“Touching your toes” is commonly used as a quick test for hamstring flexibility. It’s easy to know whether you can do it or not. I used to avoid touching my toes because I knew that I was inflexible. I just didn’t know, at the time, that that was something I could change that. With proper training, anyone can become flexible. At the end of this article, I’ve included a quick and effective routine for hamstring stretches to get you the results you’ve been looking for.
Are your Hamstrings Really the Problem?
There are many areas in the posterior chain that affect how your hamstrings move, tightness it different areas could be mislabelled as tight hamstrings. For example, if your calves are tight, it could affect how your knee bends. Tight hips could cause an anterior or posterior pelvic tilt. Stiffness in the joints that connect the lower back to your hips could also affect your hamstrings.
Hamstring Flexibility Test
The Active Knee Extension (AKE) or the Hamstring 90/90 test is a quick test to see if it’s actually your hamstrings that are tight.
- Lie down on your back with your hands clasped under one knee.
- Bend one knee to a 90 degree angle and making sure that your knee is aligned to your hip. Keep the opposite leg extended.
- Try to straighten the leg in the air while keeping your knee over your hip.
- Measure the angle.
The bigger the number the tighter your hamstrings are. The goal would then be to straighten your leg completely and achieve 0 degrees. You may notice that one leg is tighter than the other.
How to Improve Hamstring Flexibility
Flexibility takes time and consistency but it’s far from impossible. Here’s how you can start:
- Change up your routine – this means to get up and move! Muscles adapt to a shortened position when we don’t move which leads to muscle tightness.
- Stretch the same group of muscles regularly – at least 6 times a week. This is when quantity matters.
- Soft tissue massage by foam rolling.
Easy Stretching Routine for Tight Hamstrings
To do any stretch or workout properly, we must start with a dynamic warm-up to “warm up” the muscles we want to use. This helps us not get injured and perform at our best. The following routine consists of simple but effective stretches that will help improve your hamstring flexibility.
1. Modified Lunge Hamstring Stretches
HOW TO: Start in a lunge position making sure that your knee is over your ankle. You may want to hold blocks on either side to keep your balance. Keep your body upright as you push your quad down and towards the front. Try not to lean forward.
2. Bent Over Hamstring Stretch with Yoga Blocks
HOW TO: Transition to a deep hamstring stretch by straightening your front leg. Your goal in this position is to keep your back flat. Instead of reaching for your toes, think of drawing your tummy to your thigh. Blocks really help with balance if the ground feels far away.
3. Split Hold Hamstring Stretches
HOW TO: In a wide stance, hinge with your a flat back towards your leg. Think about drawing your tummy to your thigh rather than reaching for your toes. You may use blocks here to help!
4. Knee-to-Chest Hamstring Stretches
HOW TO: Lay down in supine position (on your back), and bring one knee to your chest with a flexed foot. Actively press down and breathe.
5. Reclined Hamstring Stretches
HOW TO: Lie on your back. Raise one leg up as high as you can as you keep your pelvis flat on the ground. Gently pull your thigh towards your head on each exhale.
Hamstring Stretch Routine
Here are 5 easy hamstring stretches, hold each side for 20-30 seconds. Take deep breaths and sink deeper on each exhale.
The most important step to an effective routine is believing that flexibility is something you can work on and improve. You can become flexible. The reality of it is – it hurts a lot to gain flexibility but it’s always going to hurt if you don’t do it consistently. Flexibility is the time you put into being consistent and learning which muscles to target to achieve your goals. What you can do now is throw on a TV show and stretch actively – you’ll be okay.