The answer is, it depends. There are different factors that influence the best way to stretch your hamstrings. Our hamstring muscle is a two joint muscle, meaning that it crosses two joints. The hamstring muscle works at both our hip and knee. We are able to actively stretch our hamstrings while lying on our back, sitting on a chair or stool, and while standing.
As stated before, different factors influence the best way to stretch. For example, some people have increased pain in other parts of their body that decreases tolerance for stretching while on their back. Others may have poor balance and are unsafe to stretch in standing. Here at ACS, we can help determine the best way to stretch your hamstrings in a safe and comfortable way.
1) Laying down
First, let’s review a hamstring stretch that is performed with you lying on your back. If stretching the right leg, start the stretch with the left leg bent and your foot resting on the floor or bed. Raise your right leg until you are bending your hip to 90 degrees as pictured below.
Straighten your lower leg towards the ceiling. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times on each leg. Try to perform twice per day. You can use a stretch strap, a beach towel, or bed sheet to help with the stretch if you have difficulty reaching/holding on to the back of your knee.
Next, is a seated hamstring stretch. It’s important to stretch the hamstrings, especially if your job requires extended periods of sitting during the day. Start with scooting forward in your chair. Straighten the knee of the leg you are going to stretch while keeping your heel on the floor. Sit tall and reach forward while keeping your arms at chest height. Avoid reaching toward your toes. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat it for 3 times. Perform twice per day.
There are a couple ways to stretch the hamstrings while standing. If you have access to a step or elevated surface, raise the leg of the side you want to stretch to the step. While resting your heel on the step, reach forward at chest height until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Avoid reaching towards your toes. Hold for 30 seconds.
If you don’t have a step or elevated surface to work with, you can still do a standing hamstring stretch on a level surface. Extend the leg on the side you want to stretch forward with your heel touching the floor and keeping the knee straight. Bend your hip and knee on the opposite leg and reach forward at chest height until you feel a stretch. Hold for 20-30 seconds and perform twice per day.
You should feel a good stretch in the back of your thigh with these stretches, but you should avoid pain. If the stretch is painful, reduce the amount of tension on the leg and hold the stretch at a pain free range of motion.
Remember, if you are having pain or difficulty with mobility, schedule an appointment to see our ACS team. We will work with you to help you achieve your treatment goals.