After you work your hamstring muscles during a workout, it is important to do some hamstring stretches in order to help you recover from exercise. Exercise certainly has tremendous value, but it also stresses your muscles which stretching can help relieve.
Your hamstrings are actually three different muscles collectively called by this term. They include the biceps femoris, semitendinosus and semimembranosus muscles, located on the back of your thighs. Their primary functions are flexing of your knees and extension of your hips. When you do exercises such as lunges or leg curls, you are targeting this specific muscle group.
Compared to your larger quad muscles found on the front of your thigh, your hamstrings are relatively long, thin muscles. Consequently, they can be easy to strain without proper exercise and hamstring stretches.
Benefits of Hamstring Stretches
There are several benefits from doing stretches which target these muscles. The primary benefits focus on improving your overall performance, whether you are a runner or exercise for a toned body. Stretching improves the flexibility of your hamstrings, helping you prevent injury during your workouts.
When you lift weights, your muscles tighten. Hamstring stretches help to loosen tight muscles and improve your range of mobility. The result is better form and a more beneficial workout. The act of stretching your hamstrings increases circulation to these vital muscles, helping you to recover from your workouts by bringing oxygen to them. You'll probably find that doing these stretches will help ease any lower back pain that you may have.
The benefits don't stop at the exercise mat or gym. Because you are improving your flexibility, you are reducing your chances of injury from falls. You are better able to recover from missteps while running to catch the bus or jogging with your dog. Besides, stretching exercises are enjoyable. They may help your muscles, but hamstring stretches will help you find relief from stress and tension too.
Examples of Stretches
As when doing any exercises or stretches, it is important to listen to your body for cues of strain or overdoing it. The purpose of hamstring stretches is to avoid injury, not cause it. Move slowly, avoiding any jerking movements which can cause muscle strain.
Touch Your Toes
The nice thing about touching your toes is you have a means to check your progress after adding hamstring stretches to your exercise routine. There are several variations, so that you can use this exercise no matter how flexible or inflexible your hamstrings are.
First, try to bend over and touch your toes. Hold the stretch for at least five breaths. If you cannot touch your toes, try using a yoga brick turned to a comfortable position so that you can still experience the stretch.
If touching your toes is no problem, try increasing the challenge by crossing your left leg over your right before you attempt to touch your toes. Then reverse the position of your legs.
Push Against a Wall
This stretch is a good stretch to do after a lower body cardio workout such as walking or jogging. You can do this exercise almost anyplace, making it both beneficial and convenient.
Lean forward until you are touching a wall or other stationary object at an angle with your extended arms. Bend your left knee and extend your right leg back so that there is an unbroken line from your head to your foot. Push against the wall with your arms. You will feel a comfortable stretch that will extend from your calves to your hamstrings. Hold the stretch, then repeat with the other leg.
This stretch, like the toe touch, is a good way for you to focus on your hamstrings and gauge your flexibility in a visual way.Begin by lying on your back on an exercise mat. Bend both knees, placing both feet on the floor, hip distance apart. Raise your left leg straight up into the air, clasping both hands behind the back of your thigh as you gently pull forward.
If you cannot keep your leg straight, don't worry. Stretch your leg as far as you are able. As you increase in flexibility, you will be able to move your leg closer to your upper body.
Benefits for Life
Whether or not you engage in power workouts, hamstring stretches have benefits which can help you in your everyday life. The emphasis of these stretches cannot be overestimated, from walking to do daily chores to exercising to maintain a lean form. A key concept about physical fitness is that stretching helps your performance not just in the gym, but at home and on the job.