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Hamstrings are one of the largest muscles in your body and we use them all the time. It’s important to look after them with regular stretching. The standing hamstring stretch is one of the most versatile hamstrings stretches there is. Read on and find out how to do it, and what you should and shouldn’t be doing.

Man doing a standing hamstring stretch on beach

What are the hamstrings?

The hamstrings are located on the back of the leg and it’s the opposing muscle group of the quadriceps. It’s actually made up of three smaller muscles as opposed to a single large one.

What are hamstrings used for?

In a nutshell, the hamstrings are responsible for pulling your lower leg up towards your butt. They also provide other more intricate twisting and turning movements of the legs though.

The hamstrings are used massively in walking and running. In other words, they are used extensively as part of our daily lives.

What makes hamstrings tight?

Hamstring muscles tighten over time with age and physical activity.

We use our hamstrings a lot on a daily basis. Because of this, they’re more susceptible than many other muscles to tightening over time anyway.

Sports that involve any kind of running around provide the perfect opportunity for hamstrings to become tight.

When to do the standing hamstring stretch

The standing hamstring stretch can be done pre-exercise or post-exercise. It can also be done any other time as long as the relevant muscles are well warmed up.

Doing the stretch post-exercise is a perfect time. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the muscles are well warmed up. Secondly, stretching after exercise reverses the tightness from doing that very exercise and maintains the suppleness of the muscles.

If doing the stretch pre-exercise or at other times you’ll need to warm up the muscles first. Any kind of gentle warm-up routine will be sufficient.

Standing hamstring stretch benefits

  • Easy to perform.
  • Very effective at stretching the hamstrings.
  • No need to sit, kneel, or lie on the ground.
  • No special equipment is needed.
  • Can be done anywhere.

The standing hamstring stretch has many benefits. The biggest is probably how easy it is to do anywhere. Because of that, it’s great for maintaining the elasticity of your hamstrings.

Standing hamstring stretch common mistakes

  • Moving the knee of the supporting leg past the toes.
  • Bouncing the stretch.
  • Not warming up sufficiently beforehand.
  • Bending your back too much.
  • Going too far into the stretch.

Stretching cold muscles is never a good idea. The standing hamstring stretch is no different. Either warm up first or do the stretch post-exercise.

Always ease slowly into it (don’t bounce) and move just a little past the point you begin to feel the tension in the hamstring.

Keep your back relatively straight throughout. Avoid as much as possible moving the knee of the supporting leg past the toes as you look down.

How to do the standing hamstring stretch

  1. Start by standing straight up with feet together.
  2. Move your right foot forward until the heel is just past the toes of the left foot.
  3. Place both hands at the top of your left thigh for support.
  4. Keep the right leg kept straight and ‘sit’ into the stretch by bending at the left knee.
  5. You should begin to feel the stretch in your hamstring at this point.
  6. Stop once you feel a stretch you are comfortable with and hold for 30 – 60 seconds.
  7. Repeat for the left leg.


The hamstrings are an important muscle to keep on top of in terms of maintaining length and elasticity. They’re one of the primary muscles that dictate how far we can easily bend over with straight legs.

It’s something we do a lot in our everyday lives and not just in exercise. Because of that, the standing hamstring stretch will benefit us greatly particularly as we get older and the muscles tend to naturally tighten up. Also good for those who do a lot of running.

Overall it’s a great stretch to know, it’s effective and easy to do, what more do you need than that. I personally use it all the time.

As always, feel free to leave a comment if you have any thoughts, advice, questions, or opinions related to this article.

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Always consult your GP before undertaking any form of weight loss, fitness, or exercise.

Michael Duffy
Michael Duffy

Fitness, health, and outdoor enthusiast! 2 decade of experience training for, and competing in different sports. Boxer, runner, road cyclist, triathlete, and XC mountain biker. More about me here.

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