The hamstrings are a group of muscles at the back of the thigh. Tightness is a common problem in these muscles and it can lead to back pain, poor posture, impaired ability in sports and fitness and injury to the hamstrings themselves. Unfortunately, bad posture, back pain and muscle tightness often ends up being a vicious circle, which will continue to get worse unless you take action. There are lots of ways to stretch the hamstrings, but you need to be careful which ones you choose. This 30 day challenge uses 8 of the best hamstring stretches for easing tight muscles. Each day you do a different combination of 2 of the stretches so that you stretch in a variety of different ways.
How the hamstrings get tight
Poor posture, lack of flexibility and muscle tightness are common problems, usually due to lifestyle factors. These include:
- Being overweight
- Spending long periods sitting every day
- Wearing high heels
Women also often develop muscle imbalances during pregnancy and these don’t usually correct themselves after the baby is born.
The best hamstring stretches to do if your muscles are tight
Although this might sound silly, some hamstring stretches aren’t suitable if you have tight hamstrings. The reason for this is that they can put a strain on the muscles of the lower back. The best hamstring stretches to do if you have a lot of tightness are ones which will increase flexibility without compromising the low back.
Notes on doing this challenge
- Muscles are more flexible when they’re warm – stretching cold muscles can result in overstretching and injuring the muscle. So you need to do these stretches either when you have been active in some way, walking or doing household chores for example. Alternatively, see these warm up exercises.
- As with all stretching, you should not feel any pain. Ease into the stretch until you feel the tension. Hold the position here for 30 seconds.
- Make sure you follow the instructions for getting into the stretch to avoid injury. Also, read these general safety guidelines.
The 30 day challenge
There is a different combination of 2 stretches for you to do each day. This chart shows you which 2 stretches to do each day and instructions for each stretch are given below. Make sure you hold the stretches for a full 30 seconds, in order to develop your flexibility.
8 best hamstring stretches – instructions
Bend one knee and stretch the other leg out in front, then flex your upper body towards your legs
Make sure that your hands are resting on the bent leg, not the one that is stretching
Rest one foot on the chair and straighten the leg out, making sure you don’t push the knee backwards
Lean your upper body over your leg until you feel the stretch
Kneel on one knee and extend the other leg in front of you, then slide the leg out until you feel the stretch
Support your weight with your hands on the floor, not your leg
Lie on the floor with one leg bent, foot flat on the floor
Gently pull the other leg towards you, holding onto it with both hands either on the calf or above the knee
Hold the position when you feel the stretch along the back of the leg
Take your feet as wide as is comfortable. and bend your knees slightly
Slide your hands down your legs until your finger tips are touching the floor
Move your hands to about hip distance apart in front of you
Keeping your finger tips touching the floor, straighten your legs as much as you can and hold the stretch
As your flexibility improves, work on getting your legs straight and once you have achieved this, work on getting your hands flat to the floor
Sit with your legs as wide as is comfortable for you
Rotate your upper body towards one of your legs
Hold onto the leg with your hands
Slowly lean over the leg until you feel the stretch in your hamstrings
Repeat on the other side
Sit with one leg stretched out in front of you and the other leg bent comfortably out to the side
Slowly lean down over the straight leg, supporting your weight with your hands
For stretch #8 you need something to use as a prop. A yoga block, as shown in the picture is ideal. If you don’t have one, use something of a similar size that is solid and won’t slide – like a block of wood.
Stand with your legs close together and knees bent, holding your block in your hands
Lean over and place the block on the floor as shown, using it to support the weight of your upper body
Now try to straighten your legs – At first you may not be able to straighten them completely, but work towards this
When you do this challenge, remember that improving flexibility can’t be rushed and, unlike other aspects of fitness, pushing yourself doesn’t get better results. If you force stretches you’ll end up with pulled muscles. Just stretch every day to the point where you feel the tension and your flexibility should steadily increase.
Get a printable copy of the challenge chart
Sign up for My Fitness Planner updates and get a free printable download of this challenge e-mailed to you:
After you sign up, you’ll get 2 e-mails:
The first will ask you for a one-click confirmation of your subscription
Once you’ve confirmed, you’ll get a second e-mail with a link to your download