Effectively stretching your hamstrings is what's most important, so I'm going to give you the master key that makes any hamstring stretch you do much more effective.
Go through all the stretches presented on this page and find out what works best for you. Over time you can do other stretches as your hamstrings release.
Follow along with the videos below, and go at your own pace.
Please visit the techniques page now, if you haven't already. The techniques are extremely simple, but being familiar with them will vastly improve the effectiveness of what we do below.
On the homepage I describe…in detail…the 3 Simple Steps and the 4 Basic Facts about your body that make it possible for you to provide your own joint pain relief. It's good to know why what you're about to do actually works, but it's not required, so I'll leave that decision to you.
Here's what we are going to do:
1. The key to an effective hamstring stretch is engaging your rectus femoris muscle.
When it is your rectus femoris is flexed during a hamstring stretch, it keeps your pelvis in the ideal position, so your hamstring gets stretched and not your lower back. Many people think that a standing forward bend hamstring stretch can be back for your back, but this is only true if you do not flex your rectus femoris.
When you do the stretch while flexing your rectus femoris you will feel the stretch from your calves, up through your hamstrings, and into your hips. Your lower back will not be negatively affected. If you do not flex your rectus femoris during the stretch, you will feel the strain in your lower back.
So the lesson is to always actively engage your rectus femoris when doing any kind of standing forward bending hamstring stretch and you should be fine. Flexing your thighs like you are trying to pull-up on your knee caps is a useful way to think about this.
If you grasp this concept and enthusiastically flex your quads when you do a standard hamstring stretch you will be shocked at how quickly you can have more flexible and functional hamstrings.
2. Now we will do the most basic hamstring stretch. Stand with the your legs straight and your weight in the balls of your feet with your feet shoulder width apart. Bend forward as far as you cofortable can without stretching.
Next, while keeping your legs straight (do not bend your knees!) flex your quadriceps as hard as you can like you are trying to pull your knee caps upward while pushing your hands straight down toward the floor.
You should feel this stretch up the back of your legs and in your butt.
Hold each repetition for 10 seconds if you can, but whatever you can do is fine. If you can do 3 sets, of 3 repetitions. You can do this as many times a day as you would like. The more times you do it the faster your hamstrings will improve.
3. Now we will do the "reaching" hamstring stretch. Stand the same way as in number 2, but place your hands out in front of you on a small bench, chair, couch, bed, etc.
Instead of reaching straight down as we did in the previous stretch, you will reach as far out in front of you as you can, while flexing your thighs and arching your lower back.
You should also feel this all the way up the back of your legs and into your butt.
Just like in Step 2, you can do 3 Sets, of 3 ten second repetitions. You can do this stretch as much, and as often as you'd like.
Notice which stretch you like better. Feel free to do both versions!
Here's what we're going to do:
1. Seated "V" Stretch
Sit on the floor with your legs spread apart. Preferably, sit on a cushion that will raise your hips 3 to 4 inches off the floor so it is easier to keep your pelvis tilted forward.
FLEX YOUR QUADRICEPS (thigh muscles) and bend forward toward one foot. Grab your foot, or shin, or pants leg as you bend forward to help you pull your upper body down toward your shin. Hold on for 3 to 10 seconds for each repetition.
Now grab the other other foot and repeat all the steps you just did.
Do 3 sets of 3 repetitions for each leg. Personally, I like to alternate sides after each repetition, but you can do all three on one side first if you'd like.
Notice how easy and how effective this stretch is versus the stretches you've already done in this series.
2. While still seated in the "V" position reach under and feel your hamstrings with your fingertips. Feel for any spots that you noticed were tight while stretching. When you locate a tight spot do a bit of press-pull-release technique with one hand or doing a hand-on-hand technique. Get what release you can.
Now do a press-hold-move technique on any tender/painful spots that still remain. Do this by flexing your quadriceps while pressing into the tight tissue.
Repeat on your other leg.
Note how effective you were at releasing your hamstring with this method.
3. Next, lie on your back with both knees bent. Grab the back of your thigh (hamstring) with one or both hands and do a press-hold-move technique on any tight tissue by bending and straightening your leg.
Repeat on other leg.
Notice how effective this method is for you releasing your hamstring.
3. Grab a baseball or softball and sit on a bench or chair. Place the ball under your hamstring and press into the tissue with the ball using your bodyweight. This is called the tennis-ball-press technique regardless of what kind of ball you use.
Bend and straighten your leg while the ball presses into the tight tissue.
Do both legs.
Notice how effective this method is for you to release your hamstrings.
Here's what we are going to do:
1. Resistance Stretch Medial Hamstring (inner hamstring)
Lie on your back, bend one leg and grab the inside of your foot with the hand on the same side as the leg you are bending. Let the leg fall out to the side a bit, but keep your lower leg and thigh aligned with each other.
While flexing your hamstring (pulling your leg closed) and pulling your leg open with your hand, slowing open and close your leg by alternating "letting your hand win" and then "letting your hamstring win." Do 5 to 10 reps, and then do the other leg. 2. Resistance Stretch Middle Hamstring
Lie on your back and bring your knee to your chest so you can grab the bottom of your foot. Now, using the same method as above stretch your hamstring by opening and closing your leg by "letting your hamstring win" when closing the leg and "letting your hands win" when opening the leg. Your hamstring is ALWAYS engaged it's just a matter of how much. Do 5 to 10 reps, and then do the other leg.
3. Resistance Stretch Lateral Hamstring (outside hamstring)
Lie on your back and bring one knee to your chest and support to stay in line with your shoulder by using the hand on the same side as your leg. Next, take your opposite hand and reach up and grab the outside of your foot.
While being careful to keep your your ankle, knee and sitz bone all in the same line. Open and close the leg in the same manner as above. The hamstring is always engaged as you open and close the leg.
Do 5 to 10 reps, and then do the other leg.
Notice how effective this stretch was for you.
Take a moment and assess all of the above hamstring stretches. Which of these "best hamstring stretches" happens to be the best hamstring stretch for you???
Which of the "best hamstring stretches" seemed to be most effective?
Which of the "best hamstring stetches" seemed to be the least effective?
Remember what worked best for you, so you can do that first next time you want to stretch you hamstrings.
Also, in a few days or a week, go back and repeat those hamstrings stretches that seemed very difficult . You'll probably be pleasantly surprised how well you do, now that you've gotten the ball rolling with the stretches you could do easily .