The hamstrings are a muscle group comprised of three muscles located on the back of the thigh. Since the hamstrings cross both the hip and knee joints, their function is to extend the hip and flex the knee, resulting in a power transfer from the larger muscles surrounding the hip to the smaller muscles around knee. The hamstrings are predominantly used during sprinting where a large amount of force is rapidly applied to the tendons. Increasing hamstring flexibility is crucial to sports performance and reducing injury.
Supine Hip Flexor Stretch
Lie on your back on a firm surface with your legs together and your arms at your sides. Keep your left leg on the floor and bring your right knee toward your chest, stopping when your right thigh is at a right angle to the floor. Grasp the back of your right thigh with both hands and gently pull your knee closer to your chest as you exhale. Inhale and slightly relax the stretch. Exhale and pull your knee slightly closer to your chest again. Return your right leg to the ground and repeat the stretch for your left leg.
Standing Strap Stretch
With your butt and back against a wall, stand on a cotton strap, or a large towel, with your feet approximately shoulder width apart. Bend your knees to grab each end of the strap. Slowly straighten your legs, keeping your butt against the wall, while holding the strap. Continue until your legs are straight and your back is parallel to the floor. Use the strap to pull your chest toward your knees as you exhale. Hold at the bottom position and then release the tension as you inhale.
Medicine Ball Stretch
The medicine ball stretch starts in a similar position as the standing strap stretch with your back and butt against the wall except your feet are wider than shoulder width. With a medicine ball in hand, bend at the waist, keeping your legs straight, until the ball is on the ground. Roll it to your left foot, back to center, and then to your right foot.
Downward Facing Dog
Place your hands and knees on the floor with your knees directly underneath your hips. Turn your toes under and keep your eyes on the floor with your neck in line with your spine. Your body shape should resemble a table. Exhale as you push your heels down, lifting your knees off the ground and straightening your legs. Straighten your arms and push your hands into the floor. At this top position, your body will be in the shape of an upside down "V." Increase the stretch by pushing your heels toward the floor. Inhale as you relax by bending the knees, and exhale as you push your heels back toward the ground and straighten your legs.
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images
- The Outdoor Athlete; Steve Ilg
- YouTube: Hamstring Stretching with Duke Sports Medicine