Do your hamstrings decide to “hammy it up” when you try to move quickly?  Hamstring tightness or poor flexibility has been proposed as a reason for hamstring strain. Hamstrings become highly loaded with the bulk of the leg work in moving quickly about your day or in sports during sprinting.

Try these five movements to enhance flexibility in your hamstrings.

Asymmetrical Downward Dog

  • Begin in a prone plank position with your hands under your shoulders and your toes on the ground, feet hip-width apart.
  • Place a block under your right foot to elevate it.
  • Press your hips up and back to the ceiling to come into a Downward Dog stretch. Press your chest toward your thighs and keep your arms straight, externally rotating your inner elbows.
  • In this stretch, work to keep your hips level. You may need to bend your elevated knee.
  • Hold for 30 seconds to a minute and repeat on the other side.

Hamstring Nerve Floss

  • Elevate your right leg by placing your foot on a stool or box. Keep a slight bend in your knee and point your toes toward your nose.
  • Hinge at your hip to lengthen the hamstrings. Tilt your trunk forward and maintain a long spine.
  • Rotate your hip side to side while maintaining an anchored position of the heel. This will look like your foot is a windshield wiper.
  • Continue this in a very slow motion for 30 seconds. Repeat each side twice.

Stable Leg Swing

  • Stand tall, holding a block in one hand out in front of you at shoulder height.
  • Stand on your other leg and perform controlled leg swings forward and back, trying to reach the block with your toes without compromising your upright posture.
  • Repeat and then move the block out to the side and perform lateral leg swings. Then hold the block in your opposite hand at a diagonal from your hip and swing your leg to bring your foot toward the block.
  • Work for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Half-Moon Rising

  • Stand with your feet under your hips, and place a block on the ground by your left foot.
  • Balance on your left leg, and hinge forward from your hips to bring your left hand onto the block and your right leg out behind you at hip height.
  • Reach to the sky with your right hand, rotating and opening through your chest and torso.
  • Maintain stability through your standing leg and roll your right hip down to bring your hips to neutral as you hold the pose for up to 30 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.

Lower-Back Stretch

  • Lie on your back with your tail as close to a wall as possible. (You will need to place your legs up against the wall to make that happen.)
  • Point your toes back toward your nose while keeping your entire back flat on the ground.
  • Practice breathing through your nose. Breathe in for four seconds, hold for one count and then breathe out for four seconds.
  • Remember that when you breathe in, your belly should rise higher. When you breathe out, your belly should descend.
  • Repeat for five cycles of breathing.

Photo credit: fotostorm, Getty Images
GIFs: Tom Casey,

Model: Erica Johnson, 24 Hour Fitness