Developing the hamstrings should be a major part of any well-rounded training or health program. A combination of strength and flexibility training is ideal for improving this often neglected area of the body. There is a wide range of different exercises involving dynamic and static stretching but also strength and bodyweight exercises that can be incorporated into your training. Read on for our pick of favourites in these Top 5 Hamstring Stretches!
1. Glute Ham Raise
The Glute Ham Raise is an effective exercise as it’s a great way to strengthen your hamstrings whilst putting little stress on your lower back. Using knee flexion and hip extension to strengthen your hamstrings, it also works the calves, lumbar back area and glutes, giving your whole posterior chain a thorough workout! It is important to keep your feet aligned and back straight throughout this entire movement.
2. Supine Stretch
This is a widely used hamstring flexibility exercise that emphasises the use of your pelvic flexors and engages your lower back muscles. It’s important to only stretch to a mildly uncomfortable position or the point of tension making sure your pelvic movement is slow and performed in a controlled manner. Ensure to keep your lower back on the floor and your hips level whilst keeping your other leg extended on the floor.
3. Front to Back Leg Swings
This is a great exercise that can be incorporated into a dynamic warm-up for a range of disciplines. It primarily targets your hamstrings however it also works your abs, quads, lower back and glutes, to a lesser degree. A major benefit of dynamic stretching is that it allows your muscles to go through similar movements that will be performed during exercise anyway, so this is ideal for running, cycling and many other sports.
4. PNF (Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation) Stretching
PNF involves a stretch, followed by a contraction of your opposing muscles and then a further passive stretch that pushes your range of movement to a greater degree. PNF stretching is often said to be the most effective technique for increasing range of motion when performed actively and is also a great way to improve muscular strength. It’s essential to be fully warmed-up beforehand and since it requires resistance, it’s ideally done with a partner but can be done using equipment such as resistance bands.
5. Seated Hamstring Stretch
If it’s a simple exercise, that can be performed anywhere you are looking for, the seated hamstring stretch is ideal! This is a common exercise used for the treatment of back pain and medical conditions including sciatica. The intensity and depth of the stretch can be varied by adjusting the foot position depending on your level of flexibility.
Always remember when performing any form of stretching to ensure that your muscles are properly warmed-up to get the maximum effect from your training and reduce the risk of injury. As your hamstrings can be an undervalued area of the body, incorporating these exercises into your training will help you realise great improvement in your performance levels (even enjoying newfound mind-body connectivity as you extend your range of motion) no matter what your particular training goals happen to be. How has stretching your hamstrings helped your physical performance? Let us know below or @KeepfitKingdom !