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The Best Hamstring Stretching Exercises

author image S.R. Becker
S.R. Becker is a certified yoga teacher based in Queens, N.Y. She has a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and has worked as a writer and editor for more than 15 years. Becker often writes for "Yoga in Astoria," a newsletter about studios throughout New York City.
The Best Hamstring Stretching Exercises
Runner stretching her hamstring Photo Credit undrey/iStock/Getty Images

After a run or other cardiovascular workout, when your muscles are warm, it's important to stretch to prevent muscle tightness. Stretching your hamstrings, the large muscles in the backs of your thighs, not only helps prevent soreness, but it can also increase your flexibility. According to a 2013 Japanese study published in the "European Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery & Traumatology," one of the best stretches for tight hamstrings also helps relieve lower-back pain.

Jackknife Stretch

Sit in a squatting position with your butt hovering just above your heels. Reach behind you and grasp the back of each ankle with the corresponding hand. Your thumbs should point toward the floor. Extend your legs so you come into a standing forward bend, keeping your knees bent, your hands on your ankles and your chest touching your thighs. Hold the stretch for 30 to 45 seconds and return to standing. Repeat as many times as necessary to release hamstring tightness.

Wall Jackknife Stretch

Stand at arm's length from a wall and bend forward at the waist. Keep your arms straight and even with your shoulders. Keep your back and neck straight and look down at the floor. Stand on your heels. Push against the wall so your hips move back, scooting your feet forward slightly if necessary. Keep your knees straight but not locked. Hold for 30 to 45 seconds, place your feet flat on the floor and return to a standing position. This move also stretches your lower back and shoulders.

Towel Stretch

Lie on the floor with your feet flat and your knees bent. Lift one leg off the floor slightly and wrap the middle of a rolled-up towel around the ball of your foot. Extend your leg into the air, keeping your back and shoulders in contact with the floor and holding onto one side of the towel with each hand. Hold the stretch for 30 to 45 seconds, pulling your extended leg toward you if you need a deeper stretch. Raising your hands higher up the towel and holding it tighter can also deepen the stretch. Repeat on the other leg.

Internal and External Rotation Stretches

Sit on the floor and extend one leg straight. Bend the opposite knee, lowering it to the floor. Keep the foot of your bent leg against the inner thigh of your extended leg. Rotate the foot and knee of your straight leg slightly inward and bend forward at the hips until you feel the stretch in the hamstring. Extend your arms and reach toward your foot. If you are flexible enough, grasp the ball of your foot with your hands. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, sit back up and rotate the same leg outward. Lean forward again. Repeat the stretch on both sides.

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