Our hamstrings are formed of three muscles. The upper ends are located on the back of the thigh and originate mostly from the base of the pelvis. The lower ends are attached below the knee joint. They are involved in the extension of the hip joint and are major knee flexors. Taking care of this muscle group is essential to preventing injuries.
Short and Tight Hamstrings
A common imbalance of the hamstrings occurs when they become short and tight. They can become quite weak as the front thigh muscles become too strong. Consequently, shortened hamstrings frequently contribute to back pain. This is why it is so important to regularly stretch and strengthen your hamstrings as part of your daily routine.
Runners are particularly prone to painful hams. Their enthusiasm for running can lead to severely shortened hamstrings and eventually, injury and immobility.
Try This Effective Hamstring Stretch
Lay on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor. Starting with your right hamstring group, use a cloth strap to loop around the right foot. Straighten your right leg with the heel pressing to the ceiling and toes pointed towards you. Adjust the strap so that it is taut. Make sure that you are using the correct technique:
- Do not lock your knee (i.e. hyperextend).
- Keep your chin a fist width from chest – if your chin points to the ceiling, raise your head with a pillow to alleviate stress on the neck.
- Keep your back and pelvis flat on the floor.
- Keep your shoulders down from ears and keep shoulder blades connected to the floor.
- Don’t reach for the right foot – place your hands further down on the strap if you need so that you are not straining your shoulders.
Take slow deep breaths. Stretch until you feel the tension releases from the back of your right leg. Slowly straighten the left leg by sliding your left heel along the floor, toes up, away from the hip – only straighten to the point where you are able to keep the right leg straight. Continue to breathe slowly until the tension releases.
To finish, bend the right knee, pulling it gently towards the chest then straighten out both legs.
Repeat this stretch with your left leg.