Everybody hates them. Everybody feels theirs could be more flexible. Everybody is probably right unfortunately! The hamstring muscles are notorious for being tight, because of their location crossing both the hip and knee joints.
In order to fully stretch them you must have the hip and knee fully extended, and hold your stretch! This is a rare position to be in day-to-day and almost all sports and activities involve flexing these joints, so the hamstrings rarely experience full stretch.
And even when they do- yes runners they do stretch when you bring the leg forwards, however the hamstrings are usually working very hard to control your foot landing on the ground, and therefore they are working eccentrically (working whilst lengthening) and therefore will then experience muscle contraction.
Everybody should be stretching the hamstring muscles, not only for greater flexibility, but lengthening these muscles will reduce their strain on your pelvis, and therefore reduce the strain on your lower back.
Try these 5 stretches to lengthen your hamstrings:
1. Saw twist- Sitting upright with the legs wide apart. Lift the spine up straight and then reach out over the top of one leg with the opposite arm.
2. Forward fold- Bring the legs close together and fully extend them out in front of you. Raise the chest up tall and then fold over the top of the legs. Grasp the soles of the feet to deepen stretch.
3. Downward facing dog- Press the heels into the floor, push the knees back straight and raise the hips up high. Press back through the hands to create length in the legs.
4. Widened forward fold- Standing upright with feet wide apart. Forward fold between the legs and reach the head towards the mat, looking through the space as far as you can stretch.
5. Narrow forward fold- Standing upright with legs together. Take a forward fold towards the toes. Aim to bring your nose as close to the legs as you can and place hands flat on the floor.
Remember- These are a work in progress! If you need to keep the knees bent slightly to start with that is ok! As you become more flexible you can straighten the knees further.
Try to hold them for a good 30 seconds or so, and as you exhale ease a little further into the stretch each time. this should be done daily to get real results!