The hamstrings are a group of muscles at the back of your upper leg. This muscle group includes three separate muscles: semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and biceps femoris. (see Reference 1) The hip flexors are a group of muscles that include four primary muscles: the iliacus, psoas major, rectus femoris, and sartoris. (see Reference 2) The hamstring and hip flexor connection is very important, and you can loosen the hamstrings and hip flexor muscles with the right stretches.
One-Legged Downward-Facing Dog
The one-legged downward-facing dog stretch is an extremely effective exercise for helping to loosen the hamstrings and hip flexors. (see Reference 3) Bend down so your body is in the shape of a "V", hands and feet flat on the floor, your palms just forward of your shoulders, back straight. Inhale and bring your left leg back, pushing it straight up away from your body until you feel a light stretch. Your left leg should be straight, aligned with your spine. Hold, then exhale as you lower your leg back down to its starting position. Repeat with your opposite leg.
The wild thing pose is a slight twist on the downward dog stretch. Start in the downward dog position, with your hands and feet flat on the floor, arms and legs straight so your body is angled in a "V" shape. Inhale, put your weight on your right side and roll over so your front is facing up, curving your back and lifting your hips up. Hold, then exhale as you sweep your body back into its starting position. Repeat on the opposite side.
Standing Lunge Stretch
To help loosen the hip flexor muscles, include the standing lunge stretch in your routine. Start in a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms straight at your sides. Engage your core, inhale, and lunge forward with your right leg. Lower yourself until your forward thigh is parallel to the floor, your back knee just above the floor. Rest your hands on your right thigh. Hold, and exhale as you return to your starting position. Repeat with your left leg. (see Reference 4)
The bow pose got its name because of the way your body takes the shape of an archer's bow. Start on the floor on your stomach, your arms straight down at your sides, palms facing up. Inhale, then exhale as you slowly bring your feet up toward your buttocks, and keeping your arms straight, reach up to wrap your hands around your ankles. Keeping hold on your ankles, pull your heels away from your body and lift your thighs slightly off the floor. Hold.
Stretching is incredibly helpful for loosening tight muscles and increasing flexibility, but only if each stretch is performed properly. Maintain proper form throughout the entire movement, and breathe in and out through your nose during a stretch for a calming effect. Deep inhalations and exhalations is proper breathing for stretching exercises and ensures your body is getting the oxygen it needs. Not holding the stretch long enough prevents you from getting the best results, while holding a stretch for too long can result in injury. The ideal length to hold the basic stretch is 30 seconds. (see Reference 5)
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