The 8 Best Hamstring Stretches For Runners

Our hamstring muscles are needed for everyday physical activities such as walking, squatting, and climbing stairs. As runners, we need them for various movements for our jogs, runs, and sprints. Keeping them strong and healthy in addition to performing specific hamstring stretches for runners, is key to improving running performance and helping to avoid injury

Most runners tend to focus on strengthening their quads and cast their poor, shunned hamstrings aside. They need just as much attention as our other muscle groups! We must strengthen them with functional training, warm them up before our runs with hamstring activation, and take care of them afterward with specific hamstring stretches for runners. 

This guide will focus primarily on static hamstring stretches for runners and give examples of hamstring stretches to perform after each running workout and long run.

In this article, we will discuss:

  • What Are The Hamstring Muscles? 
  • How Do Hamstring Muscles Help Me Run? 
  • Tips For Stretching Properly 
  • The 8 Best Hamstring Stretches For Runners
A close up of a runner's shoes while performing a hamstring stretch.

What are the hamstring muscles? 

The three main muscles in our hamstrings are the bicep femoris, semimembranosus, and semitendinosus. They are used primarily to bend the knees and extend and rotate the hips. These muscles begin at the pelvis and run along the femur. Let’s quickly break down these three separate muscles and see what each does: 

The bicep femoris is the outer part of the thigh. It allows knee flexion, hip extension, and the lateral rotation of the tibia.

The semimembranosus is the back part of the thigh. It allows knee flexion, hip extension, and rotation of the tibia with a bent knee.

The semitendinosus is also located at the back of the thigh, between the other two hamstring muscles. It allows knee flexion, hip extension, and rotation of the tibia with a bent knee, just as the semimembranosus does.

Now that we’ve got the anatomy figured out, let’s see why our hamstrings are so important to our running.

A woman on a track stretching her hamstring.

How Do Hamstring Muscles Help Me Run?

Hamstrings play a significant role in running mechanics

Along with the glutes, hamstrings take part during the push-off phase of running as they generate force against the ground. The stronger your hamstrings, the more force you’ll be able to launch with, propelling you forward with each stride

In addition, before taking each step, the hamstrings assist in slowing down the leg, like a brake, during the “swing though” phase. They keep the knee from hyperextending and prepare the body for its next step.

We also cannot overlook that, along with the rest of the leg muscle groups, the hamstrings assist in stabilizing the knee at each point of contact and impact our feet make with the ground.

They have a lot of important jobs, don’t they? 

As runners, we need to keep our hamstrings strong to prevent injury and help us run faster and more efficiently. Let’s take a look at some of the exercises you can add to your strength training program to help strengthen your hamstrings:

  • Single-Leg Romanian Deadlifts 
  • Nordic Hamstring Curls 
  • Stability Ball Hamstring Curls (single and double leg)
  • Eccentric Bridges
  • Hip Thursts 
  • Bulgarian Split Squats
  • Kettlebell Swings
A woman doing a single leg deadlift.

In addition to strengthening your hamstring, warming them up correctly is another piece of the training puzzle.

You can do so by adding dynamic stretching before each run.

The Frankenstein and Scoops are excellent dynamic hamstring stretches for runners that you can add to your pre-workout routine: 

Frankenstein

Hamstring Stretches For Runners: Frankenstein
  1. Stand tall with your back straight, core tight, and your arms extended out in front of you. 
  2. Lift your right leg as close to your extended right or left arm as possible, keeping your knee extended and back straight. Do not bend over to reach for your foot. Bring your foot up as close as possible to your hand with the eventual goal of tapping it. 
  3. Alternate legs. You can do this exercise in place or by walking forward. 

Scoops 

Hamstring Stretches For Runners: Scoops
  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. 
  2. Step your right foot forward slightly, placing your right heel on the ground and flexing your foot.
  3. Bend your left knee slightly. 
  4. Bend at the waist and bring your arms in a fluid scooping motion toward your right foot and follow through, bringing them back to the initial position. 
  5. Repeat for 30 seconds on one side, and then repeat on the other.

Along with strengthening your hamstrings, stretching them out after your runs can also assist in your performance, lowering your risk of injury.

Before we jump into the specific hamstring stretches, let’s look at the general rules for stretching your muscles out after a workout or run. 

Tips For Static Stretching

  • Hold each stretch for between 45 – and 60 seconds to reap optimal benefits. 
  • Try and relax your muscles while holding each stretch.
  • Breath deeply while you stretch. With each exhale, you can gently stretch the muscle a bit more. 
  • Stretch your muscles gently. You should feel mild tension but not pain. If you feel pain, let up on the stretch or stop altogether. 

Alright. Now that we know how to stretch correctly let’s look at the following 8 hamstring stretches for runners you can add to your post-run routine.

The Best 8 Hamstring Stretches For Runners

#1: Standing Toe Touch Hamstring Stretch

Hamstring Stretches For Runners: A Standing Toe Touch

The standing toe touch is most likely the most straightforward hamstring stretch: 

  1. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart. 
  2. Bend at the hips and reach for your toes while keeping your legs and back straight. 
  3. Hold for 45-60 seconds.

#2: Cross Over Hamstring Stretch

Hamstring Stretches For Runners: A Cross Over Hamstring Stretch

This one is a slight variation from the previous stretch, crossing one foot over another. 

  1. Stand tall and cross your right foot over your left, lining up your feet close together. 
  2. Lower your upper body toward your feet, slowly bending your knees ever so slightly. 
  3. Reach toward your toes, or if you are more flexible, you may need to place your palms flat on the floor. 
  4. Hold for 45-60 seconds.
  5. Repeat on the other side. 

#3: Single Leg Forward Fold Hamstring Stretch

woman doing Single Leg Forward Fold Hamstring Stretch
  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. 
  2. Step your right foot forward slightly, placing your right heel on the ground and flexing your foot.
  3. Bend your left knee slightly. 
  4. Bend at the waist and bring your torso toward your extended legs until you feel a stretch, keeping your back completely straight. 
  5. Hold for 45-60 seconds.
  6. Repeat on the other side.

#4: Triangle Forward Fold Hamstring Stretch

Hamstring Stretches For Runners: A Triangle Forward Fold Hamstring Stretch
  1. Stand tall with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Reach first toward your right toes, or if you are more flexible, you may need to place your palms flat on the floor. 
  3. Hold for 45-60 seconds. 
  4. Slowly bring yourself back up to the starting position.
  5. Now reach for your left toes and repeat. 
  6. Hold for 45-60 seconds. 

#5: Half Split Hamstring Stretch

Hamstring Stretches For Runners: A Half Split Forward Fold
  1. Start in a lunge position with your left leg in front of you at 90 degrees and your right knee on the ground directly underneath your body.
  2. Extend your left leg in front of you gently, and place your heel on the ground. 
  3. Keep your back straight, bend forward at the hips, and reach toward your left foot. 
  4. Hold for 45-60 seconds.
  5. Repeat on the other side. 

#6: Seated Forward Fold Hamstring Stretch 

Hamstring Stretches For Runners: A Seated Forward Fold
  1. Sit on the floor with your legs extended straight out in front of you and your feet pointed up.
  2. Reach toward your toes, grabbing on to them if you can. If not, you can hold on to your ankles or shins to hold the position.
  3. Hold for 45-60 seconds.

#7: The Hurdler Hamstring Stretch

Hamstring Stretches For Runners: A Hurdler Stretch
  1. Sit on the floor with your left leg extended straight out in front of you.
  2. Bend your right leg at the knee and place the sole of your right foot on your left inner thigh. 
  3. Bend at the waist and reach both arms toward your extended left foot, grabbing on to them if you can. If not, you can hold on to your ankle or shin to hold the position. 
  4. Hold for 45-60 seconds.
  5. Repeat on the other side.

 #8: Lying Hamstring Stretch With Resistance Band

Hamstring Stretches For Runners: A Lying Hamstring Stretch with Band
  1. Lie on your back with your legs extended out in front of you. 
  2. Loop a resistance band around the sole of your right foot and hold each side of the resistance band in either hand. 
  3. Lift your right leg towards you until it is perpendicular to your body. 
  4. Using the resistance band, pull your leg gently toward your body until you feel the stretch, keeping your knee extended. 
  5. Keep your back and other leg flat on the floor at all times. 
  6. Hold for 45-60 seconds.
  7. Repeat on the other side. 

There you have it, folks! Eight of the best hamstring stretches for runners out there that you can add to your daily post-workout routine. Just remember, your hamstrings aren’t the only muscles you need to stretch out after a run or workout. Include your calves, quads, glutes, and any other muscles you used in your stretching routine for a complete cooldown. 

To continue adding to your stretching exercise library, here are our 9 Best Quad Stretches For Runners! 

Hamstring stretch triangle side fold.
Photo of author
Katelyn is an experienced ultra-marathoner and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for the trails. In the running community she is known for her ear to ear smile even under the toughest race conditions. She loves sharing her knowledge and experience with everyone and has a great desire to motivate others to hit the trails alongside her. Run for fun!

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