The hamstrings are a group of three muscles on the back of your thigh, between your sit bone on your pelvis to just below your knee.  The primary function is to flex your knee to bring your foot up behind, and also to extend the hip when your leg moves back. 


Tight hamstring are known by many of us and injuries or niggles here are not uncommon.  They flex the knee and extend the hip at the beginning of each step you take, which can be many thousands of times in the day.  They also take a beating during sports such as football, squash and tennis where running is combined with rapid starts, stops and changes of direction.


Because the hamstrings have their origin at the sit bones, they are elongated while sitting which can be several hours at a time.  Prolonged periods in one position can put the muscles under repeated tension which can causing fatigue.

Hamstring stretch - standing/kneeling 

Target area:  Hamstrings


Another classic that works well.  Please do not be surprised if you find this stretch, that looks simple, to be feel pretty terrible.  It takes time to improve flexibility of hamstrings that are often horribly tight.  Stick with it regularly and you’ll see an improvement.


From standing upright with one foot slightly in front of the other, bend you back knee whilst keeping the front leg almost straight but with just a gentle bend at the knee.  Push your hips backwards as if trying to sit on a seat.  Try to keep your back straight.  You should feel this along the back of the forward leg.  If you want to increase the stretch, bend your front ankle to point your toes upwards.  Hold the stretch here for thirty seconds or so before releasing and repeating on the opposite leg.  

This stretch can be made more dynamic by gently alternating from standing upright to sitting your hips back and holding the stretch for a few seconds.  The more dynamic movement can also easily be done from kneeling on the floor which is a good one to combine with other stretches/movement.


Hamstring stretch - lying

Target area: Hamstrings


Not only is this a good stretch for your hamstrings, it’s can also help to relieve sciatica symptoms.


Lie on your back, one leg out straight on the floor and the other knee bent up in line with your hip and bent at about 90 degrees or so.  Clasp on to the back of the bent leg between your knee and hip (make sure you don’t hold right behind the knee).  Start to straighten this leg but don’ lock out your knee, you want to keep a slight bend in it. 


One option is to hold the stretch for thirty seconds before releasing and repeating on the opposite leg.  A second option is hold for just a few seconds, release back to down to the bent knee then raise foot again.  This would be repeated about ten times on each side.


Don’t worry if your leg shakes a little, your muscles are working hard and that’s their way of showing it. 

Hamstring stretch - with a band

Target area:  Hamstrings


Here the stretch is done with a band but it could also be done with a buddy.


Lie on your back with a resistance band looped around the sole of one foot and the knee of this leg slightlybent.  The other leg can either be out straight or bent at the knee with the foot flat on the floor.  Gently bring the banded foot upwards, keeping a gentle bend in the knee.  The closer the foot is towards your head, the greater the stretch will be.   Once you feel a good stretch, hold for thirty seconds before repeating on the opposite leg.


You should feel this in the back of your raised leg.  If you feel it more behind you knee, bend the knee of the stretching side a little more.

Hamstring sweeps

Target area:  Hamstrings


This is a great dynamic stretch, perfect to warm up the hamstrings before running riding, football, etc.

Standing upright, take a short step forward with one leg.  Plant the heel on the floor with the toes up.  Bend through the back knee and as your lean forward, sweep your arms from back to front then overhead.  Repeat this five to ten times on each leg.  

You may notice that you are able to bend a little further forward and lower as you go through the repetitions. 

Arabesque - toe touches

Target area:  Hamstrings and hips


This one challenges your balance a little so feel free to hold on to something to support you if you need to.  It’s another great dynamic movement to warm up your hamstring ready for action.


From standing upright, lean forward and lift one foot off the ground behind you.  Try to keep the standing leg fairly straight but so that there is a little bend in the knee.  As you bend forward, reach down to touch the toes of your standing leg with the opposite hand (for example, standing on left leg, reach right arm down).  Return to standing, driving through your big toe to help bring you back up. Repeat this sequence five to ten times on each leg.

Hamstring extension with thoracic extension

Target area:  Hamstrings, hips, lower back


Another great multitasking dynamic movement.  Mobilise your hips and lower back whilst getting a nice hamstring warm up too.  Yes, we like this one.


Stand with your feet wider than hip width, this will give you the space you need and also help with balance.  Squat down deep and take a hold of your toes on both feet.  Whilst keeping hold of your toes, lift your bum up and straighten your legs.  Hold here for a couple of seconds to give the hamstrings a little stretch.  Try to keep your neck in a neutral position by letting your head hang down. 


Sit back down in to the deep squat.  Still holding your toes or moving your hands slightly in front if you need to for balance, lift one arm up overhead and turn to look at that hand.  This will create a nice trunk rotation.  Hold here for a few seconds before returning to the deep squat position.


Repeat the squat, straighten legs, squat, and rotate sequence about ten times.  Lift the other arm on each rotation.