Many men have tight hamstrings. It’s common with athletes, particularly runners and footballers. But anyone who exercises regularly and works their legs with weights and machines can find that their hamstrings become shorter and tighter.
I was the same. Well into my 30s I couldn’t bend down and touch my toes. Then I took up yoga, initially as a participant, and then went to train as a teacher and I am now more flexible than I have ever been.
I have written on this blog before that more men should try yoga. Hitting tight hamstrings is one of the top reasons for giving yoga a go. It can stretch the hamstring muscles, release tightness and improve flexibility.
If you were like me then your hamstrings might feel like just one great big knot of tightness. There are in fact three distinct muscle groups. The technical names are the semitendinosus, biceps femoris, and semimembranosus, but to keep it simple just think of them as the central, inner, and outer hamstrings. There are standing and seated yoga poses that let you stretch and release each of these.
Go to a yoga website like Yoga Journal or download a yoga app; look up these exercises and given them a try.
To stretch and release the central hamstrings look for forward folds. You do each of these with your feet hip width apart – I’ve included the old style Sanskrit name of the pose just to make it easier to find the poses on the web. Seated Forward Bend (Paschimottanasana), Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana), and Plow Pose (Halasana).
To relieve the inner hamstring take your legs wider to bring the stretch into the inner edges of your legs. Poses that stretch the inner hamstrings include Wide-Angle Seated Forward Bend (Upavista Konasana) and Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend (Prasarita Padottanasana – whilst I do not focus on the Sanskrit names unless my classes specifically ask me to I am very fond of this one. It just sounds great to say) .
Finally to work on the outer hamstrings take your legs closer to the mid-line in standing forward folds. Look for Revolved Triangle Pose (Parivrtta Trikonasana) and Intense Side Stretch (Parsvottanasana) – I particularly love this one. It takes you to the fine line between pleasure and pain – in a good way.
If you introduce a little yoga alongside running, pumping weights and martial arts you can get a perfect balance of cardio, strength, flexibility and stretch.
Over to you: Are you a guy who has used yoga to improve your flexibility and in particular your hamstrings? Many men still see yoga as something that only ladies do. Help me to get more men to try it out. Yoga can stretch muscles and improve flexibility. Share your experiences and stories. Please leave a comment or post a link.