The Only 5 Stretches You Need for Tight Hamstrings

These simple hamstring stretches can help reduce tightness and stiffness.
Image Credit: SebastianGauert/iStock/GettyImages

At one point or another, long-distance runners, cycling enthusiasts and weight-lifting aficionados alike have all felt the tug of tight hamstrings — the muscles that run along the backside of your thighs. Whether after a tough leg workout or a day sitting at your desk, your hamstrings deserve a little TLC.

Regularly stretching those muscles can help ease stiffness and tightness. Below, find five of the best hamstring stretches from April Whitney, certified personal trainer.

Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds, Whitney says, to allow the muscles to lengthen and relax. Repeat this circuit a second time, and incorporate it into your weekly stretching routine.

Move 1: Supine Hamstring Stretch

Move 1: Supine Hamstring Stretch
Image Credit: April Whitney/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level All Levels
Time 30 Sec
Type Flexibility
  1. Lie face-up on a yoga mat or a soft surface on the floor with your legs extended and arms at your sides.
  2. Raise your left leg and pull the thigh gently toward your chest, either grabbing your leg above or below (but never behind) the knee.
  3. With every exhale, slowly draw the knee closer into the chest, keeping your right leg extended.
  4. Perform this stretch for 30 seconds, then switch sides.

Tip

If this stretch feels too intense, you can modify by bending the lower leg and placing that foot flat on the ground, Whitney says. You can also bend the raised knee slightly to make the stretch gentler.

Move 2: Staggered Hamstring Stretch

Move 2: Staggered Hamstring Stretch
Image Credit: April Whitney/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level All Levels
Time 30 Sec
Type Flexibility
  1. Begin standing in a staggered stance with your right foot slightly in front of the left.
  2. Bend your left knee slightly, keeping the right leg straight.
  3. Keeping a flat back, push your hips back to feel a stretch in your right hamstring.
  4. Keep moving the hips back to deepen the stretch.
  5. Hold for 30 seconds, then switch sides.

"I like this stretch because it teaches you the proper way to stretch your hamstrings — with a flat back and from the hips — rather than just pulling at your feet using your back," Whitney says.

Move 3: World's Greatest Stretch

Move 3: World's Greatest Stretch
Image Credit: April Whitney/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level All Levels
Time 30 Sec
Type Flexibility
  1. Begin in a low lunge by bending your left knee to 90 degrees and extending your right leg straight out behind you with your knee on the floor.
  2. Place your right hand down on the ground on the right side of your left knee.
  3. Extend your left arm straight up toward the ceiling, rotating and opening up your torso toward the left leg.
  4. Hold here for 30 seconds, then switch sides.

Tip

To make this stretch deeper, you can lift the back knee off the floor and/or bring your elbow to the ground on the inside of your front leg.

Move 4: Seated Hamstring Stretch

Move 4: Seated Hamstring Stretch
Image Credit: April Whitney/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level All Levels
Time 30 Sec
Type Flexibility
  1. Start in a seated position with your legs extended straight out in front of you and your back upright.
  2. Hinge at the hips and begin to bend your torso forward toward your thighs, maintaining a flat back.
  3. Keep your hands at your sides and deepen the stretch with every exhale.
  4. As you hold this stretch, resist the urge to fold over your legs with a rounded back.
  5. Hold this stretch for about 30 seconds.

Move 5: Doorway Stretch

Move 5: Doorway Stretch
Image Credit: April Whitney/LIVESTRONG.com
Skill Level All Levels
Time 30 Sec
Type Flexibility
  1. Lie face-up by an open doorway.
  2. Lift your left leg straight up toward the ceiling and place the leg against the wall.
  3. Extend your right leg straight out in front of you.
  4. Gradually, move your hips closer to the doorway, deepening the stretch.
  5. Hold here for 30 seconds, then switch sides.

Why Your Hamstrings Are So Tight

The body is all interconnected, so when your hip flexors are tight from sitting all day, for instance, this can create an anterior tilt in the pelvis and cause tightness in the hamstrings, according to the American Council on Exercise. (Make sure to regularly stretch your hips if you spend a lot of time sitting.)

Plus, certain exercises, like running and jumping, can strain the hamstring muscles if you do them too frequently or don't give your body enough time to recover between workouts.

Other risk factors for hamstring tightness or injury, according to the Mayo Clinic, include:

  • Poor flexibility
  • Muscle imbalance
  • Prior hamstring injury

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