The hamstring muscle group is located in the back of your thigh and is responsible for bending, or flexing, your knee. There are three distinct muscles that make up the hamstrings: the semimembranosus, the semitendinosis, and the biceps femoris.
One way to help minimize injury to the hamstrings is to maintain flexibility in this muscle group. Common injuries to the hamstrings include muscle tears and strains. Tightness in this muscle group can cause cramping in the back of the thighs and may limit your range of motion when trying to straighten your knee. Stretching the hamstrings after athletic activity can also help decrease delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) in these muscles.
An easy stretch that can safely and effectively stretch your hamstrings is the towel hamstring stretch. It is performed using a towel, but if you don't have one handy, you can use a strap or even your belt. Be sure to meet with your doctor or physical therapist before starting any exercise program.
Here is how to perform the towel hamstring stretch:
- Obtain a towel, a strap, or a belt and lie flat on your back.
- Loop the towel around your foot so that you are holding both ends of the towel.
- Slowly pull on the ends of the towel and use it to lift your leg into the air. Be sure to keep your knee staight. The leg without the towel should remain flat on the ground.
- Bring your leg up until a stretch is felt behind your thigh. You may also feel a stretch behind your lower leg in your calf. This is normal. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds, and then slowly release the stretch.
- Repeat this process 3 to 5 times on each leg.
The towel hamstring stretch can be performed just about anywhere, and you can do this stretch 2 to 3 times per day. Give the towel hamstring stretch a try, and if you need further instruction, your local physical therapist may be able to help guide you.