If you try and touch your toes you might feel an uncomfortable tightness in the back of your thighs.  These are your hamstrings. 

We often talk about muscles being ‘short and tight’ but strictly speaking this is inaccurate, more often it is the case that the muscles have become weak through lack of use over time.  For example, our lifestyle often involves a lot of sitting, and so the hamstrings become weak and unaccustomed to moving through their full range of movement.  If you were to try to touch your toes after sitting all week at your office desk then your hamstrings would feel ‘short and tight’ but actually this is a neurological response that the body instigates to protect itself from what it perceives as an unusual and potentially dangerous movement.

To overcome this neurological response we need to send a message to to the brain that moving in this way is normal.  Therefore, exercises for the hamstrings must be performed regularly and without discomfort so that that these movements become normal. 

For this reason I don’t recommend static stretches for a lot of patients since less active patients are more likely to strain their hamstrings this way.

Below are some hamstring exercises that I recommend.

Don’t forget your calf muscles and feet!

Your calf muscles and the soles of your feet are part of the same muscle chain that incorporates the hamstrings.  So you will be able to get a deep stretch through your hamstrings if you stretch these too.  Since the hamstrings are more prone to strains and tears I prefer to stretch the soles of my feet first followed by my calf muscles when performing gentle static stretching at the end of my exercise routine.

Toe Curls



Gentle Ankle Strengthening Exercises



Basic Ankle / Calf Stretches


Strengthening your Hamstrings – The Sled Pull

The Sled Pull is a great functional exercise.  With each backward step you are working your hamstrings eccentrically, that is, they are lengthening whilst contracting.  In this way you  increase both mobility and strength. 



More Advanced Ankle / Calf exercises

This video shows some more advanced exercises for the ankle / calf muscles.  It also explains the importance of flexible ankles when trying to do a deep squat.  So if you are struggling with your squat at the gym, mayble you need to work on your ankle flexibility.

More Advanced Functional Ankle Exercises

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