Hamstring Stretch Enlightenment

The Story

I’ve been treating one of my patients with a hamstring injury. One of the exercises given was a hamstring stretch. He’s been progressing well, but when I checked – he wasn’t so good at doing the stretches I’ve assigned him. The other day I asked him to perform the stretch so I could have a look at the technique.

The Issues with a Hamstring Stretch

  1. He picked a surface to rest his leg on that was a little too high which made it difficult to get the foot up there. This then puts an already shortened and tight muscle on an extra stretch – and that’s just to get to the start position. Unfortunately, this then has the issue of potentially aggravating the injury.
  2. Due to the height of the leg, this left him a little off balance. As I have to be super safety conscious this could, of course, lead to a fall and so another injury, which we definitely don’t want
  3. Taking the above two points into consideration, he was then in an awkward position, off balance and so was not able to perform the correct technique that was initially taught.

The Solution/way to correct

After seeing how the stretches were being done, I was then able to correct the technique and thought I’d share the pointers on here.

Lowering the height that the leg to be stretched is resting on, makes it easier to get into position and also makes it easier to balance. As he wasn’t in an awkward position he could then perform the correct technique.

Setting yourself up correctly..

Hamstring stretchHamstring stretch
 
  • If using something to rest the foot on, make sure the height is at the level of your knee or lower when standing up straight
  • Make sure the leg being stretched is straight
  • Keep your hips and body facing forwards
  • You’re wanting to feel the stretch on the back of the thigh
  • Keep the back straight throughout – if you feel back pain then stop and seek advice
  • If the stretch becomes painful then stop
  • Hold for at least 15 seconds
 

What to look out for…

  • The hips may be rotating and not facing forwards – in these photos below the hips are rotating
Hamstring stretchHamstring stretch
  • or the back is not kept straight 
Hamstring stretchHamstring stretch
  • What you could do, to prevent the hips rotating and keep the back straight, is to lie on the ground, hold the back of your thigh and then straighten your knee.
  • Ideally, you want a small arch in your low back, rather than it flattening against the ground
Hamstring stretch
 
 

Sometimes the technique of stretches just needs a tweak, so as a suggestion, get someone to have a look at your form to give you some feedback (if it’s me then I can be very picky..!).


 
Images courtesy of E.Arshamian, owner/director of Fortitude Physiotherapy