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Hamstring Strain Exercises

You can begin gently stretching your hamstring right away by doing the standing hamstring stretch. Make sure you do not feel any sharp pain. You should feel only a mild discomfort in the back of your thigh when you are doing this stretch.

  • Standing hamstring stretch: Put the heel of the leg on your injured side on a stool about 15 inches high. Keep your leg straight. Lean forward, bending at the hips, until you feel a mild stretch in the back of your thigh. Make sure you don't roll your shoulders or bend at the waist when doing this or you will stretch your lower back instead of your leg. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times.

After the hamstring stretches become easier, you can do the hamstring stretch on a wall and the standing calf stretch. It’s good to stretch your calf muscle because it attaches near where your hamstring ends.

  • Hamstring stretch on wall: Lie on your back with your buttocks close to a doorway. Stretch your uninjured leg straight out in front of you on the floor through the doorway. Raise your injured leg and rest it against the wall next to the door frame. Keep your leg as straight as possible. You should feel a stretch in the back of your thigh. Hold this position for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat 3 times.
  • Standing calf stretch: Stand facing a wall with your hands on the wall at about eye level. Keep your injured leg back with your heel on the floor. Keep the other leg forward with the knee bent. Turn your back foot slightly inward (as if you were pigeon-toed). Slowly lean into the wall until you feel a stretch in the back of your calf. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Return to the starting position. Repeat 3 times. Do this exercise several times each day.

When the pain is gone, start strengthening your hamstrings using the following exercises.

  • Prone knee bend: Lie on your stomach with your legs straight out behind you. Bend the knee on your injured side so that your heel comes toward your buttocks. Hold 5 seconds. Relax and return your foot to the floor. Do 2 sets of 15. As this gets easier you can add weights to your ankle.
  • Prone hip extension: Lie on your stomach with your legs straight out behind you. Draw your belly button in towards your spine and tighten your abdominal muscles. Tighten the buttocks and thigh muscles of the leg on your injured side and lift the leg off the floor about 8 inches. Keep your leg straight. Hold for 5 seconds. Then lower your leg and relax. Do 2 sets of 15.
  • Resisted hamstring curl: Place a chair facing a door about 3 feet from the door. Loop and tie one end of the tubing around the ankle of your injured leg. Tie a knot in the other end of the tubing and shut the knot in the door. Sit in the chair and raise your injured leg. Then bend your knee, bringing your foot down to the floor. Allow your foot to slide along the floor and move back underneath the chair, stretching the tubing. Slowly let your foot slide forward again. Do 2 sets of 15.

    You can challenge yourself by moving the chair farther from the door to increase the resistance of the tubing.

  • Chair lift: Lie on your back with your heels resting on the top of a chair. Slowly raise both hips off the floor. Hold for 2 seconds and lower slowly. Do 3 sets of 15.

After your hamstrings have become stronger and you feel your leg is stable, you can begin strengthening the quadriceps (the muscles in the front of the thigh) by doing lunges and the slump stretch.

  • Lunge: Stand and take a large step forward with your right leg. Dip your left knee down toward the floor and bend your right leg. Return to the starting position. Repeat the exercise stepping forward with the left leg and dipping your right leg down toward the floor. Do 2 sets of 15 on each side.
  • Slump stretch: Sit slouched in a chair with your head bent down. Straighten your injured leg and move your foot toward you. Hold this position for 30 seconds. Relax and then repeat 2 times.
Written by Tammy White, MS, PT, and Phyllis Clapis, PT, DHSc, OCS, for RelayHealth.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2011-08-11
Last reviewed: 2011-05-25
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2011 RelayHealth and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.
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