Stretching pt 2- Hamstrings
In the introduction post to this series, we reviewed and answered some common questions regarding stretching, including why, when, how, etc. Click here to review it.
In this post we will be talking about stretches specifically for the hamstring. In the video below are two ways to stretch out all three hamstring muscles. An easy way to picture this group is as three big muscles. All start on your sit bone and travel down the back of the thigh. Just before the knee they split. Two tendons go to the inside and one goes to the outside. These are the two big ropes behind your knee. To effectively stretch all three muscles, you need to add a rotation component to the stretch. With this in mind there are three parts to the hamstring stretches as well as two positions, one that is laying down and one that is standing. Start at level one and work you way up when you can do so comfortably or as your flexibility improves.
Level One: Laying on your back with a strap. These stretches are ideal for people who are coming back from an injury to the hamstrings/back of the thigh or who have had back problems in the past. By laying down your back is supported and your arms do all the work. The key is to keep your leg as relaxed as you can. It's just going for a ride with the strap/belt.
Level Two: Standing. This is a more difficult stretch position because it requires good core control and flexibility in both the calf and hip/low back. KEEP YOUR BACK STRAIGHT!! Avoid bending down over the leg and curling your low back. It won't take much movement to feel these so go easy!! remember, you want the stretch to be repeatable.
1) Stretching should NEVER hurt. The goal is to only go until you feel a pull in the muscle. It should not be to go until it hurts in one of those “no pain, no gain” efforts. It should be comfortable and repeatable, allowing you to move a little further with each repetition.2) Perform stretches when the muscles are warmed up. This can be following a workout or following work with the foam roller. Click here to review the self massage post for the hamstrings (this includes pictures and video using a foam roller and tennis ball to review 3 self muscle release techniques).
2) Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat 3-4 times. You can hold longer than the 20 seconds, but the reps are key. You will always get more out of stretching frequently versus one killer session a week.
3) If hurt- be sure to stretch the opposing muscle groups. For the hamstrings/back of the thigh, this means the quad muscles, glutes, calf and adductors. If it is too painful to stretch out the hamstrings do to injury, focus on these groups instead and work your way up to stretching the hammie. Always start at level 1 and work you way up.