Stretching is an essential part of a healthy workout routine. Unfortunately, many people choose to skip stretching and blame it on time constraints. Skipping this part of the workout isn’t a good idea, especially when it comes to major muscle groups that have long-term, vital effects on your entire body!
One of the most important muscle groups to stretch on a regular basis is the hamstring complex. Hamstrings cover more area and affect far more than you might think. Did you know your hamstrings have a direct connection to your spine? That’s right—tight hamstrings can cause issues in your spinal cord. It’s so important to maintain regular stretching in the right spots to prevent bigger issues down the road.
Here are five commonly used stretches to help keep your hamstrings loose:
1. Supine Hamstring Stretch.
Likely the most common hamstring stretch around, this one is a killer—but it has to be done. Lying on your back, place a yoga stretch strap around the arch of one of your feet. Keep the other leg pointed straight out on the floor, lean back, and pull your strapped leg up slowly—keeping it straight until you feel the stretch. Don’t force your leg up any more than it will go. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds, slowly pulling your leg back with the strap as the stretch loosens the muscle. Repeat on the other leg.
2. Standing Hamstring Stretch.
This stretch pushes your body in a different way, giving you the ability to stretch a little deeper as you bend at the hip toward your knee. Find a chair or piece of equipment a few feet off the ground. Put one heel up on the platform and straighten your leg completely. Then, bend the standing leg slightly. Keeping your chest upright, slowly bend at the waist until you feel a stretch in the hamstring. Hold for 30 seconds and then switch legs.
3. Lunge Hamstring Stretch.
This stretch makes you work a little harder to find the stretch but it’s also dynamic, working other muscles. Choose your leg and step forward into a lunge position. Once you find your balance, position your feet further apart and deepen the lunge until you start to feel a stretch in the hamstring of your back leg. Hold that position, going deeper if possible, for 30 seconds. Then switch legs.
4. Downward Dog Hamstring Stretch.
Yoga is all about stretching. If you include yoga in your regular workout routine you’ll be doing lots of this hamstring stretch. Downward dog challenges the entire body, with a particular focus on the hamstrings. Begin by getting down on your hands. Then, lift your mid-section into the air so your body is in a pyramid shape. Straighten your legs and walk them towards your hands until you feel a good stretch. Hold the position for 30 seconds and then repeat.
5. Hamstring Shoulder Stretch.
This stretch may be the easiest on the list but it’s still important. Much less complicated than downward dog, this stretch will work your shoulders and hamstrings. Stand up straight, clasp your hands together behind your back and slowly lean forward, without slumping your shoulders. Let your body fall down, resting your chest on your knees if possible. Keep your legs as straight as possible and hold the stretch for 30 seconds.
Now you have five easy stretches to perform on a regular basis to ensure those hamstrings stay loose, healthy, and are functioning properly. The older we get the more important it is to take care of these essential muscles, so start today to prevent problems in the future!