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Hamstring Exercises: A Hamstring Workout to Stretch and Tone Your Legs

written by: Rochelle Connery • edited by: Angela Atkinson • updated: 4/16/2011

Have you been feeling a smidge tight behind the knees lately? Then get those hamstrings into shape with these hamstrings exercises. You’ll be able to flex your knees more and you won’t wake up feeling so sore each morning after this workout

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    Where Are Your Hamstrings?

    When you hear the term “hamstrings,” you tend to think of the small strips of muscle behind your knees that feel tight when you bend over. But in reality, those muscles extend across the entire upper segment of your upper back knees, all the way up to your glutes.

    Your hamstrings end at about the middle back of your knees. If they’re not stretched and maintained, you’ll feel that sore, dull tightness whenever you extend your body when bending over.

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    Hamstrings Exercises

    These hamstrings exercises will ease you into getting your hamstrings more flexible. These are sensitive muscles, so don’t stretch them to the point where they feel painful.

    • Bent over double hamstring stretch: Start by standing with your feet shoulder width apart. Bend over at your waist, allowing your torso to kind of hang in limbo. You shouldn’t be all tight. Let your arms hang, too. Drop your hands to your feet and touch your toes. Maintain this position for a few seconds, then slowly roll back up. You can do several repetitions of this exercise.
    • Seated toe touch: Sit on the ground, your feet and legs stretched out in front of you. Point your toes to the ceiling. Place your arms in front of you in a straight line. Lean forward until your hands brush past the tops of your toes. You don’t actually have to grab your toes; just keep your hands near them as far as you can stretch. Keep this position for several seconds, then repeat as desired.
    • Low lunge: This yoga move is great for stretching one leg at a time. Start in pushup position with your arms extended beneath you. Bend one leg and bring it up to just below your chest, keeping your other foot outstretched. Point your back heel toward the upper half of a wall, so it’s at about a 45 degree angle to the floor. Hold this pose, then switch legs and repeat as desired.
    • Hamstring pull: This Pilates move also works one leg at a time and strengthens your core as you exercise. Start by lying on the ground, knees bent and arms at your sides. Raise your upper body a little, then extend one leg and pull it toward your chest. Stretch the other leg out straight so that it’s levitating just above the floor. Pull the leg towards you once or twice per rep, then switch legs. Your legs will make a wide “V” shape when you perform this exercise.
    • Hamstring curls on chair: Grasp both handles of a chair with your hands. Lean forward toward the chair, then pick up one foot. Bend that foot back so that your foot points toward the ceiling. Hold this bent position for several seconds, then switch legs and repeat as desired. You might find your hamstrings get sore with this one, so don’t overdo it on your first try.