The Range of Stretching a Hamstring

Stretching your hamstring increases the range of motion of your hip and knee.

Stretching your hamstring increases the range of motion of your hip and knee.

Sometimes referred to as your "hammies," your hamstring is a complex muscle that lies on the back of your thighs. After hours of sitting in your office chair, you might notice you have tight, inflexible hamstrings. Fortunately, there are ways you can stretch your hamstrings to help them resume their normal length and range of motion.

Hamstring Basics

Your hamstring begins at your pelvis and femur, runs underneath your glutes and then stretches down your leg to your tibia and fibula. You use your hamstring when you move your leg backward behind your body or when you bring your lower leg upward toward your chest. Because the hamstring stretches across both your hip and knee joints, when it is tight, it can affect the range of motion in both of these joints.

Range of Stretch

When your hamstring gets tight, you can feel it in your hips, pelvis, knees and lower back. To return things back to normal, you need stretch your hamstring to the point where you feel tension. The exact range or length is different for each person. What you should aim for is a slight discomfort or tightness, but back off before you reach the point of pain.

Selecting Exercises

No particular hamstring stretch is better than another, according to a study published in the Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy in 2005. After examining a variety of stretches, it was determined that a variety of hamstring stretches using different techniques, positions and durations all help increase range of motion. To adequately stretch your hamstrings, start with a five- to seven-minute warm-up of light physical activity, such as walking. This allows your hamstring to warm up so it is pliable. To get the full range of the stretch, perform your hamstring stretches in a lying or sitting position. Two of the most effective hamstring stretches are the lying hamstring stretch and the modified hurdler stretch, according to the American Council on Exercise.


While stretching your hamstring offers a host of benefits, it also comes with some risks. You can stretch your hamstring too far, which can cause a strain or tear to the muscle. If you feel a sharp pain or a popping sensation in the back of your leg, then you stretched your hamstring too far. Other symptoms include bruising and weakness in your leg. Most tears are mild and only take a short time to heal but a complete tear can require surgery.

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About the Author

Fitzalan Gorman has more than 10 years of academic and commercial experience in research and writing. She has written speeches and text for CEOs, company presidents and leaders of major nonprofit organizations. Gorman has published for professional cycling teams and various health and fitness websites. She has a Master of Arts from Virginia Tech in political science and is a NASM certified personal trainer.

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