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13 Hamstring Stretches for Back Pain & Tight Muscles

The importance of hamstring stretches is often underestimated. However, regularly stretching your hamstrings is one of the most effective ways to prevent back pain and ease tight muscles. If you think you need to improve your hamstring flexibility but don’t know where to start, don’t worry! This article covers all you need to know about hamstring stretches. 

Contents:

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What Are The Hamstrings?

stretches for hamstring

Before we get started with our list of the best hamstring stretches, what exactly are the hamstrings? 

The hamstrings refer to the group of muscles that run along the back of the thigh: the biceps femoris, the semimembranosus and the semitendinosus.

These muscles are then connected to the pelvis, knees and lower leg bones via the tendons. The hamstrings are what allow you to bend your knee, and they also support your glutes during activities like running and walking.

The hamstrings are notoriously susceptible to injury and many people suffer from tight hamstrings. Runners are particularly prone to hamstring injury, and running downhill can be especially tough on these muscles. 

That said, even if you don’t do a lot of sport, we use the hamstrings all the time in everyday life. That’s why it is important to protect them through hamstring stretches and exercises such as the ones listed in this article! 

Benefits of Hamstring Stretches

lower hamstring stretches

Whether you do a lot of sport or not, there are a whole host of reasons to start stretching the hamstrings - here they are!

Hamstring stretches improve your flexibility and mobility

There are many ways to improve your flexibility, but stretching is undeniably one of the best ways to get more supple and increase your range of motion. 

Improving flexibility and mobility then has a knock-on effect on so many other aspects of general fitness, such as preventing injury and improving posture. 

Hamstring stretches can reduce the chance of injury 

Whilst stretching may not have a proven direct correlation with preventing injury, it is certainly beneficial!

Dynamic hamstring stretches are particularly important. Warming up your muscles before working out not only increases blood flow, but it also increases your range of motion. This in turn puts less strain on your joints, thus decreasing your risk of injury. 

The hamstrings are one of the main muscles used when running, so it is no surprise that hamstring injuries are particularly common amongst runners. OriGym’s article on the best pre and post-run stretches is a handy guide to everything you need to know stretching before and after you run. 

Hamstring stretches can improve posture 

There are so many benefits of good posture, from enhancing sport performance to improving digestion. Despite all of these benefits, most people will suffer from bad posture at some point in their lives! 

Many cases of bad posture are caused by muscles shortening over time. For example, people who hunch over at a computer all day risk developing bad posture as they are shortening the chest muscles. 

The same goes for hamstrings! Short and tight hamstring muscles can cause you to put excess strain on your hips or lower back, which can then lead to poor posture. 

If you’re wondering how to lengthen your hamstrings, stretching is the answer! If you suffer from bad posture, practicing daily hamstring stretches is hugely beneficial. 

Hamstring stretches for lower back pain

best hamstring stretches

There are many potential causes of lower back pain. But did you know that having tight hamstrings is one of the most common contributing factors?

Tight hamstrings can put strain on the ligaments surrounding your vertebrae and cause your pelvis to tilt backwards. This then puts strain on your back muscles and can cause bulging discs in your back. 

If your hamstrings are relaxed, your pelvis can tilt forwards and thus take the strain off your back ligaments and discs. Doing hamstring stretches for lower back pain can therefore reduce the strain on your back. 

Hamstring stretches can reduce the effect of delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS)

If you’ve ever had that feeling of not being able to walk a day or two after a heavy leg day, it is likely that you’ve experienced delayed-onset muscle soreness, often referred to as ‘DOMS’. DOMS occur 24-48 hours after exercise, and they are the result of microscopic muscle tears.

Whilst DOMS are not entirely preventable, stretching before and after your workout is an easy way to lessen their effect. 

So if you’ve been going hard with the deadlifts at the gym, remember to stretch your hamstrings if you want to reduce the effect of DOMS! 

Static vs Dynamic Hamstring Stretches

upper hamstring stretches

When it comes to stretching the hamstrings, there are two main types of stretches that you can do: static and dynamic.

Static hamstring stretches are those that you hold in a single position for a set period of time. It is best to perform them after exercise, as your muscles will already be warm. 

Dynamic hamstring stretches are active stretches that involve controlled movement, often done as part of a warm-up before exercise. You can read more about the benefits of dynamic stretching here

Both static and dynamic hamstring stretches are equally important when it comes to improving hamstring flexibility and preventing injury. 

Static Hamstring Stretches

So, what are the best static hamstring stretches? Here are our top 9 stretches for the hamstrings to do after your next workout!

1. Simple seated hamstring stretch

First up is a super easy hamstring stretch that you can do any time, anywhere! This is one of the most effective hamstring stretches as having your legs flat on the ground makes sure that all the right muscles are targeted. 

How to do it:

  • Start by sitting on the floor and stretch both of your legs out in front of you. 
  • Inhale and reach your arms up overhead.
  • Exhale and bend forwards from the waist whilst extending your arms forwards towards your toes. You may or may not be able to touch them, depending on your hamstring mobility. 
  • Hold for 15 to 30 seconds before returning to the starting position. 
  • Repeat 3 times.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Bending your knees: If you want to get the most out of this hamstring stretch while sitting, try to keep your legs straight. If your hamstrings are tight and you feel that you need to bend your knees, simply do not stretch forwards as much. Remember that improving hamstring flexibility takes time! Check out our article on how to improve flexibility here

Hunching over the shoulders: Try to hinge at the hips, rather than simply hunching over from the shoulders. Think about reaching ‘up and over’ the legs and try to keep your spine in a neutral position. It is better to have a neutral spine and not reach as far forwards, than to hunch over just to touch your toes.

2. The hurdler hamstring stretch

This one is very similar to the simple seated hamstring stretch, except it targets one hamstring at a time. It is also a particularly good lower hamstring stretch. 

How to do it: 

  • Sit on the floor and stretch one leg out in front of you. 
  • Bend the other leg and place the sole of the foot against the opposite thigh.
  • Inhale and raise both arms overhead. 
  • Exhale, bend at the waist and extend your arms forwards over the straight leg as far as you comfortably can.
  • Hold for 10 seconds before returning to the starting position and repeating on the other leg.

Common Mistakes

Not flexing the toes of your working leg: It is important that the toes of your outstretched leg are pointing upwards so that your leg stays straight and your hamstrings are really engaged. This kind of attention to detail is common in activities like pilates and yoga. Wondering what the difference is between the two? Have a read of our article on pilates vs yoga here.

Hunching over the shoulders: Make sure that you are hinging at the hips, rather than simply hunching over from the shoulders. Think about reaching ‘up and over’ the leg and try to keep your spine in a neutral position. It is better to have a neutral spine and not reach as far forwards, than to hunch over just to touch your toes. This is what makes it one of the most effective hamstring stretches! 

3. Standing hamstring stretch (both legs)

If you’re wondering how to lengthen the hamstrings, this stretch will help you do just that. You can do this one anywhere, making it an ideal daily hamstring stretch.

How to do it: 

  • Start standing up straight and cross one foot in front of the other so that the edges of the feet are touching. 
  • Take a big breath in. As you exhale, hinge at the hips and slowly bend forwards, as if you are trying to touch your front knee with your forehead. 
  • Keep both legs as straight as possible and relax your hands down towards the ground. 
  • Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds before returning to the starting position by inhaling and slowly rolling up. 
  • Repeat on the other leg. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Bending your knees: If you want to really feel the benefits of this standing hamstring stretch, make sure that you keep your knees straight. This makes sure that you really feel the stretch in your hamstrings. 

Hunching over the shoulders. Think of bringing your torso towards your legs by keeping your back straight, rather than rounding the spine. This helps to protect the lower back! 

4. One-legged standing hamstring stretch

This is another of our favourite standing hamstring stretches as it targets each leg individually. 

How to do it:

  • Stand up straight and place one leg slightly in front of the other, forming a triangle formation. 
  • Take a big breath in. Exhale and hinge at the hips, keeping your spine in a neutral position as you slowly bend forwards over your front leg.
  • Reach your arms down towards your front foot as far as you can. Depending on your hamstring mobility, your hands will rest on your thigh, shin or the floor. 
  • Hold for 15-30 seconds before repeating on the other leg. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Hunching over the shoulders: Like many of these hamstring stretches, it is important to keep a neutral spine in order to protect your lower back. Make sure to reach your hands only as far as they can go whilst keeping the back straight. It is more important that you keep your back straight than it is to force yourself to touch your toes. 

Not having your hips square: Try to keep your hips facing forwards and parallel to each other. This helps to keep your pelvis correctly aligned and avoids uneven strain on the hips. 

5. Supine hamstring stretch

If you’re looking to improve your hamstring flexibility, this is one of the best things you can do! This is also a good hamstring stretch for lower back pain, as your back is supported by the floor. More specifically, this is a great upper hamstring stretch. 

How to do it:

  • Start by lying flat on the ground with your legs stretched out. 
  • Bend your left knee and place the sole of the foot on the floor. 
  • Grab hold of the back of the right thigh, just below the knee. Inhale and slowly straighten the leg as much as you can. As you exhale, gently pull the leg towards your chest. 
  • If you have good hamstring mobility, you can try walking the hands up the raised leg and holding onto the calf for a more advanced hamstring stretch. 
  • Hold for 15-30 seconds before switching to the other leg.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Arching your lower back: Try to keep your lower back as flat as possible to the ground and your pelvis neutral. This ensures that you don’t strain your lower back and keeps it a safe hamstring stretch. You can even place a towel or blanket under your lower back for extra support. Check out our list of the best yoga blankets here!

Incorrect alignment. Make sure that your hips are aligned directly over your feet, rather than sticking your bum out behind you! This ensures that you are really feeling the stretch in your hamstrings.

6. Supine hamstring stretch with band/towel/strap 

The addition of a resistance band, strap or towel makes this one of the more advanced hamstring stretches. It is an easy way to get an even deeper stretch and makes it a particularly good upper hamstring stretch! 


If you’re looking to buy a resistance band to enhance your stretching and workouts, check out OriGym’s guide to the best resistance bands here.

How to do it: 

  • Start by lying flat on the ground with your legs fully stretched out.
  • Bend your left knee and place the sole of the foot on the floor. 
  • Bend the right leg and place a strap, band or towel around the ball of the right foot.
  • Inhale and slowly straighten the leg as much as you can. As you exhale, gently pull on the strap to pull the leg towards your chest. 
  • Hold for 15-30 seconds before switching to the other leg.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Not flexing the raised foot: There’s no doubt that this is a good hamstring stretch, but if you want it to be effective, you need to make sure that your raised foot is flexed throughout the duration of the stretch.

Over-stretching: Although this is an advanced hamstring stretch, be careful not to use the band or strap so much that you end up over-stretching and actually causing injury. That said, straps have a whole host of amazing benefits. If you want to add one to your routine, our guide to the best yoga straps is a great place to start. 

7. Wall hamstring stretch 

This is another of our favourite tight hamstring stretches as the wall allows you to go even deeper into the stretch. Since your back is supported by the floor, it is also a good hamstring stretch for lower back pain and one of the best stretches for a pulled hamstring.

How to do it:

  • To do this stretch, you need to be near the corner of a wall or the side of a sofa (or any other right-angled object). 
  • Start by lying down flat on the ground with your back flat and your left leg fully extended on the floor.
  • Extend your left leg fully along the floor against the flat side of the wall. 
  • Raise your right leg and lean it against the wall. You may need to adjust your body position in order to get your right leg straight against the wall and feel the stretch in your hamstrings. Inhale and exhale throughout the stretch.
  • Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds before repeating on the other leg. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Not having your body in the right position: You should make sure that you are close enough to the wall if you want to get the most out of this static hamstring stretch. 

Arching your lower back: Try to keep your lower back as flat as possible to the ground and your pelvis neutral. This ensures that you don’t strain your lower back and keeps it a safe hamstring stretch.

8. Seated chair hamstring stretch 

This is a super easy hamstring stretch if you’re wanting to improve hamstring flexibility. You do this hamstring stretch whilst sitting, so you can easily do it at home or as a quick break in the office! If you want to incorporate more exercise into your working day, have a read of OriGym’s guide to office fitness

How to do it:

  • Start by sitting down on the edge of a chair with your feet flat on the ground. 
  • Extend one leg straight in front of you with your heels on the floor and your toes pointing upwards. 
  • Inhale and raise your arms overhead. As you exhale, bend at the hip and slowly lean forwards over your straight leg whilst reaching your hands down to rest them wherever they land on the leg. 
  • In this position, you should feel a gentle stretch in the hamstring of your extended leg. 
  • Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds before repeating on the other leg. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Not keeping a neutral spine: Instead of rounding the shoulders when you lean forwards, try to keep a neutral spine and think about moving your chest towards your thighs. This will help to protect your lower back and maintain a good posture. Find out more about the benefits of good posture here!

9. Lunging calf stretch 

This is not only one of the best stretches for the hamstrings, but it also targets the quads and glutes! Plus, it doesn't involve any equipment, making it a super easy hamstring stretch too. It is also a particularly good lower hamstring stretch as it targets your calves. 

This is a great stretch to do after working your calves. If you want to build strength in your calves, we’ve compiled a list of the best calf exercises

How to do it: 

  • Start standing up with your feet together and facing forwards.
  • Step the left leg back behind you and bend your front right 90 degrees. You can place your hands on your right thigh for support.
  • Straighten your left leg. Inhale. 
  • As you exhale, slowly lean forwards into the stretch until you feel a stretch in your left hamstrings. 
  • Hold for 15-30 seconds before switching to the other leg. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid 

Not keeping your front knee at 90 degrees: Instead of collapsing into the front knee, try to keep your front leg at a 90 degree angle. To check this, make sure that your knee does not track over your toes, or you can do this hamstring stretch in front of a mirror to check your form!

Not keeping your hips square: If you want to make this a safe hamstring stretch, it is important to keep your hips square. To avoid this common mistake, avoid leaning too heavily into one hip.

Enjoying this article so far? Here’s 3 more that we think you’ll love!

Dynamic Hamstring Stretches

If you’re wondering how to lengthen the hamstrings, practicing these dynamic hamstring stretches will help alleviate any muscle tightness and improve your hamstring mobility. 

10. Standing hamstring scoop 

If practised regularly, this standing hamstring stretch is a great way to improve your hamstring mobility and flexibility. 

How to do it: 

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart facing forwards and inhale.
  • Shift your weight into the left foot and extend your right leg slightly in front of you with your heel flexed and toes pointing upwards.
  • As you exhale, bring both arms down towards your right foot, hinging slightly at the hips and bending your left knee.
  • Scoop the arms down and back up towards you. 
  • Repeat 10-12 times then switch to the other leg. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Arching your back: Try to keep your spine straight as you bend down by engaging your core and keeping a neutral pelvis, rather than rounding over the shoulders. 

Not flexing your foot: Remember to keep your front foot flexed with your toes points upwards. This makes sure that your hamstrings are engaged and is what makes it one of the best dynamic hamstring stretches!

Moving too quickly: Although this is a dynamic hamstring stretch, the movement should still be relatively slow and controlled so that you can really feel the stretch in your hamstrings. Moving too quickly simply doesn’t give your muscles the chance to feel the benefit of the stretch! 

11. Inchworm 

When wondering how to stretch the hamstrings, the inchworm may not immediately come to mind. However, this is actually a great dynamic hamstring stretch that also targets the arm muscles and the abdominals, making it a full-body stretch too.

How to do it: 

  • Stand up with your feet hip distance apart facing forwards and inhale. 
  • As you exhale, cast your gaze down, reach your hands down towards your feet and roll down one vertebrae at a time, hinging at the hips. 
  • You can bend your knees a little if your hamstrings are particularly tight.
  • When your hands reach the ground, inhale and walk your hands forwards along the ground until your hands are directly below your shoulders in a plank position. 
  • Exhale and walk your hands back towards your feet until you are in a forward fold position. During this walk back is when you should feel the lower hamstring stretch. 
  • Inhale and slowly roll back up until you are back at the starting position. 
  • Repeat 5-10 times.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Not engaging your core: Although this is a hamstring stretch, it is still important to engage your core in order to protect your lower back from strain. If you’re not sure how to do this, check out our tips for how to engage your core

Moving too quickly: Although this is a dynamic hamstring stretch, it should still be a slow and controlled movement. Focusing on inhaling and exhaling at the correct times can help you to slow down. 

12. Lunging hamstring stretch 

This is similar to the lunging calf stretch, except it is a dynamic rather than static movement. It is not only great for hamstring mobility, but it also targets the quads and glutes, making it one of the most effective hamstring stretches you can do. 

How to do it:

  • Start standing up with both feet facing forwards. 
  • Step your left leg back behind you and place your knee on the floor. You can place a yoga cushion or something else soft under your knee for support if you need.
  • Inhale and bend your right leg at 90 degrees and frame the right foot with your hands. 
  • As you exhale, slowly send your hips back and press through your left foot to straighten the left leg. You should feel a stretch in your left hamstring. 
  • Straighten your right leg too and reach your hands down over your front leg towards the floor. Your fingertips might be able to touch the floor for stability, or you can rest them on a block. 
  • Hold here for a few seconds before bending your right leg again. 
  • Repeat, inhaling and exhaling as you alternate between the two positions. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Not keeping your hips square: If you want to make this a safe hamstring stretch, it is important to keep your hips square to avoid straining your hip flexors. 

Hunching over your shoulders: Try to keep a long spine when you are in both the lunge and extended position. This helps to maintain a good posture and makes sure that you are really feeling the hamstring stretch. 

13. Toy soldier hamstring stretch 

The toy soldier stretch is perhaps one of the best standing hamstring stretches and is a great way to warm up your lower body muscles before a workout. It is also ideal if you are looking for a tight hamstring stretch, as the dynamic movement really helps to loosen up your muscles. 

How to do it: 

  • Start standing with the feet hip distance apart and facing forwards.
  • Moving from the hip, swing the left leg up in front of you with the feet flexed. Keep your right leg straight. 
  • Reach your right hand forwards to meet your left foot, trying to touch your toes. 
  • Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
  • Do 12 repetitions on each leg, inhaling and exhaling as you switch legs. 

Common Mistakes to Avoid 

Not keeping your back straight: Although this is a stretch for the hamstrings, it is important to engage your core, keep your spine straight and maintain a neutral pelvis. This ensures that the range of motion is coming from the hips and that you aren’t straining your lower back.

Not flexing your toes: In order to get the most out of this dynamic hamstring stretch, remember to flex your toes on the leg that is raised in front of you as this will really target the hamstrings.

FAQs

Does stretching your hamstrings help back pain? 

hamstring stretches for flexibility

The short answer is, yes!

You may not think so, but there is a big link between tight hamstrings and lower back pain. If you suffer from back pain- particularly lower back pain, daily hamstring stretches can be hugely beneficial. 

This is because having tight hamstrings puts strain on your pelvis, which subsequently puts more stress on your lower back. This can not only cause bad posture, but can also lead to conditions such as sciatica. Stretching your hamstring helps to lengthen and loosen them, thus reducing the strain on your lower back! 

What stretches should you do for a pulled hamstring?

If you’re wondering what stretches to do for a pulled hamstring, it is vital that you take time immediately after the injury to rest before you do any kind of stretching. You should consider seeking professional medical advice if you think that it is a particularly severe injury. 

However, many hamstring injuries can be treated at home through many of the tight hamstring stretches outlined in this article. But remember that any kind of pulled hamstring stretch should be done slowly and carefully so as to not cause any further damage. 

Gentle static hamstring stretches, such as the wall hamstring stretch, are a good place to start. If you’re a beginner, we would recommend giving these types of stretches a go rather than the more dynamic hamstring stretches, such as the toy soldier. 

Foam rollers are another great way to treat pulled or tight hamstrings. Check out our list of the best foam rollers here if you’re thinking of including one in your stretching routine.

How can you improve hamstring flexibility and hamstring mobility? 

Firstly, let’s clarify the difference between flexibility and mobility! In simple terms, flexibility refers to the passive range of motion of a muscle, whereas mobility is about the active range of motion around a joint. 

Whilst there are subtle differences between the two, it is important to work on them both. Having good flexibility helps with mobility - and visa versa. There are many benefits of flexibility training, from enhancing your sports performance to improving your posture. 

When it comes to the hamstrings, you can improve hamstring flexibility and hamstring mobility through all of the stretches outlined in this article! 

Yoga is another great way to improve hamstring flexibility. If you’re new to yoga, check out OriGym’s ultimate guide to the different types of yoga styles to help you find the right style for you. 

Before you go! 

If you’ve been wondering how to stretch the hamstrings or needed some stretches for a pulled hamstring, we hope that you now have all the answers!

So, which static and dynamic hamstring stretches will you be incorporating into your fitness routine?

Whilst you’re here, why not see how a personal training course with OriGym can help you take the first steps towards your dream job in fitness. You can also download our free prospectus here for more information about our full range of courses. 

Written by Alice Williams

Content Writer & Fitness Enthusiast

Alice is a freelance content writer at OriGym. With a first-class degree in French and Linguistics, she loves all things language, fitness and culture. As part of her degree, she spent a year living in France where she worked for a lifestyle blog, gaining professional experience in both translation and content writing. 

When she’s not writing, you can usually find Alice practicing yoga and she hopes to one day become a yoga instructor herself. She also loves running, tennis and cooking up a vegan storm in the kitchen! It was this passion for health and fitness, combined with her love for writing, that brought Alice to OriGym.

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