Having flexible hamstrings is incredibly important, not merely from an all-round flexibility point of view but experts say that having tight hamstrings could increase your risk of lower back pain. What do you need to watch out for during your stretching to ensure that you get the most out of your hamstring stretch?
Don’t bounce when you stretch
Bouncing when you stretch is called “ballistic stretching” and some feel that it’s a good practice to adopt in order to deepen your stretch. Don’t do this as you could end up hurting your muscle.
Stretching isn’t a warm-up
If you stretch a cold muscle, chances are very good that you will injure it – which will put your training back for ages. Rather stretch after you’ve worked out when your muscles are warm – you’ll find that you’ll stretch more effectively and you won’t hurt anything.
Here are four of the best stretches to ensure that your hamstrings stay flexible.
Towel Hamstring Stretch
This hamstring stretch will put the least amount of strain on your lower back. To perform this stretch, lie on your back with one leg in the air. Wrap a towel behind your foot and gently pull the towel towards you. Stop when you feel the stretch in your hamstring – don’t overstretch so that you are in pain. Repeat with the other leg.
Static seated stretch
Sit on the floor with one leg stretched out in front of you with the other leg bent – almost as if you were sitting cross-legged. Rotate the stretched leg inwards. Lean gently towards the stretched leg, exhaling as your do so. Each time you exhale, fall lower into the stretch and stop when you feel that you’ve attained the deepness of stretch you want to achieve. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Standing Hamstring Stretch
Put one leg on a chair and bend the leg that you’re standing on, slightly. Make sure that the leg that you have on the chair is straight. Slowly bend your torso towards this leg, making sure that you can feel the stretch in your hamstrings. If you feel pain in your lower back, put your leg on a lower surface or even on the floor – the height of the leg being stretched doesn’t matter; what matters is that you get a good stretch in your hamstring. Repeat the stretch on the other side.
Downward Facing Dog
A Yoga pose, the downward facing dog position provides an excellent stretch for your hamstrings. In order to perform this pose, Kristin Rooke – personal trainer and health coach – advises that you should begin in plank. Slowly lift your bum towards the sky so that your feet and hands are both on the ground. If you have very tight hamstrings, you may find this stretch difficult. If this is the case, rather start on the towel hamstring stretch, or the static seated stretch, to loosen your hamstrings up.
Always remember to listen to your body when you’re stretching: a deep stretch, where you feel the stretch, is good but don’t overstretch and cause yourself pain. Remember that pain is your body’s way of saying that there’s something wrong – so listen to it!
On Trifocus Fitness Academy’s Personal Training Course, you’ll learn about other stretches that will maintain flexibility not just in your hamstrings but other parts of your body too. Find out more here.