The hamstrings are among the most often ignored muscle group in the human body. We don’t often hear discussions on people strengthening their hamstrings, do we? As we tend to focus more on yoga, aerobics, strength training, jogging, and the like, we tend to ignore them. As you age, the hamstrings become susceptible to damage. Maintaining them is crucial to keep your body flexible and free of pain and injuries.
The hamstring muscle group is comprised of three muscles that start at the bottom of the pelvis and run along the back of the thighs to the back of the knees: the semimembranosus, the semitendinosus, and the biceps femoris. The hamstring muscles are attached to the pelvis as well as the upper portion of the lower leg. These muscles are responsible for helping you bend the knee and making sure that your hips are stable and centered when you perform activities like walking, running, sitting, standing, or bending.
Since this oft-ignored muscle group is elemental in everyday movements like walking and sitting, it’s important to take proper care of it. If the hamstrings are weak, it can lead to knee pain and lower back pain.
Signs of Weak Hamstrings
A few signs can help you understand if your hamstring muscles are on the weaker side:
* A decreased range of motion as you bend forward.
* Achiness in the back of the leg that doesn’t go away.
* A mild ache just under the buttocks.
Another way to gauge whether your hamstrings are delicate is to simply try and bend over and touch your toes. If your toes and fingers don't meet, you may have weak or tight hamstrings.
Related: 8 Seated Exercises For Improved Balance and Joint Mobility
Easy Hamstring Stretches to Do At Home
Keeping your hamstrings strong will help you maintain proper muscular balance. Flexible hamstrings will also ensure a stronger lower back, proper posture, and reduced risk of injury.
Lucky for you, there are many simple hamstring exercises you can do at your home, no extra equipment is needed.
1. Good Mornings
This is one of the best ways to warm up your hamstrings without much effort.
Step 1: Stand with your feet directly underneath your hips. Place your hands behind your head. Make sure that your elbows are wide open as you do so.
Step 2: Hinge forward slowly at the hips while keeping your knees slightly bent. Your chest should be parallel to the floor.
Step 3: Keep your spine neutral, press your hips back, and engage your core.
Step 4: You will know this technique is working when you start feeling a stretch in the hamstring. Return to the starting position and complete 10 repetitions.
2. Lying hamstring stretch
Here’s another easy exercise anyone can do.
Step 1: Lie down flat on your back on a mat. Extend your legs out completely. Your knees should be slightly bent.
Step 2: Bring your right knee to your chest slowly.
Step 3: Keeping the knee slightly bent, raise the leg.
Step 4: Hold the stretch for 10 seconds. Now repeat the process with your other leg. Do at least 10 repetitions for each leg.
3. Wall hamstring stretch
All you need for this stretch is the corner of a wall. You can also do it near a couch.
Step 1: Lie flat on the ground, keeping one leg on the floor and the other against a wall or the arm of a couch.
Step 2: Push the knee gently while making sure that the raised leg is as straight as tolerable.
Step 3: Hold the position for 10 seconds. If you feel comfortable, extend it to 30 seconds.
Step 4: Perform the stretch 4-5 times with each leg.
Related: Alleviate Knee Pain with These 7 Exercises
4. Seated hamstring stretch
Stretching in a seated position isn’t as comfortable as doing so while lying on your back, but it’s good for your lower back. This stretch is great to perform if you are stuck for a long time in a sitting position, like a car or at the office.
Step 1: Sit on the edge of a chair with the back straight. Keep the feet flat on the floor.
Step 2: Gently straighten one leg in front of the body while keeping the heel on the floor. Your toes should be pointing toward the ceiling.
Step 3: Sit up tall and tilt your pelvis forward. Make sure the spine is straight.
Step 4: Place the hands on the other leg for support.
Step 5: Hold the stretch for 10-30 seconds. Repeat 2-4 times on each side.
5. Basic Bridge
The basic bridge exercise isolates and strengthens your glutes (the large muscles of the buttocks) and hamstrings. This is a beginner workout and is suitable for any age or fitness level.
Step 1: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Make sure they are at a comfortable distance from your butt. Let your arms rest by your sides.
Step 2: Press your heels into the floor and lift your hips until your body forms a straight line from shoulders to knees. As you do so, tighten your glutes and abdominal muscles.
Step 3: Inhale and focus on squeezing the hamstrings. Hold this position for 10 to 20 seconds.
Step 4: Lower to the starting position. Do 10 repetitions.
6. Hamstring stretch on the edge of a bed
Start this stretch by sitting on the edge of a bed. Now, follow these steps:
Step 1: Place one leg along the edge of the bed with the foot of the other leg resting firmly on the floor.
Step 2: Keeping the spine straight, bend forward gently at the hip.
Step 3: Try and keep the leg on the bed as straight as possible. If you feel discomfort, however, don’t push yourself.
Step 4: Hold the position for 10-30 seconds. Repeat 3 times on each side.
Related: The MOST Important Exercise to Practice For Seniors
7. Standing Marches
This workout is extremely simple and is useful in creating stability in the hip flexors as well as the glutes. It develops balance while enhancing core stability.
Step 1: Stand next to a chair or counter and use your hand or fingers for support.
Step 2: Drive one knee up to hip height and hold for a split second.
Step 3: Lower your foot back to the ground gently. Repeat on the other side.
Step 4: Alternate at your own pace. Do 10-15 repetitions.
8. Donkey Kick
Here’s another great workout that targets your glutes and hamstring muscles. It’s a low-load exercise that stabilizes your core and lower back and improves your range of motion.
Step 1: Start on all fours, with your hands aligned under your shoulders and your knees aligned under your hips. Make sure your back is flat.
Step 2: Lift your right leg while making sure that your core is tight. Your knees should stay bent and the foot should stay flat, hinging at the hip.
Step 3: Press your foot directly toward the ceiling using your glutes (give them a squeeze to activate). Make sure your pelvis and hip stay pointed toward the ground.
Step 4: Bend that knee and return to the starting position. Complete 10-12 repetitions on each leg.
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