>Bend your right knee, and lean to the right, lowering yourself to the ground. </li> <ul><li>Bodyweight should be in the heel—don't put too much pressure on your knee.</li></ul> <li>Staying low, press through your right foot, shifting the bodyweight to the left side.</li> <li>Repeat on the left side.</li> </ul> <p>This is a low side lunge; if these are too difficult, try <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">high side lunges</a> instead. </p> <p><strong>Hamstring flexibility workout</strong>: Do 3 sets of 8 side lunges on each leg. Work your way up to low side lunges if you're starting with the high variation.</p> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src="" alt="Bootstrappers"> <h3>4. Bootstrappers</h3> <p>To perform:</p> <ul> <li>From a squat position (standing tall; feet at a 45-degree angle), lean forward at the waist and grab your toes.</li> <ul><li>It's okay to round your back slightly at the top. </li></ul> <li>You should feel a stretch in your hamstrings and <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">lower back</a>.</li> <li>From this position, drop into a squat; pull your back flat and your hips through your feet. Drive the knees outward. You should feel a stretch in your upper body, too.</li> <li>Return to a stand, then repeat.</li> </ul> <p><strong>Hamstring flexibility workout</strong>: 3 sets of 10 bootstrappers, slow and controlled (the set should take you at least 60 seconds, if not longer).</p> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src="" alt="Inchworms"> <h3>5. Inchworms</h3> <p>To perform <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">inchworms</a>:</p> <ul> <li>Stand with your feet together and bend at the waist; bring your hands to the floor.</li> <li>One hand at a time, walk yourself out to a plank (or downward dog if this is too hard)</li> <li>Once you've gone as far as you can, walk your hands back to the starting position.</li> </ul> <p>Focus on keeping your core tight during this exercise. If these are too hard, try modifying with <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">kneeling inchworms</a>.</p> <p><strong>Hamstring flexibility workout</strong>: Do 3 to 5 inchworms (out and back) at your own pace. Rest 30 seconds between each.</p> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src="" alt="Drinking birds"> <h3>6. Drinking birds</h3> <p>To perform <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">drinking birds</a>:</p> <ul> <li>Stand with your feet hip-width apart; place your bodyweight in your heels.</li> <li>Place your hands behind your head.</li> <li>With a straight back, hinge forward at the hips. Press your butt to the wall behind you.</li> <li>Go down as far as you can with a straight back—you may feel your hamstrings get tight. Pause here, then slowly, return to the starting position.</li> </ul> <p>For a more advanced exercise, try the <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">one-leg drinking bird</a>.</p> <p><strong>Hamstring flexibility workout</strong>: Do 3 sets of 8 drinking birds.</p> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src=" STRETCH WITH HANDS ON GROUND-SIDE.gif" alt="Spiderman stretch"> <h3>7. Spiderman stretch</h3> <p>To perform:</p> <ul> <li>Start in a push-up or the top of a <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">plank</a> position.</li> <li>Bring your right foot up toward your shoulder, driving the knee out to the side; drop your hips towards the floor.</li> <li>Feel the stretch on the inside of your thigh and groin area.</li> <li>Repeat on the other side.</li> </ul> <p><strong>Hamstring flexibility workout</strong>: Do 6 spiderman stretches on each leg, then rest. Repeat after a one minute break.</p> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src="" alt="Supine wall stretch"> <h3>8. Supine wall stretch</h3> <p>To perform:</p> <ul> <li>Lie flat on your back adjacent to a wall (the entrance to a door will also work).</li> <li>Place both legs up on the wall; straighten your knee so that your hamstring stretches.</li> <ul><li>Focus on dorsiflexion in your feet (toes moving towards your face) and keep your back flat on the ground.</li></ul> <li>Press against the wall to further the stretch.</li> <li>Take lots of deep breaths—this is a great time to practice <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">diaphragmatic breathing</a>.</li> </ul> <p><strong>Hamstring flexibility workout</strong>: Hold for 45 seconds on one side, then repeat.</p> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src="" alt="Downward dog"> <h3>9. Downward dog</h3> <p>To perform:</p> <ul> <li>Begin in a plank position—four points of contact with the floor. </li> <li>Press through the floor with your hands to keep your arms locked out; raise your hips toward the ceiling.</li> <li>Your body should make an inverted 'V' (this is a classic yoga pose).</li> <li>Hold this position.</li> </ul> <p><strong>Hamstring flexibility workout</strong>: Hold downward dog for 30 to 45 seconds. Rest as much as you need in between efforts. Do 3 total sets.</p> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src="" alt="hamstring stretch"> <h3>10. Seated hamstring stretch</h3> <p>To perform:</p> <ul> <li>Sit on your buttocks with your right leg extended; bend the left leg so your left foot rests on the inside of your right thigh.</li> <li>With a straight right leg, lean forward. The goal is to reach your toes (or at least your ankle).</li> <li>Keep your back straight.</li> <li>Once you feel the stretch in your hamstrings, hold it. </li> <li>Repeat on the other side.</li> </ul> <p><strong>Hamstring flexibility workout</strong>: Accumulate 60 seconds on each hamstring. You can do this in 2 sets of 30 seconds, 4 sets of 15 seconds, etc.</p> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src="" alt="Pancake stretch"> <h3>11. Pancake stretch</h3> <p>This stretch is a more advanced version of the seated hamstring stretch. Work up to it!</p> <p>To perform:</p> <ul> <li>Sit on your buttocks with both legs extended as wide as you can go.</li> <li>Straighten both legs.</li> <li>Lean forward, reaching with both hands for your toes or ankles; go as far as you can.</li> <ul><li>Allow your upper body to "fold" towards the floor (you're a flat, folded pancake on the floor).</li></ul> <li>When you've reached as far as you can, hold it.</li> </ul> <p><strong>Hamstring flexibility workout</strong>: Accumulate 60 seconds in this position. If you can't grab your feet or ankles the first time you do this, build up to it over time.</p> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src="" alt="Seated hamstring floss on a lacrosse ball"> <h3>12. Seated hamstring floss on a lacrosse ball</h3> <p>Myofascial release is a form of self-massage that can reduce pain and tightness in your muscles.<sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">5</a></sup> You'll need a lacrosse ball, or similar-sized sturdy object (tennis balls work great, too).</p> <ul> <li>Sit on the floor, right leg extended and left leg bent with your foot on the floor and knee toward the ceiling; place the lacrosse ball under your right hamstring.</li> <li>Place your hands on the floor behind your body; push yourself slightly off the floor and shift your weight into the ball under your hamstring.</li> <li>To 'floss' the hamstring muscle, extend and flex your left knee with the ball under your muscle.</li> </ul> <p><strong>Hamstring flexibility workout</strong>: Do 20 to 30 rolls on each leg, then switch. You can do this several times per day if you want!</p> <img style="max-width:100%;" class="img-fluid" src="" alt="Foam roll"> <h3>13. Foam roll</h3> <p>Foam-rollers are another myofascial tool. Most gyms have them, and you can get one for under $10 online. Like a lacrosse ball, they're also good for alleviating pain and stiffness.</p> <p>Follow the same instructions as in #12, just with a foam roller under your legs instead of the ball. You can do both legs at once, or lean into one leg to really loosen it up.</p> <p><strong>Hamstring flexibility workout</strong>: Do 20 to 30 rolls. Take a short break, then repeat one more time.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section2"> <h2>Why are my hamstrings so tight?</h2> <p>Here are three reasons your hamstrings might be tight:</p> <ul> <li><strong>Sitting too much</strong>- Prolonged periods of sitting can shorten your hamstrings, which causes the pelvis to move backward.<sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">6</a></sup> Studies also show that doing the same movements over and over again (this includes certain exercises <i>and</i> postures, such as sitting in front of a keyboard or on the sofa) can lead to muscle tightness and dysfunction.<sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">7</a></sup> So adding some variety to your workouts (or simply working out in general) may help loosen your hamstrings up.</li> <li><strong>Slouching</strong>- According to a 2019 study, the hamstring flexibility may be related to large amounts of spinal flexion (slouching) while you sit.<sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">8</a></sup> Similar to sitting too much, this can cause your pelvis to tilt and lead to hamstring tightness. Chronic <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">poor posture</a> such as this can lead to back pain if it persists for long periods of time.</li> <li><strong>Not exercising for a long time</strong>- The hamstrings are active during most sports activities (sprinting, jumping, changing direction).<sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">9</a></sup> If it's been a few months or even years since you've worked out, the muscles in your legs may feel tight from lack of use. Fortunately, exercise promotes blood flow throughout the body, which can help loosen up all your tight muscles, including the hamstrings.<sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">10</a></sup></li> </ul> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section3"> <h2>How do you know if you have tight hamstrings?</h2> <p>A simple way to know if your hamstrings are tight is to try and touch your toes with straight legs (knees locked). If you can't touch your toes, you probably need to work on your hamstring flexibility.</p> <p>Besides that, another common sign of tight hamstrings is tightness in the <a target="_blank" href="" rel="noreferrer">glutes</a> or lower back muscles.<sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">11</a></sup> </p> <p>There is also an ailment known as <i>tight hamstring syndrome (THS)</i>, which is characterized by chronically tight muscles in your lower body (especially in the hamstrings, glutes and lower back).<sup><a target="_blank" href="" rel="nofollow noreferrer">12</a></sup></p> <p>While it's most commonly found in children and teenagers, THS can also happen to adults with pre-existing back injuries. Fortunately, stretching is one of the best things you can do to fix this ailment.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section id="section4"> <h2>Best hamstring stretches: wrap up</h2> <p>Statistically speaking, the hamstring muscles are the number one type of injury people sustain.</p> <p>When your hamstrings get tight, you're even more likely to get injured. You might also experience negative symptoms such as lower back pain.</p> <p>We use our hamstrings during a variety of activities and need them working well to avoid injury. But inevitably, they shorten when we sit, so most of us should be doing some sort of hamstring flexibility training.</p> <p>The 13 exercises above can be used before workouts, during cool downs, or throughout the day for general maintenance.</p> <p>A simple way to test your hamstring flexibility is to see if you can touch your toes with straight legs. If not, or if you have lower back pain or tight glutes, you probably have tight hamstrings.</p> <p>And if any of these movements are too difficult, don't sweat it! Simply find the stretches you can do comfortably and start there.</p> </section> </article>

Previous Post

Back to Exercise

Next Post