The back thigh, or hamstring, is made up of three large muscles. These muscles perform essential functions that make it possible for you to run, walk, step and stand. Because these muscles are in constant use, even while sitting, they tend to get tight. In fact, one of the primary risk factors for hamstring injury is inflexibility of these muscles. To prevent hamstring injury, always stretch before and after exercise. In addition, stretch the hamstrings daily to prevent tightness that can develop from everyday activities.
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Standing Hamstring Stretch
This stretch is performed standing up, a benefit if performing the stretch on a track or uncomfortable or unclean surface. Place the toes of your right foot on a step, rail, or other raised platform. Allow your right heel to remain off the edge of the platform. Keep your right leg slightly bent throughout the stretch. Slowly lean forward over your right leg until you feel a stretch. Hold the position for 20 to 30 seconds. Switch to stretch your left leg.
Forward-Bend Hamstring Stretch
The forward-bend hamstring stretch places minimal strain on your lower back and thighs. You can perform this stretch even if you have extremely tight hamstrings or lower back. Grasp a sturdy object, such as a rail, countertop or chair back. Keep your legs straight as you bend forward, hinging at the hips, not the waist. Stop when you feel a stretch at the back of your thighs. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds.
Seated Hamstring Stretch
This stretches the back of the thighs, buttocks and lower back. Sit on the floor or an even, flat surface with your right leg straight, toes pointed toward the ceiling. Bend your left leg and place the sole of your left foot against the inside of your right thigh. Lean forward slowly until you feel a stretch in your right hamstring. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. Switch to stretch your left leg.
Seated Hamstring Stretch with Towel
Using a towel to perform the seated hamstring stretch can help you to move deeper into the stretch. Perform as you would the seated hamstring stretch, but wrap a towel around your right foot and grasp each end of the towel. As you lean forward, gently pull the towel to lower your torso. You should pull the towel gradually and evenly. Do not tug on the towel or bounce in the position. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds.
Bench-Supported Hamstring Stretch
This stretch is an option if you have knee problems and feel uncomfortable bending your knee to do the seated hamstring stretch. Sit on the edge of a bench, couch or firm bed. Keep your right leg straight, toes pointed toward the ceiling. Dangle your left leg off the edge of the bench and place your foot on the floor. Lean forward slowly until you feel a stretch in your right hamstring. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. Switch to stretch your left leg.