Why are hamstring stretches not classified under leg stretches? Well, I felt that it should be given more priority because not many people are aware of the importance of stretching their hamstrings.
This lack of awareness has caused hamstring related injuries to be one of the highest today. This muscle is quite susceptible to injuries. The reason is, it is located at the back of your thigh, just beneath your skin.
The muscle is therefore very exposed and can be injured from just a kick, a fall or even minor exertion. Therefore, you need to be even more careful to take time to warm up and stretch before starting your workout.
There are quite a few hamstring stretches that can effectively hit the spot! I love giving you options, so try the ones that you love doing the most, or rotate them around so you won’t get bored of trying the same stretches over and over again.
The stretches that I will talk about are:
- Double straight leg stretch
- Single straight leg stretch
- 90 degree leg raises
- Cross legged bow stretch
Double Straight Leg Stretch
This is the most basic of all the hamstring stretches that I will be showing you. But it is great at lengthening your hamstring muscles, so give it a go.
- Sit on the floor with your legs stretched out in front of you.
- Lean forward and try reaching for your toes, or as far as you possibly can.
- Hold the stretch for 5 seconds.
Be sure to keep your legs straight and do not bend your knees during this workout. If you have trouble holding the stretch for 5 seconds, you have very tense muscles. You should do such stretches regularly everyday to help loosen the muscles.
Tense muscles lead to pain and discomfort, limited range of movements and can increase possibility of getting more injuries when you exercise in the future.
Single Straight Leg Stretch
Another common stretching exercise for the hamstring! This exercise focuses on one leg every time, and should be attempted regularly as it helps determine if the hamstring muscle on your left leg is more tensed than the other.
Therefore, if you discover that you have hamstring muscles on one leg that are more tensed, you can continue doing this stretch for that particular leg to relieve it.
- Sit on the floor with your right leg straight out in front of you while your left foot points to the middle of your right thigh.
- Slowly lean forward and try to reach for your toes, or as far as you can possibly reach!
- Hold this position for about 5 seconds.
- Repeat the entire process for your left leg.
Again, do your best not to bend your knees during the stretch itself.
Similarly to the double straight leg stretch discussed above, if you have problems holding the stretch, then you need to devote ten minutes every day to perform some stretching exercise.
It will be hard for you at first (touching your knees might already hurt, in severe cases) but your flexibility will definitely improve.
90 Degree Leg Raises
This is the first runner up to the best hamstring stretches competition. I’ll save the best for last. Try giving it a shot. The only downfall is that you should do it on a mat to avoid backbone discomfort.
- Lie flat on your exercise mat.
- Lift your right leg straight up, such that it is at 90 degrees to the floor. This is where this stretch got its name!
- Use your hands to support your thigh and hold the position for 5 seconds.
- Repeat this for your left leg.
In the first place, if you are unable to lift your legs such that it forms a 90 degree angle with the floor, it means that you do more of the single and double straight leg stretch. Not being able to raise your legs to a 90 degree angle is, quite bad.
But do not worry. The moment you get the hang of it, you will start to see some marked improvements in your flexibility. Who knows you will have the flexibility of a ballet dancer in a few months, if you stretch regularly, of course.
Cross Legged Bow Stretch
The best of all hamstring stretches unveiled: the cross legged bow stretch. There are so many names for this stretch, I chose the one most commonly used.
- Stand tall and place your left leg over your right one such that your legs form an X. A rather distorted kind of X.
- Slowly bend down, as though you were bowing. You will feel a stretch in your right leg (the leg placed behind).
- Hold the stretch for 5 seconds.
- Repeat this entire process, now placing your right leg over your left.
Once you are able to comfortably do this stretch for 5 seconds or more, give yourself a pat on the back! It means that your flexibility is great!
Not everyone is able to be flexible overnight. So be patient and understand that it will take some time and effort.
Flexibility training is one of the most neglected aspects of physical training. Everyone is obsessed with weight loss, with running and aerobics, building stronger and bigger muscles, that they overlook the most common cause of injuries – tensed muscles.
It might seem rather pointless especially when you are first starting out. But you don’t appreciate almost anything until you have lost, or almost lost it. So do not take your flexibility for granted.
Injuries can cripple you for days, and in severe cases, even weeks! Don’t let that happen to you. Start with hamstring stretches, to help one of the most neglected muscles in our entire body when it comes to stretching!