Hamstring Exercises

What do I need to know about hamstring exercises?

Hamstring exercises help reduce pain, keep muscles flexible, and improve function after injury. These are beginning exercises. Ask your caregiver if you need to see a physical therapist for more advanced exercises.

  • Do these exercises 4 to 5 days a week , or as directed by your caregiver.

  • Do the exercises in the order that your caregiver recommends to prevent swelling, chronic pain, and reinjury. Start with stretching exercises. Then progress to strengthening exercises.

  • Warm up before you do the exercises. Walk or ride a stationary bike for 5 to 10 minutes to prepare your hamstring for movement.

  • Stop if you feel pain. It is normal to feel discomfort at first. Regular exercise will help decrease your discomfort with time.

How do I perform stretching exercises safely?

Begin with stretching exercises to improve flexibility. Do the exercises on both legs so your muscles stay flexible. Ask your caregiver when you can progress to strengthening exercises.

  • Hamstring stretch with a towel:

    • Lie on your back on the floor. Bend both legs so your feet rest flat. Lift one leg off the floor and loop a towel around your foot. Grasp the ends of the towel and slowly straighten your lifted leg. Your leg and body should form a 90 degree angle. Use the towel to gently pull your leg toward you until you feel the stretch. Keep your leg straight and your foot flexed toward your body. Use a longer towel if needed. Hold for 30 seconds. Do 2 sets. Repeat on other side.


  • Standing quadriceps stretch:

    • Place your hand on a wall or the back of a chair for balance. Lift one foot and bring your heel upward toward your buttocks. Keep your knees close together. Grasp your ankle with your hand and gently pull your heel closer to your buttocks until you feel the stretch. Hold for 30 seconds. Do 2 sets. Repeat on other side.


  • Sitting hamstring stretch:

    • Sit on the floor with both legs straight in front of you. Do not point your toes or flex your feet. Place your palms on the floor and slide your hands forward until you feel the stretch. Keep your back straight and do not lock your knees. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.

How do I perform strengthening exercises safely?

After you can perform stretching exercises without pain, you may progress to strengthening exercises. Do the exercises on both legs so your each of your hamstrings is strengthened. Your caregiver may recommend that you add repetitions or weights to your strengthening exercises.

  • Hamstring curls:

    • Place your hand on a wall or the back of a chair for balance. Stand with your weight evenly on both feet. Then place your weight on one of your legs. Lift the other leg and raise your heel toward your buttocks. Hold for 5 seconds. Do 3 sets of 10. Repeat on other side.


  • Straight leg raise:

    • Lie on the floor with your face down and resting on your folded arms. Keep your body in a straight line. With your hip bones on the floor, tighten the gluteal and hamstring muscles of your injured leg. Keep your leg straight and raise it toward the ceiling as high as you can. Hold for 5 seconds. Do 3 sets of 10. Repeat on other side.


  • Half squats:

    • Stand with your feet shoulder distance apart. Rest your hands on the front of your thighs or reach out in front of you. You may hold on to the back of a chair or wall for balance. Keep your chest lifted and lower your hips about 10 inches, as if you are going to sit. Make sure your weight is over your heels and hold for 5 seconds. As you keep your weight over your heels, bring your body up to a standing position. Do 3 sets of 10.

When should I contact my caregiver?

  • Your pain becomes worse or you have new pain.

  • You have questions or concern about your condition, care, or exercise program.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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