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Stretches to Reduce Tight Hamstrings

Tight hamstrings are more common than not in today's world of sitting in cars, at desks and computers and for most of the day in general. The hamstrings flex the knees, so when you are sitting down and your knees are in a flexed position for a long time, these muscles can shorten.

Moist Heat Application

Although stretching exercises are one way to combat tight hamstrings, a study performed on football players at the University of Texas at Austin found that applying moist heat to the hamstrings resulted in more gains in hamstring flexibility than static stretching. A moist pack was placed on the hamstrings for 20 minutes at a time. The time involved, however, was much greater than the 90 seconds of stretching that the other group did. You can copy the protocol by wrapping a moist pack heated to 160 degrees in a terry cloth and laying it on your hamstrings as you lie on your stomach.

Bicycle Leg Swings

Bicycle leg swings are a dynamic stretching exercise to loosen up tight hamstring muscles. This exercise targets one leg at a time. Perform bicycle leg swings with both legs. To begin, stand on your right leg and bring your left knee up to waist level with the knee bent. Then straighten the left leg and swing it down toward the floor and behind you. When the leg cannot go any higher while straight without you bending forward, flex the knee as if to kick yourself in the butt. People with difficulty balancing on one leg may put their hand on a wall or sturdy object such as a ballet bar for assistance.

Modified Hurdler's Stretch

The modified hurdler's stretch is a static stretching exercise to lengthen the hamstrings. This variation on the class hurdler's stretch puts less stress on the knees. To perform this exercise, sit with your right leg straight and your left foot against your inner right thigh with the knee bent. Lean forward and reach for your right toes. This stretch may be uncomfortable for people with inflexible hips and groins. Placing a pillow under the bent knee for support may alleviate discomfort. Perform this stretch on both legs.


Yoga poses are another cure for tight hamstrings. Postures such as the big toe pose, staff pose, happy baby pose, triangle and intense side stretch all elongate the hamstrings. The side-reclining leg lift is one such pose; it sounds like a strengthening exercise but is actually a stretch. To perform this exercise, lie on your side and prop your head up with your arm. Raise your top leg toward the ceiling and grasp the big toe of this leg to pull the leg toward the side of your head. Repeat on the other side. If you have trouble balancing on your side, place your bottom foot against a wall for support.

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About the Author

Sarka-Jonae Miller has been a freelance writer and editor since 2003. She was a personal trainer for four years with certifications from AFAA and NASM. Miller also worked at 24 Hour Fitness, LA Fitness and as a mobile trainer. Her career in the fitness industry begin in 2000 as a martial arts, yoga and group exercise instructor. She graduated cum laude from Syracuse University.

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