The hamstrings are a group of muscles at the back of the thigh. Tightness is a common problem in these muscles and it can lead to back pain, poor posture, impaired ability in sports and fitness and injury to the hamstrings themselves. Unfortunately, bad posture, back pain and muscle tightness often ends up being a vicious circle, which will continue to get worse unless you take action. There are lots of ways to stretch the hamstrings, but you need to be careful which ones you choose. This 30 day challenge uses 8 of the best hamstring stretches for easing tight muscles. Each day you do a different combination of 2 of the stretches so that you stretch in a variety of different ways.
How the hamstrings get tight
Poor posture, lack of flexibility and muscle tightness are common problems, usually due to lifestyle factors. These include:
- Being overweight
- Spending long periods sitting every day
- Wearing high heels
Women also often develop muscle imbalances during pregnancy and these don’t usually correct themselves after the baby is born.
The best hamstring stretches to do if your muscles are tight
Although this might sound silly, some hamstring stretches aren’t suitable if you have tight hamstrings. The reason for this is that they can put a strain on the muscles of the lower back. The best hamstring stretches to do if you have a lot of tightness is ones which will increase flexibility without compromising the low back.
Notes on doing this challenge
- Muscles are more flexible when they’re warm – stretching cold muscles can result in overstretching and injuring the muscle. So you need to do these stretches either when you have been active in some way, walking or doing household chores for example. Alternatively, see these warm up exercises.
- As with all stretching, you should not feel any pain. Ease into the stretch until you feel the tension. Hold the position here for 30 seconds.
- Make sure you follow the instructions for getting into the stretch to avoid injury. Also, read these general safety guidelines.
The 30 day challenge
There is a different combination of 2 stretches for you to do each day. Instructions for each stretch are below. Make sure you hold the stretches for a full 30 seconds.
Stretch #3: Sitting with both legs straight out in front is a popular hamstring stretch, but you shouldn’t use it if you have tight hamstrings. This is because it will put the low back into a compromised position. Having one leg bent is a safer way to develop your hamstring flexibility.
Stretch #6: The wide leg sitting position stretches the inner thigh muscles, especially if you lean towards the centre. But if you lean over your leg, this will also stretch your hamstrings.
Stretch #7 & #8: If you have tight hamstrings you won’t be able to bend down and touch your toes with straight legs. It’s not good for the low back to just bend over and let the arms hang unsupported if you can’t touch your toes. The next 2 stretches are both alternatives to doing this. For stretch #8 you need something to use as a prop. A yoga block, as shown in the picture is ideal. If you don’t have one, use something of a similar size that is solid and won’t slide – like a block of wood.
When you do this challenge, remember that improving flexibility can’t be rushed and, unlike other aspects of fitness, pushing yourself doesn’t get better results. If you force stretches you’ll end up with pulled muscles. Just stretch every day to the point where you feel the tension and your flexibility should steadily increase.