Ask a PT: What is the best way to stretch your hamstrings?

Hamstring Stretches

Nathan Swan, PT, DPT

First, let’s start with how not to stretch your hamstrings. The majority of your hamstring musclefibers attach on the bump under your hip (the bone you sit on) known as your ischial tuberosity. Since your hamstring muscle does not attach to your spine, your spine does not (and should not) need to bend to stretch your hamstrings. Unfortunately, many people are taught to stretch their hamstring by bending forward to touch their toes. The motion requires lots of flexion at the spine. Some people have so much spinal mobility their hamstrings don’t stretch when they touch their toes. Worse yet, so much flexion at the spine could lead to injury or exacerbate low back pain.

Instead, keep your back straight whenever you stretch your hamstrings. The stretch comes when you tilt your pelvis (where your hamstrings attach) forward, while your knee is extended. You can accomplish this several ways. My favorite way is to stand and prop the leg on a low surface, then lean forward through the hip, not the back, to feel the stretch behind your thigh. Another way is to sit on the floor, and lean forward by flexing your hip to feel a stretch in your hamstring muscle, keeping your knee straight. ou can also get a good stretch by lying on your back, holding your thigh perpendicular to the ground and extend your knee. Whichever way you choose your back should be straight, your pelvis tilted forward, and your knee extended. Happy Stretching!