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August 03, 2023 13 min read

Sore hamstrings can be a real pain, both literally and figuratively. Whether you're an athlete, a fitness enthusiast, or someone who simply leads an active lifestyle, tight and sore hammies can hinder your performance and limit your mobility.

However, there is hope. In this blog post, we will explore a variety of stretches that can help alleviate discomfort and improve the flexibility of your hamstrings. We will cover the best stretches for sore hamstrings, giving you the tools to loosen up and get back to doing what you love.

Which Muscles Contribute to Having Sore Hamstrings?

Hamstring Muscles

If you have sore hamstring muscles, it's essential to address not only the hamstrings themselves but also the muscles that are closely related and may contribute to the discomfort. The following muscles are important to stretch to help relieve sore hamstrings:

1. Quadriceps (Rectus Femoris, Vastus Lateralis, Vastus Intermedius, Vastus Medialis):

These muscles are located on the front of your thigh. Stretching the quads can help balance the tension between the front and back of your leg.

2. Hip Flexors (Iliopsoas, Rectus Femoris):

The hip flexors are a group of muscles that connect your thigh to your pelvis. Tight hip flexors can pull on the pelvis and affect the alignment of the lower back and hamstrings.

3. Glutes (Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius, Gluteus Minimus):

The gluteal muscles, located in your buttocks, play a significant role in hip extension and pelvic stability. Tight glutes can influence the positioning of the pelvis and affect the tension in the hamstrings.

4. Lower Back (Erector Spinae):

The erector spinae muscles run along the length of your spine and help support your back. A tight lower back or lower back pain can lead to compensatory patterns and affect the hamstrings.

5. Calves (Gastrocnemius, Soleus):

The calf muscles, located on the back of your lower leg, are connected to the hamstrings through the fascia. Tight calves can affect the overall tension in the posterior chain, including the hamstrings.

When you experience sore hamstrings, it's a good idea to incorporate stretches for these related muscle groups into your routine. A balanced stretching program can help alleviate tension in the entire lower body and promote better overall flexibility and muscle health.

Remember to perform stretches gently, and hold them for an appropriate amount of time (around 20–30 seconds) for static post-workout stretches to allow the muscles to relax and lengthen effectively.

If your soreness persists or worsens, consider consulting a healthcare professional or a qualified physical therapist for proper evaluation and guidance.

Dynamic vs. Static Stretches

When it comes to your flexibility routine, the timing determines whether you should do static stretches or dynamic stretches. Static stretches involve holding a position for a few seconds and are best done after a workout when your muscles are warm.

On the other hand, dynamic stretches involve controlled movements to warm up your body and prepare your muscles for more intense activity. These are best done before a workout.

The instructions provided below are mostly for static stretches. However, if you want to make them dynamic, you can repeat each posture with steady and controlled movements for 60 to 90 seconds.

The Best Hamstring Stretches

So, let's dive in and discover how you can find relief for your sore hamstrings through the power of stretching.

1. Inchworm Stretch

The Inchworm is a timeless exercise that serves as an excellent warm-up for your workout and prepares your body for more hamstring exercises.

The Inchworm Stretch is effective for stretching and lengthening the hamstrings, as well as improving overall mobility in the shoulders and core. This stretch is also suitable as a static post-workout stretch.

Here are the steps to perform the Inchworm Stretch:

Starting Position:

Begin by standing tall with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides.

Here's how to do it:

—Slowly bend forward at the hips, lowering your upper body towards the floor.

—Keep your knees slightly bent if you have tight hamstrings or if you feel any discomfort in the back of your legs.

—Once your hands reach the floor, start walking them forward in front of you.

—Your body should form a plank position with your hands directly below your shoulders and your body in a straight line.

—Pause for a moment in the plank position, engaging your core and keeping your hips level.

—Now, start walking your feet towards your hands, keeping your legs as straight as possible.

—Take small steps with your feet, moving them closer to your hands with each step.

—As you walk your feet in, your body will gradually fold at the hips.

—Continue walking your feet until your heels are as close to your hands as you can comfortably manage.

—As a cool-down stretch, once you have reached a comfortable stretch in your hamstrings, hold this position for about 20–30 seconds.

—Relax and breathe deeply throughout the stretch.

—To come out of the stretch, start walking your hands forward again, extending your body into the plank position.

—Continue walking your hands back towards your feet until you are back in the forward bend position.

—Finally, slowly roll up to a standing position one vertebra at a time.

As a dynamic pre-workout stretch, you can repeat the Inchworm Stretch for several repetitions, gradually increasing the intensity of the stretch as your flexibility improves.

It's a great warm-up exercise that can be used as part of your regular stretching routine to keep your hamstrings and entire body limber.

2. Downward Dog Stretch

The Downward Dog Stretch is a yoga pose that not only stretches the hamstrings but also targets the calves, shoulders, and back. It's a great overall stretch that can be beneficial for relieving soreness in the hamstrings.

Here is how to perform the Downward Dog Stretch:

Starting Position:

Begin on your hands and knees in a tabletop position. Your wrists should be under your shoulders, and your knees should be under your hips.

Here's how to do it:

—Spread your fingers wide and press your palms into the floor. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart and facing forward.

—Tuck your toes under and, as you exhale, lift your knees off the floor, straightening your legs as much as possible.

—Your body should form an inverted “V” shape.

—As you lift your hips, actively lengthen your spine by reaching your tailbone toward the ceiling.

—Press your heels down towards the floor, but it's okay if they don't touch.

—Engage your core muscles to support your lower back, and draw your belly button in towards your spine.

—Rotate your upper arms slightly outward to engage the shoulders and broaden your upper back.

—Let your head hang freely between your arms, and gaze back towards your knees or belly button.

—Avoid tensing your neck and allow it to relax.

—Hold the Downward Dog pose for about 20–30 seconds, breathing deeply and focusing on lengthening your spine and hamstrings.

—To come out of the stretch, bend your knees and lower them back to the floor into the tabletop position.

—After releasing from Downward Dog, you can rest in Child's Pose for a few breaths to counter-stretch and relax.

—You can repeat the Downward Dog Stretch for several repetitions if desired, with short breaks in between.

Remember to perform the Downward Dog Stretch with proper alignment and avoid locking your elbows or over-straining your hamstrings.

3. Lunge Hamstring Stretch

The Lunge Hamstring Stretch is an excellent exercise to specifically target and stretch the hamstrings. It also engages the hip flexors and quadriceps, making it a comprehensive lower-body stretch.

Here are the steps to perform the Lunge Hamstring Stretch:

Starting Position:

Begin by standing tall with your feet hip-width apart.

Here's how to do it:

—Take a big step backward with your right foot and get into a lunge position.

—Plant the ball of your right foot firmly on the ground, keeping your heel lifted.

—Bend your left knee, lowering your body into a lunge position.

—Your left knee should be directly above your left ankle, forming a 90-degree angle.

—Your left leg is the one you'll be stretching, so as you sink into the lunge, focus on lengthening your spine and keeping your chest lifted and your torso and upper back straight.

—Lean back to allow your left knee to straighten until you feel the stretch in your foreleg's hamstring.

—If you want to intensify the stretch, hinge forward from your hips, bringing your chest closer to your left thigh.

—Keep your back straight as you do this and avoid rounding your spine.

—You can explore a bit by slightly rotating your torso to the left and right and feel this picking up different fibers of the hamstring.

—Hold the Lunge Hamstring Stretch for about 20–30 seconds, breathing deeply and relaxing into the stretch. To really feel the burn of the static stretch, you could even hold the stretch for up to 2 minutes.

—To come out of the stretch, bend your left knee slightly, and step your right foot forward to return to the starting position.

—Now, step your left foot back into a lunge position, and repeat the same stretch on the opposite leg.

—You can repeat the Lunge Hamstring Stretch on each leg for several repetitions, taking short breaks in between if needed.

As with any stretch, it's essential to perform the Lunge Hamstring Stretch with proper form and avoid any sharp or painful sensations. Regularly stretching your hamstrings can help improve flexibility, reduce muscle tightness, and relieve soreness.

Standing Hamstring Stretch

The Standing Hamstring Stretch is a simple and effective stretch to target the hamstrings. It can be done almost anywhere and requires no equipment.

Here are the steps to perform the Standing Hamstring Stretch:

Starting Position:

Stand tall with your feet together or hip-width apart, depending on your comfort level.

Here's how to do it:

—Engage your core muscles to stabilize your spine and pelvis during the stretch.

—Shift your weight onto one leg, slightly bending the knee of that leg.

—Keep the other leg straight and extend it in front of you.

—Point your toes upward to engage the muscles in the back of the leg.

—Hinge forward at the hips, leading with your chest and keeping your back straight.

—Imagine trying to touch your chest to your thigh.

—As you hinge forward, reach with both hands toward the foot of your extended leg.

—You can intensify the stretch by lifting one leg up and placing the heel or ankle on something about waist-high or a little lower.

—You can try to grasp your toes, ankle, or lower shin, depending on your flexibility.

—Bend at your hips to bring the front of your trunk towards your thigh.

—Hold the Standing Hamstring Stretch for about 20–30 seconds.

—Keep your breath steady and try to relax into the stretch.

—Keep your standing leg slightly bent to maintain balance and avoid locking the knee.

—To release the stretch, slowly lift your torso back up and return to the starting position.

—Shift your weight to the other leg and repeat the stretch on the opposite side.

You can repeat the Standing Hamstring Stretch on each leg for several repetitions, taking short breaks in between if desired.

Remember to perform the stretch with control and avoid bouncing or jerking movements, as this can increase the risk of injury. If you have tight hamstrings, you might not be able to reach your toes initially, and that's okay. Over time and with consistent practice, your flexibility should improve.

5. Seated Hamstring Stretch

The Seated Hamstring Stretch is a gentle and effective way to target the hamstrings while seated. It can be done almost anywhere and is particularly useful for people who may find standing stretches challenging.

Here are the steps to perform the Seated Hamstring Stretch:

Starting Position:

Sit on the floor with your legs extended straight in front of you.

Sit tall, lengthen your spine, and engage your core muscles to maintain good posture.

Here's how to do it:

—Bend one knee and bring the sole of your foot to the inside of your opposite thigh.

—The bent leg should be relaxed and comfortable.

—As you inhale, elongate your spine by reaching the crown of your head toward the ceiling.

—This helps create space between your vertebrae and allows for a better stretch.

—As you exhale, hinge forward at your hips, leading with your chest.

—Reach your hands toward your toes or the extended leg.

—Try to keep your back straight throughout the stretch and avoid rounding your spine.

—Feel the stretch along the back of your extended leg (the hamstring) as you hinge forward.

—Hold the Seated Hamstring Stretch for about 20–30 seconds, breathing deeply and relaxing into —the stretch.

—To release the stretch, slowly sit back up and extend both legs in front of you.

—Bend the other knee and place the foot on the inside of the opposite thigh.

—Repeat the stretch on the other leg.

—You can repeat the Seated Hamstring Stretch on each leg for several repetitions, taking short breaks in between if desired.

Remember to perform the stretch with control and avoid jerking or bouncing movements, as this can increase the risk of injury. If you have tight hamstrings, you might not be able to touch your toes initially, and that's okay. With consistent practice, your flexibility should improve.

6. Foam Roller Hamstring Stretch

This Hamstring Stretch is a self-myofascial foam rolling release technique that can help relieve tension and soreness in the hamstrings. The foam roller is used to apply pressure to the muscles, promoting increased blood flow and relaxation.

Here are the steps to perform the Foam Roller Hamstring Stretch:

Starting Position:

Sit on the floor with your legs should be extended straight in front of you. Bend the knee of the leg you want to work first and place the foam roller horizontally under the back of your thigh.

Keep the other leg stretched out in front of you.

Here's how to do it:

—Place your hands on the floor behind you, with your fingers pointing away from your body.

—Your hands should be positioned far enough back to support your weight and help you roll the foam roller.

—Lift your hips off the floor, supporting your body weight with your hands and feet.

—Roll the foam roller slowly along the back of your bent leg.

—Do long sweeping rolls from just below the glutes, stopping just short of the back of your knee.

—When you find a tight or particularly sore spot, pause and apply gentle pressure while oscillating —back and forward on that area to release the tension.

—Breathe deeply and relax into the pressure, allowing the muscle to release.

—As you get used to this, you can cross the other leg over and let it rest on the leg you're rolling for extra pressure.

—Roll for about 20–30 seconds or until you feel the tension in the hamstring starting to release.

—Continue rolling the foam roller along your hamstring, searching for other tight spots.

—Repeat the pressure and rolling process for each tight area you encounter.

—Make sure to avoid rolling directly on the knee joint or any bony prominences.

—When you've covered the entire hamstring area of one leg, release the pressure and sit back down on the floor.

—Take a moment to rest and repeat the process on the other leg's hamstring.

—If desired, you can repeat the Foam Roller Hamstring Stretch for additional rounds.

The Foam Roller Hamstring Stretch can be particularly beneficial for people who experience tightness in the hamstrings due to physical activity or prolonged sitting.

7. Lying Down Hamstring Stretch with Resistance Band

The Lying Down Hamstring Stretch with a Resistance Band is an effective way to gently stretch and improve flexibility in the hamstrings. The resistance band allows you to control the intensity of the stretch.

Here are the steps to perform the Lying Down Hamstring Stretch with a Resistance Band:

Starting Position:

Lie on your back on a comfortable surface, such as a yoga mat or exercise mat.

Bend your knees, keeping your feet flat on the floor.

Here's how to do it:

—Place the resistance band around the ball of your right foot.

—Hold the ends of the resistance band firmly in each hand.

—Slowly lift your right leg with the resistance band off the floor, straightening your knee as much as possible to keep a straight leg.

—Keep your left leg bent with the foot flat on the floor.

—Use the resistance band to control the intensity of the stretch.

—Gently pull your right leg with the band toward your torso until you feel a comfortable stretch in your hamstring.

—For added intensity, you can flex your right foot by using the resistance band to pull your toes toward your body, and you can also stretch your left out straight on the floor.

—Hold the Lying Down Hamstring Stretch for about 20–30 seconds, breathing deeply and relaxing into the stretch.

—Release the resistance band from the right foot and switch to the left foot.

—Repeat the stretch on the left leg.

—You can repeat the Lying Down Hamstring Stretch with the resistance band on each leg for several repetitions, taking short breaks in between if desired.

—After completing the stretch on both legs, take a moment to relax and feel the difference in your hamstrings.

Avoid forcing your leg into an uncomfortable position or overstretching.

The Lying Down Hamstring Stretch with a Resistance Band is an excellent way to target the hamstrings while providing support to your back. Regularly stretching your hamstrings with proper form and control can help improve flexibility and reduce muscle tightness.

How do Stretches Help Sore Hamstrings?

Sore Hamstrings

Stretches can be highly beneficial for sore hamstrings by providing relief and promoting healing. Here's how stretches prevent hamstring injuries and help with hamstring tightness:

1. Increased Blood Flow: Stretching increases blood flow to the muscles, including the hamstrings. This improved circulation helps deliver essential nutrients and oxygen to the muscle tissue, aiding in their repair and recovery.

2. Muscle Relaxation: Stretching encourages muscle relaxation, reducing muscle tension and tightness in the hamstrings. This can alleviate discomfort and soreness associated with overuse or physical activity.

3. Improved Flexibility: Regular stretching can enhance the flexibility of the hamstrings. Increased flexibility allows the muscles to move more freely, reducing the risk of strain or injury during physical activities.

4. Reduced Muscle Imbalance: Tight hamstrings can cause muscle imbalances, leading to postural issues and potential injuries. Stretching the hamstrings helps restore balance to the muscles around the hips and lower back.

5. Pain Relief: Gentle stretching can stimulate the release of endorphins, which are natural pain-relieving chemicals produced by the body. This can provide temporary relief from soreness and discomfort.

6. Prevention of Future Soreness: Regular stretching helps maintain muscle flexibility and elasticity, reducing the likelihood of developing soreness after physical activities or workouts.

7. Improved Range of Motion: Stretching can enhance the range of motion in the hamstrings, allowing for better functional movements and performance in sports or daily activities.

8. Post-Exercise Recovery: Stretching after a workout helps cool down the muscles and prevent them from becoming too tight, which aids in the recovery process.

9. Injury Prevention: Flexible and well-conditioned hamstrings are less prone to injuries like strains and tears. Stretching regularly can help prevent these injuries and keep the hamstrings healthy.

10. Relaxation and Stress Reduction: Stretching, particularly during practices like yoga, can promote relaxation and reduce stress levels. Lower stress can indirectly contribute to reduced muscle tension and soreness.

Pre-and post-workout stretches are essential parts of your leg workout day. It's essential to perform stretching exercises correctly and avoid bouncing or forcing movements, as this can lead to injury. Gradual and controlled stretching is most effective for improving flexibility and relieving soreness.

If you have persistent or severe hamstring soreness, it's advisable to consult a healthcare professional or seek physical therapy from a qualified therapist to determine the underlying cause and receive personalized treatment recommendations.