Tight Hamstrings? These Stretches Are A Must For You

Learn five easy moves to help tight, aching hamstrings.

For as long as I can remember, I have been plagued by crazy tight hamstrings. I can’t, for the life of me, touch my toes, and the backs of my thighs are always achy after a workout or a long day in the office (read: sitting down). And I know that I’m not alone. So, I figured, hey, why not ask an expert for the lowdown on how to stay limber and loose? Thankfully, RIP Pilates instructor and physical therapist, Anessa Madera was more than happy to help.

So, why are my hamstrings so tight?

Madera explains that where we experience tightness or pain isn’t necessarily where it originates. It turns out, tight hamstrings have very little to do with the backs of the legs. More often than not, they’re a result of an imbalance of the muscles of your low back and hip flexors.
“In most instances, people with tight hamstrings have poor posture which causes an anterior pelvic tilt. This means the hip flexors are shortened and tight and the gluteals and abdominals are overly lengthened, causing excessive curve (lordosis) of the lower back. The hamstrings are put under a lot of pressure in this posture. They have to compensate for the anterior tilt of the pelvis by locking up and attempting to pull the pelvis back into a more neutral position,” she says.
The good news is that you don’t need a gym, or a lot of time, to loosen up your hamstrings and relieve pain. Here, Madera shares are a few simple stretches you can try right now.

5 Easy Stretches That’ll Help Loosen Up Tight Hamstrings

Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch

Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch, hamstrings
Image: iStock
  1. From a kneeling position, bring the right foot forward making sure that the right knee is directly over the right ankle and the right hip is bent to 90 degrees.
  2. Lean forward until you feel tension in the front of your left thigh. Be sure to pull your belly button into your spine and activate your glutes. Keep the pelvis neutral and avoid arching the low back leaning forward.
  3. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.

    Child’s Pose

    Child's Pose, hamstring, stretches
    Image: iStock
    1. From a kneeling position, lower the hips to the heels and forehead to the floor.
    2. Reach your hands out in front of the body, while keeping the neck relaxed.
    3. Hold for at least 30 seconds.

    Inchworm Walk Out

    Inchworm Walk Out, hamstrings, plank, stretches
    Image: iStock
    1. Stand tall, with your feet together. Bend over from the hips and roll down until your fingertips touch the floor.
    2. Walk out into a plank, then walk back your hands back to your feet and roll up.
    3. Repeat for as many times that feels comfortable.

    Standing Hamstring Stretch

    Standing Hamstring Stretch, Pilates, hamstrings, stretches
    Image: iStock
    1. Pop your left heel up onto a bench that is a little lower than your hip and flex your foot. Avoid shifting or rotating at the pelvis.
    2. To increase the stretch, bend forward toward your flexed foot by creasing at your hips.
    3. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.

    Seated Pike Stretch

    Seated Pike Stretch, hamstrings, stretches
    Image: iStock
    1. From a seated position, stretch your legs out in front of you.
    2. Flex your toes toward your body, round the back, scoop your belly towards your spine, tuck chin into your chest, and reach hands towards your toes.
    3. Hold for at least 30 seconds.

    But, remember…

    According to Madera, stretching the hamstrings without implementing other strategies for balancing out your pelvis will not get you very far and may make things worse.
    “When a muscle is tight due to being in a protective spasm in an attempt to neutralise your posture; trying to stretch may only get it to fight against you and spasm even harder. If the hamstrings are weak, stretching will also not get you very far because until they are strong enough to be able to hold your pelvis in a better position they will never loosen up. So, performing strengthing exercises (that target your abs, glutes and hamstrings) regularly will make stretching so much easier,” she says.
    To strengthen your anterior core, try:

    • Plank Holds
    • Hollow Holds

    To strengthen your glutes, try:

    • Clams
    • Squats
    • Lunges
    • Deadlifts
    • Bridges

    To strengthen your hamstrings, try:

    • Hamstring curls
    • Stiff Leg Deadlifts
    • Nordic Curls

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