Increase hamstring flexibility bending forward

Effective 15-Minute Sequence To Loosen Tight Hamstrings

Hamstring flexibility is key in our physical well-being and mobility, especially as we age.

Out of the hundreds of exercises and stretches for tight hamstrings out there, I've found these few to be simple and effective.

I have compiled only the best exercises into a small, easy-to-follow sequence.

Whether you want to improve your sports performance or simply wish to release some of that bothersome tension on your after sitting for long hours, walking, running, or hiking, you've come to the right place.

NOTE: many of the exercises you see here are totally different from what you have seen elsewhere. Read on to know why they are so effective.

Before You Start

Make sure to measure your forward bend, standing or seated.

Taking a selfie with your phone will help you see the improvement objectively.

Standing relaxed forward bend hamstrings
Seated forward bend flexibility test

Relax your hands on the floor. If you can't touch the floor, it's fine. Don't use force especially if you feel uncomfortable in your lower back or the back of the legs.

Using force to deepen forward bend can cause strains and injuries in the hamstring and lower back. Don't perform deep forward bends if you have a lower back or hamstring injury, and never let others push you.

We'll be measuring your progress after the 15-minute sequence.

Now is not the right time?

The Sequence

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1. Spine Warmup

Curl and arch your complete spine at a comfortable rate for one" or two minutes.

Your hands should be below your shoulders. Keep your elbows straight (neither locked nor hyper-extended).

Inhale when you look up, exhale when you bring your head in.

Don't hold your abs, belly, or use too much force on your back or neck: relaxing is key.

Advanced Option (members only)

2. Sit on the Toes

Option A B

The first few steps of this sequence involve relaxing our feet.

Sit on your toes, making sure to keep your back as straight as possible.

If this is too hard, feel free to support your hands on the floor.

Hold it for 30 to 60 seconds.

Our feet hold a lot of tension, especially if they are trapped inside shoes or high heels for a big part of the day.

If option A is easy, try B.

3. Sit on the Toes — One Leg Front

Option A B C D E

This Advanced Option is available for Members only.

This Advanced Option is available for Members only.

Sitting on your toes can go from very comfortable to incredibly painful.

Start with the left foot forward.

Choose an option that you can hold comfortably for 20 to 30 seconds, and then switch to the right foot forward.

If you have a hard time breathing or feel tense on your shoulders, stick with the easier option.

As long as you can breathe comfortably, your toes won't break. 😉

When you finish with both sides, relax your toes:

4. Calf Massage

Relaxing stretch for calf muscle

After working on our feet, calves are next in line.

With your knees on the floor, place your left ankle on top of the "belly" of your right calf:

Sit on your left glute and support your left hand or elbow.

Hold it for 30 seconds and then switch leg.

The long-term goal is to try to bring the glutes as close as possible to the floor, but there is no need to push too hard in the beginning.

In this step, you may feel a lot of tension on your calf if you are into jogging, jumping the rope, or hiking.

If you walk 10,000 steps a day, you will benefit greatly by doing this every day.

5. ATG Push Squat

Ass-To-Grass Asian Squat

Informally known as Asian Squats or ATG (ass-to-grass) squats in the weightlifting circle, here in Asia they have another name: squats 😜.

A great way of bringing awareness and strength to your hip, the goal is to sit on the floor and push yourself up without using your hands:

Try to keep your feet planted on the floor.

White men can't squat?

Squats happen to be unrelated to ethnicity or continental divisions, and more related to habit.

Before the boom of sedentary lifestyle, field workers and farmers in America and Europe were known to squat frequently.

People in developed countries of Asia are not so good at them any more.

Training your push-squats may take some time, but you can use a partner, tree, or even a sofa to help yourself: (hint: don't ever do them near a shelf)

Try doing 10 to 15 repetitions for 30 to 60 seconds.

If you feel a little bit sore on your hip, you're doing it right.

6. Leg Kicks

Hamstring mobility

Leg kicks are one of the most effective ways to improve your hamstring mobility when you perform them correctly.

Sit on the floor, bend your left leg, and bring the right leg straight.

Grab your left knee and kick your right leg up for 20 to 30 seconds.

Make sure you don't swing your leg up and down — focus on bringing your leg higher and higher.

Yes, your thigh will burn. 😉

If you're falling back too much, it means you're mostly using your lower back.

Doing it right is more important so that you build strength on your legs instead compensating with your lower back.

Wrong

Avoid tensing your shoulders and leaning too much back in an effort to bring the leg higher.

Right

Instead, try to keep your back straight. Don't worry if your leg only comes up a few inches off the ground.

The best way of doing leg kicks the right way is to first use the wall to support your back and from there, bring your leg as high as you can:

You will find that bringing your leg up this way will be tough in the beginning, but for now all that matters is that you do it the right way.

Keep your shoulders relaxed and make sure you don't hold your breath.

When you finish, shake your leg and switch side.

7. Roll on your Hip

Option A B
Hip relaxing point

Tension in the lower back and hamstring translates to tension in the hip, so rolling or massaging it will help to improve your hamstring flexibility.

Bring your right foot on top of your left knee and shift your body weight towards your right hip.

Rock and roll for 30 seconds:

When you finish, shake your legs and switch to the other leg.

If you are more flexible, try Option B from the lotus position for a deeper massage.

8. Roll on your Hip — Leg Straight

Option A B C

This time, roll on your right hip while bringing your right leg straight. Try to find the point that feels especially sore.

Rock and roll for 30 seconds and then switch leg.

Optionally, try to reach your foot with your hand or even try to roll on your hip without the support of your hands.

9. Standing Leg Kicks

Option A B C D
Standing leg kick hamstring awareness

This step is similar to the seated leg kicks.

Place your hands on blocks and then kick your right foot forward for 30 seconds.

Make sure your right foot doesn't touch the floor.

When you finish with one side, shake your leg and switch side.

Remember not to swing your leg back and forth, but instead focus on bringing your leg forward.

I have long hands, so I can easily reach the floor — option D. Feel free to make use of a chair or sofa if needed, or even better, get some blocks (the cheaper the better!).

Keep your neck in a relaxed position, looking at your feet. Closing your eyes will help you relax your neck, face, and forehead.

10. Reach Forward

Bending forward reach

It's time to bend forward!

But instead of reaching down towards the floor, we're going to do it differently:

First, reach your hands 90 degrees foward and then slowly progress towards 60 and 45 degrees.

Follow the red dot: Focus on trying to reach forward, placing a small visual cue like your phone or your keys in front of you.

The whole process should take 45 seconds to one minute. It's a tough exercise.

Look at your hands at all times to avoid tucking the chin and straining the neck..

When you bend forward, shift your whole bodyweight to the tip of your toes:

Wrong

Leaning back will cause extra tension on your already tense hamstrings.

Right

Instead, lean forward, trying to bring your legs in a 90-degree line (heels in line with your hip).

You will feel like you're falling forward, especially in the beginning when the your leg muscles are not strong enough.

Some people will shake a lot. It's also normal.

When you are done, walk around to relax your legs.

11. Measuring your Forward Bend

Option A B

From a seated or standing position, take a new picture of your forward bend.

Remember to follow Step #9, reaching forward instead of down.

Check for signs of improvement:

  • Can you touch your toes now?
  • Do you feel less pressure on your hamstrings?
  • Do you feel it is easier now to reach forward?

Don't push yourself!

Notice how my hands are relaxed on the floor. Don't try to grab your feet to reach deeper.

As you do this sequence more often, reaching your toes will become easier and easier.

If you have no problem reaching your toes, try to put blocks in front of you. In my case, I can reach two blocks using Option B. (Remember, I have long hands 😉)

12. Relaxation

Relaxation

When you finish, lie on the floor and relax for as long as you want. If I am in a hurry, I will rest for one" or two minutes, but if I have extra time at home, I will lie down for 5" to 10 minutes.

Don't skip this step!

Try to keep your eyes closed and if possible, find a quiet place.

If you do this sequence at the gym, find a corner where you won't bother anyone and no one will bother you.

Twisting

Since your body may not be used to these movements, you may feel extra tension on the lower back and shoulders.

If you see someone learning how to ride the bycicle, you will notice that they will literally tense their whole body, including shoulders, neck and face trying to hold their balance.

Twisting for 30 seconds on each side will help you relieve tension in the lower back:

Gentle twist for lower back

As you make progress, you will feel less and less tension in your shoulders and lower back.

Post-Sequence Tips

Today's hamstring flexibility sequence will work the best if you do it after your regular exercise routine, especially if it's an intense one.

Try to take it easy for the rest of the day and remember to keep active — walk instead of drive, climb the stairs instead of taking the elevator, and take frequent breaks when you sit in front of the computer or TV.

Step-by-step Video

Here's the complete sequence on video to follow when you practice by yourself:

Before (or after!) you practice the sequence, I strongly recommend that you read each of the 12 steps in order to understand how to perform them correctly.

Don't forget to subscribe to our Youtube Channel to get our video guides that you can easily do at home or at the gym.

How It Works

Improving hamstring flexibility will be easier if you understand how it works:

In simple terms, the hamstring (back of the thigh) is not really the problem, but rather the overuse and repetitive stress in the hamstring and the back, as well as the lack of use and strength of the front of the thigh (quad).

Climbing, hiking, and crawling (like infants do) demand a more balanced use of our legs and hips:

Photo by Evgenii

However, most of our active time is spent sitting, walking, or running on flat surfaces, which relies heavily on the hamstrings and lower back.

In this sequence, our main goal is to:

  1. Activate and bring awareness to the front of the thigh.
  2. Release tension from the hamstrings and hip.

How often can I practice this sequence?

After your improvement from today, the reality is that our daily routine, particularly a sedentary one, will bring back a lot of our hamstring tightness unless we change our lifestyle.

By practicing this sequence once a week or any time you feel extra tight, you will get good results.

Moreover, combining it with a few easy-to-follow lifestyle changes will bring you incredible results:

  • Climbing the stairs (when was the last time you climbed more than three flights of stairs?)
  • Reducing the time that we procrastinate in front of the computer or look down on our mobile's tiny screen.
  • Spending more time walking outdoors instead of driving.

How is flexibility related to physical health?

Do you constantly feel tight on your hamstrings and back after your exercise or workout, when you tie your shoes, or when you bend down to reach something on the floor?

If the answer is yes, then you should definitely work on your flexibility.

Kids usually play and sit on the floor all day in a very relaxed manner.

Try sitting on the grass next time that you go to a park. If you feel aching and pain on your knees or back after a few minutes, this sequence will definitely help you.

We are prone to lose our mobility the older we get and it's better to start early.

Being very flexible does not mean that you are physically healthy: think about gymnasts or dancers who are constantly injured.

Flexibility is not a competition and people who usually push themselves into being more flexible just for the sake of it are at great risk of getting injured.

Instead, the goal is to become more relaxed, which will directly improve your flexibility.

Having more relaxed hamstrings and hips will greatly help you in your daily life and in your exercise or sports routine.

Get Flexible the Right Way.

Better flexibility means more mobility. More mobility means better physical health.

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Comments or Questions?

I hope that you enjoyed today's sequence.

How did the sequence work for you?

Other than improving your hamstring flexibility, do you feel different in any other way?

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