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Yesterday, you decided to finally tackle that workout video you’ve had saved on Instagram for weeks. You did deadlifts, glute bridges, plank jacks, the works. You felt amazing afterward, posting a sweaty selfie while sipping on your favorite protein shake. But this morning you woke up feeling a weird pain in the backs of your thighs. What gives? Your hammies, that’s what.

Your hamstrings are made up of three posterior muscles that connect your hips to your knees. These muscles work in tandem to help extend the hip, flex the knee and rotate your lower leg––actions we all do on the reg. From running to sitting to walking up the stairs, the hamstrings are involved in almost every move we make. Unfortunately, this means they’re also extremely susceptible to injury. Caring for your hamstrings involves both strengthening and lengthening achieved through exercise and stretching. But you can’t master a deadlift if your hamstrings are tighter than a rubber band. What’s worse, you could strain or tear them in the process (but more about that later). Lucky for you, we’ve rounded up the best hamstring stretches you can do just about anywhere. When maintained consistently, these stretches will help relieve pain, decrease tightness, increase mobility and even boost strength.

Before diving in, we chatted with Daniela Malkowski, STOTT certified Pilates instructor and personal trainer, to take a closer look at some of the symptoms, causes and prevention methods associated with tight hamstrings.

How Do I Know If I Have Tight Hamstrings?

Unsure if your hamstrings are tight? Try a flexibility test (we promise, it’s easier than it sounds). Can you touch your toes? How far down can you go and how does your farthest point feel? Do you have any sharp and shooting pain, or is the sensation dull and constant? Answering these questions will help you gauge your current flexibility. In this case, dull is good. It just means the fibers in your muscles and connective tissue are beginning to lengthen. A sharp and shooting pain, on the other hand, could be a result of a muscle strain or injury. If you experience this while stretching, back off and consult a doctor if the sensation continues (that goes for all muscles, not just your hamstrings).

But the thing about our hamstrings is that they don’t know how to keep to themselves. Tightness in any of those three muscles can result in a number of other aches and pains, throwing your whole body out of whack due to muscular imbalances. Suddenly, that twinge in the back of your knee radiates up into your lower back. And then out of nowhere, your hip flexor seizes up. These are all symptoms of tight hamstrings. Because the hamstring is attached to your pelvis as well as your knee (which then attaches to your foot), any shortening of the muscle due to tightness can cause pulling on your hips and tendons leading to achy knees, bothersome backs, plantar fasciitis and (oof) sciatica pain.

What Causes Tight Hamstrings?

More often than not, poor stretching (or none at all) before a cardio or strength training workout is the main cause of tight hamstrings. But even if you’re not hitting the gym twice a week, you can still experience similar symptoms. Observe your body throughout the day. Are you sitting at a desk from nine to five? Sitting for extended periods of time can create similar symptoms to exercise-induced tightness. “Over time, sitting actually shortens and weakens the hamstring,” Malkowski explains. And this shortening results in tighter muscles that are unable to extend properly during exercise (which is why you felt that pain post-workout). When your knees are bent in a seated position your hamstrings are both flexed and shortened, two things this muscle really doesn’t like to do for eight-plus hours a day.

Other culprits of tight hamstrings include pelvic alignment problems and tight hip flexors. This goes back to how interconnected our bodies are. “If you continue to overwork the hamstring without stretching, it will start to pull on the pelvis which can cause tension in the lower back as well as weakened hip flexors and abdominals,” Malkowski notes. Your pelvis connects everything from your spine to your big toe, so any uneven pulling on your hamstrings caused by a posterior tilt (where your hips go back and up) will result in pain and tightness.

On the other side of that coin, you’ll find your hip flexors. Stiffness in the hip flexors can actually create an anterior tilt (stay with us) that pushes your pelvis forward and down resulting in, once again, tight hamstrings. Think about it: If the hip muscles in the front of your body pull your pelvis forward, your hamstrings will naturally flex to follow and protect your lower back. This is essentially the same movement we make when engaging in deadlifts, but who wants to hold a deadlift for hours on end? To correct—and avoid—this tugging, balance needs to be restored to the body.

What Can I Do to Prevent Tight Hamstrings?

Stretch, stretch and stretch some more. Pain as a result of hamstring tightness can range from mild to “um, I can’t move,” so check in with where your mobility is at and tailor your stretches accordingly. Strengthening through bodyweight and free weight exercises targeting the hamstrings and surrounding muscles (quads, hip flexors, abdominals, etc.) will also keep them from tightening up. “It’s so important to look at the body as a whole and focus on balancing it out,” Malkowski says. And remember, although tightness and shortness in the hamstring cause similar symptoms, they each have their own prevention methods. “Shortness could indicate a need to strengthen the hamstring, whereas tightness indicates a need to release tension.” Bottom line: Both strengthening and stretching are vital to maintaining healthy hammies.

Ready to loosen up? Here are the ten best hamstring stretches you can start doing right this second.

RELATED: 8 Hamstring Exercises You Can Do at Home to Tone Your Thighs (and Prevent Injury)

best hamstring stretches standing toe touch
Mckenzie Cordell

1. Standing Toe Touch

Step 1: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bend forward at your hips and reach for your toes with both hands. It’s OK if you can’t touch the ground. Go as far as you can until you feel a slight stretch in your hamstrings.

Step 2: As you breathe, try to lower your hands further to the ground deepening the stretch with each exhale.

Step 3: Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat.

best hamstring stretches rotating toe touch
Mckenzie Cordell

2. Rotating Toe Touch

Step 1: Stand with your feet wider than hip-width apart with your arms stretched out to your sides at shoulder height.

Step 2: Keeping your legs straight and your arms aligned, twist your torso and extend your right arm down toward your left ankle. You’ll feel this stretch more intensely in the back of your left leg.

Step 3: Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side.

best hamstring stretches standing hamstring stretch
Mckenzie Cordell

3. Standing Hamstring Stretch

Step 1: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Place your right heel in front of your body with your foot flexed, toes pointing up. Put a slight bend in your left knee.

Step 2: Slowly lean forward and place your hands on your right thigh or calf until you feel a stretch in the back of your leg.

Step 3: Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side.

best hamstring stretches extended triangle pose
Mckenzie Cordell

4. Extended Triangle Pose

Step 1: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Step your right leg out to the side while shifting your foot so your toes are facing out as well.

Step 2: Stretch your arms out to your sides at shoulder height. Shift your torso to the right and extend down reaching your right arm towards the ground either in front of or behind your foot, depending on your flexibility.

Step 3: Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side.

best hamstring stretches lunging hamstring stretch
Mckenzie Cordell

5. Lunging Hamstring Stretch

Step 1: Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Lunge forward with your right leg and lower until your back knee hits the ground.

Step 2: With your back knee bent, gently straighten your right leg keeping your hips square and fold forward until you feel a stretch in your hamstring.

Step 3: Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side.

best hamstring stretches seated hamstring stretch
Mckenzie Cordell

6. Seated Hamstring Stretch

Step 1: Sit with both legs extended out straight in front of you.

Step 2: Keeping your spine long, fold forward and reach both arms in front of you until you feel a stretch in the back of your legs. Make sure both legs remain fully on the ground.

Step 3: Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat.

best hamstring stretches seated single leg hamstring stretch
Mckenzie Cordell

7. Seated Single-Leg Hamstring Stretch

Step 1: Sit with your right leg extended out straight and your left leg bent so the sole of your foot rests on the inner thigh of your right leg.

Step 2: Keeping your spine long, fold forward and reach both arms toward your right foot until you feel a stretch in the back of your leg. Make sure your straight leg remains fully on the ground.

Step 3: Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side.

best hamstring stretches seated wide leg hamstring stretch
Mckenzie Cordell

8. Seated Wide-Leg Hamstring Stretch

Step 1: Sit down with your legs extended out wide in opposite directions.

Step 2: Keeping your spine long, fold forward and reach both arms forward until you feel a stretch in the back of your legs. Make sure both legs remain fully on the ground. With each exhale, try to crawl your hands out a little further to deepen the stretch.

Step 3: Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat.

best hamstring stretches downward facing dog
Mckenzie Cordell

9. Downward Facing Dog

Step 1: Begin on all fours with your knees hip-width apart and hands directly below your shoulders.

Step 2: Press back into your heels to straighten your knees and raise your butt up high into the sky.

Step 3: Keep your head, neck and spine aligned as you press back feeling the stretch in the backs of your legs (this will stretch out your calves as well). Peddle out your feet to deepen the stretch.

Step 4: Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat.

best hamstring stretches lying hamstring stretch with band
Mckenzie Cordell

10. Lying Hamstring Stretch With Band

Step 1: Lie on your back with a resistance band or towel wrapped around your right foot. If you don’t have one, you can use your hands to pull back on your thigh instead.

Step 2: Slowly stretch your right leg up, keeping the opposite leg flat on the floor and both knees straight.

Step 3: Extend as far as you can go until you feel a stretch in the back of your right leg.

Step 4: Hold for 15 to 30 seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side.

RELATED: 18 Stretches for Hip Flexor Muscles That You Can Easily Do at Home

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