Hamstring Exercises – Stretching & Strengthening
This exercise video consists of stretches and strengthening exercises for the hamstring muscles. The hamstrings are a group of three muscles on the back of your thigh. These muscles are; biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus and their main job is to allow you to bend your knee. People who sit for most of their day for jobs like office work will most likely have tight hamstring muscles since they sit with their knee bent for the majority of their working day. Individuals with tight hamstring muscles will benefit from stretching or relaxing their muscles with the stretches below. Some individuals would like to focus on strengthening these muscles to; improve athletic performance, reduce the risk of injury or strain, or strengthen a naturally weaker muscle for them. The strengthening exercises can also be found below. When performing strengthening exercises for your hamstrings, make sure you also do exercises to strengthen your quad muscles on the front of your leg to avoid any muscular imbalances between the muscles on the front and back of your legs.
To perform a conventional deadlift, make sure that your feet are shoulder width apart. Keep your core strong and have a straight flat back without arching throughout the movement. With a slight bend in your knees, hinge at the hips and allow the weight in your hands to drop down. As the weight passes your knees, you can slowly start to bend the knees more. Once you have dropped the weights to about mid shin height, stand back up keeping your back strong throughout and squeezing the glutes as you stand tall.
Yoga Ball Hamstring Curls
Lie flat on your back and put the heels of your feet on a yoga ball. Engage your core and back to have a straight line from your shoulders, to hips, to knees, to ankles. Bend your knees curling your hamstrings to bring the yoga ball closer to your body using your heels. Extend your legs again and repeat.
Lie flat on your back, with your knees bent at a comfortable angle and feet about shoulder width apart. Lift your hips up and squeeze the glutes to keep your hips in a straight line with your shoulders and knees. Typically hold for 5 seconds at a time or increase the duration for a higher intensity.
Walking Downward Dogs
Start in a table top position on your hands and knees with hands and knees shoulder width apart and at a 90-degree angle to your torso. Push your hips up into the air so that your hands and feet are the points of contact with the ground. Try and keep your back as flat as possible with minimal arching. Slowly bend each knee and pump the ankles to stretch out each leg.
Standing Hamstring Stretch
In a standing position, bring one foot slightly ahead of the other with the heel in contact with the ground. Point the toes up and hinge at the hips, keeping a flat back. Hinge until you feel a stretch in the back of your leg.
Foam rolling is a great way to relax and release muscle tension. To roll out the hamstrings, place the foam roller underneath the back of your thigh and control the amount of body weight you put onto the roller with your other leg and arms. Slowly roll back and forth on top of the roller to release the muscles.
Julia de Reijke RKin, CSEP-CPT, BASc Kinesiology (Hons), DipFTHP