If you run, bike, or are deskbound all day, your hamstrings could use some extra love. It not only feels good to stretch this commonly tight area, but hamstring flexibility is also important for the health of your back, hips, and knees. Here are six easy and essential stretches that target the backs of your legs. To avoid injury, it's best to do them at the end of a workout, when the muscles are warm.
Tight hamstrings plague both incredibly active and sedentary folks. Whether you're hard on your legs during a workout or they're tight up from sitting at a desk all day, just about everyone can benefit from helpful, hamstring-opening yoga.
Regardless of whether you're a new yogi or a seasoned practioner, you're sure to come across Triangle Pose. It's part of the primary series in Ashtanga, and it's always welcome in my practice: it's perfect for giving much-needed love to your hamstrings.
Stepping onto your fingers in Foot-to-Hand Pose may look a little intimidating, but with a steady practice, you can reap the benefits of this pose. Not only does it give a huge stretch to the backs of your legs, but also, it helps strengthen and stretch wrists.
Keep reading for two more poses to show some love to your tight hamstrings.
I feel like everything I do from running and biking to gardening and simply sitting, shortens my hamstrings. But I find yoga is good medicine for loosening up the backs of my legs. I have rounded up some yoga poses to lengthen tight hamstrings, which can also ease knee, hip, and low back pain and hopefully prevent injuries too. The first four poses are definitely suitable for beginners, with the final three poses being a bit more challenging.
Yoga is the perfect exercise for expectant mommas, not only to increase strength and flexibility, but it can also ease common pregnancy woes such as a sore lower back and heartburn. It can also help you hone your sense of balance, which is ever changing as your belly expands.
Here's a yoga sequence that incorporates standing poses to strengthen your lower body while increasing the flexibility in your hips and hamstrings. Complete the entire 12-pose sequence on one side and repeat again on the other. Be sure to ease into the poses since the hormone relaxin softens your joints and gives your muscles more elasticity. This makes it easier for you to stretch deeper than you ever could, increasing your risk for tearing a muscle.
*Remember to talk to your doc before starting any exercise program when pregnant.
For runners, cyclists, or those who work at a desk job all day, tight hamstrings seem to come with the territory. Give the backs of your legs some love and attention with this yoga sequence, and you're sure to ease tightness in your lower half.
I don't think I've ever met a runner who doesn't suffer from tight hips, hamstrings, or a lower back. The receptive movements and strengthening aspect of running can cause tight muscles that need extra attention. Of course you should never skip the stretching session after a run, but here are three lower-body stretches you should do every day — even on the days you don't run.
What it stretches: sides of the hips and hip flexors
How to do it:
- Come into a lunge position with the right foot forward and the left leg extended behind you, toes relaxed. Make sure there's enough distance between your feet so your front knee is at a 90-degree angle. Lower your hands to the floor to the left of your right foot.
- Keep your front foot where it is and slowly lower your right knee outward, so you're resting on the outside of your right flexed foot. Keep your arms straight, pressing your chest forward just like in Upward Facing Dog; this will help encourage your hips to lower, increasing the stretch.
- Gaze forward and enjoy Open Lizard for 30 seconds and then switch sides.
Keep reading to find out how to do the above stretch and one more that will target your hamstrings.
If you run, bike, ski, or sit at a desk all day, chances are your hamstrings are screaming for some attention. Get on the floor and give them what they crave — a seated forward bend. This pose looks simple enough, but here are some ways to increase that deep stretch in the backs of your legs.
- Before folding forward, sit with your legs straight out in front of you. Take your right fingertips and pull the flesh of your glute up and away from the sit bone. Repeat on the: left hand moves left cheek. Moving the cushioning of your seat out of the way helps target your hamstrings more effectively in the stretch.
- While still sitting upright, increase the stretch in the backs of your legs even further by gently pressing the backs of your knees into the floor. Flex your feet to also engage your calves and shins, but do keep your heels on the floor so you don't hyperextend your knees.
- Actively roll both thighs inward, creating a more grounded base for your hips to hinge from. This action in the thighs also help keep the feet flat, as the pinky toe side of the foot has a tendency to curl away from you.
Wouldn't it be nice to end every active week with an intense deep-tissue massage to help ease your muscles? But since we can't always spring for a trip to the spa, here's what we can do — use the foam roll at the gym.
You may have seen people in the gym foam rolling and think it's just for serious athletes or gym rats, but that's not the case. But there are many reasons why massaging out the tight knots in muscles is an important part of your workout routine, even if you already stretch regularly. Why? Because no matter how much you stretch, the build up of fascia that creates muscle knots that won't go away, which can lead to many different problems.
I've been consistently seeing my trainer for a few weeks, and the aftermath is clear: not only am I working new sets of muscles (meaning new ways of being sore) but I'm also realizing how much more I need to be foam rolling. My trainer, Tim Rich at Crunch Gym, says that everyone, avid athlete or not, should be using those long spongy cylinders daily. Read on for why and how you should be foam rolling every day.
- Helps prevent common injuries. One of the most important reasons for a regular foam-rolling routine is to prevent those often too common exercise-related injuries. Many runners, for example, become painfully well acquainted with their IT band if they don't take care to massage the band of tissue. IT band syndrome and other similar flare-ups can be caused by too-tight muscles. Foam rolling every day ensures you are massaging away fascia buildup in your muscles, in order to help prevent those areas from becoming injury trigger points.
- Helps you de-stress. Had a hard day? Foam roll your worries away. Digging for those knots "releases tension that is built up in the connective tissue to keep you less stressed," says Tim. He recommends a simple all-over body routine in order to combat the "desk posture blues" that happen from sitting too long in the office.
- Keeps you flexible. Building up your flexibility is key for any fitness routine, Tim says, which means you constantly should be stretching and doing exercises that'll help you gain flexibility. Stretches that lengthen your hip flexors, for example, can help combat tightness from sitting as well as lower back pain.
The more regularly you use a foam roll on your tight muscles, the less painful it'll be. Ready to roll? Here are five important stretches you should be doing with a foam roll, and a video on how to foam roll your quads and IT band for elongated, flexible, and injury-free thighs and happy knees.
If you love the way Downward Facing Dog stretches out your hamstrings, calves, and lower back, but don't love the wrist pain the pose can cause, then here's a variation to try. With your forearms on the ground, the Quarter Dog variation takes the weight out of your hands and wrists. Even though this pose seems relaxing, it's not as easy as it looks. This pose will not only intensely stretch the backs of your legs, but it's also a workout for your arms, shoulders, and upper back.
|Sanskrit Name: Catur Svanasana|
English Translation: Quarter Dog Pose
Also Called: Dolphin or Puppy
To learn how to do this pose.
What's not to love about a forward bend? These poses feel so good after a run to lengthen the lower back and hamstrings — just the tight places that need a good stretch. If you liked the variation of the pose known as Big Toe Standing Forward Bend, since you hold your toes to pull yourself more deeply into the pose, then you're going to love this variation for the deeper stretch it provides while simultaneously giving your wrists a sweet release.
|Sanskrit Name: Padahastasana|
English Translation: Foot to Hand Pose
Also Called: Standing Forward Bend
Learn more details in this pose when you read more