What is the best way to stretch your hamstrings?
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There are a surprising number of ways that you can stretch your hamstrings, but which way is the best?
In today’s post, we’ll dive into the pros and cons of three different types of hamstring stretches.
A general note for all hamstring stretching:
A hamstring stretch should be felt in the hamstrings which is the back part of your thigh.
This means you should not feel it in the lower back and you should not feel anything shooting down your leg. You also shouldn’t feel symptoms such as numbness/tingling as this would indicate that you’re stretching a nerve more than a muscle.
If you experience any of these issues with your hamstring stretching, I recommend that you see a physical therapist or doctor for further evaluation.
3 types of hamstring stretches:
1. Supine hamstring stretch
I’m going to start with this variation because I think that it’s the overall best variation for a majority of people.
With this variation, you do need some type of strap to stretch. You can use a belt or a long sheet. You can also purchase a stretch strap if you would like: Stretching strap
-This variation doesn’t require you to flex through your lumbar spine (low back) which means you can really isolate your stretch to the hamstrings without lower back tightness getting in the way.
-If you have lower back issues, this variation tends to work the best.
-You may not feel this stretch as much if your hamstrings are really flexible.
-Equipment is required.
Supine hamstring stretch
-Wrap strap around mid foot
-Use your upper body to lift your leg with the strap
-Lift your leg only as far as you can keep the knee straight
-The other leg stays straight and relaxed on the floor
-Hold 30 seconds and repeat 3 times on each side
2. Half split pose
This is a yoga pose that is great at stretching the hamstrings. It sounds scarier than it actually is!
This variation can be slightly challenging to your balance, which is not necessarily a pro or con, just something to note.
-For those who are more flexible, you may find that you are able to get a deeper stretch in the hamstrings with this pose.
-This stretch may be difficult to do if you have really tight hamstrings. If you can’t keep the spine up tall, stick with the hamstring stretch with the strap as described above.
-You may need to bend forward to feel the stretch depending on your flexibility which may not be ideal if you’re dealing with lower back issues.
-If you have osteoporosis/osteopenia, you can do the first part of this pose where the torso is stacked over the pelvis, but the forward fold isn’t recommended.
Half split pose
-In this pose, you’ll be kneeling on one leg and the other leg will be straight out in front with your heel on the ground.
-Make sure your hips stay in good alignment, meaning don’t let them stick out to one side.
-The first photo shows stage one, where you sit up tall. If you can’t keep spine straight and stacked over your pelvis (meaning you have to lean back), I would recommend doing the supine hamstring stretch with the strap instead.
-If you need more of a stretch than stage one offers, start to lean forward, but lean forward only as far as you can while keeping your spine straight (photo 2).
-Hold 20-30 seconds and repeat 3 times on each side
3. Standing forward fold
If your goal is to stretch your hamstrings, I personally don’t love this option, but it is a well known hamstring stretch so we’ll still look at the pros and cons.
-Some people may find this option relaxing, especially if you’re more open in the hamstrings as you can kind of just let the upper torso go.
-This option is not ideal for most types of lower back issues as a lot of tension is placed on the low back in this pose.
-This is also not ideal to do if you have blood pressure issues or any medical conditions that you don’t want blood rushing to your head. This stretch should not be done if you have retinal issues.
-If you have osteoporosis/osteopenia, this isn’t recommended due to the forward fold.
Standing forward fold
-Your feet can be either together or hip width apart
-Bend forward as far as you can while keeping your knees straight
-To truly stretch a muscle, you need to hold the stretch for 20 seconds but if that feels like too much in this pose, feel free to shorten the time. I also typically recommend repeating a stretch 3 times but again if you need to do less, then do that. Always listen to your body!
In conclusion, as I stated earlier in this post, I think the overall best way to stretch your hamstrings is the supine hamstring stretch with the strap.
But with that being said, everyone is different which is why it’s great that we have multiple options!
Find what works best for you and listen to what your body tells you. The more in tune you become with your own body, the easier it is to determine what works best for you.