The assisted hamstring stretch promotes flexibility in the hamstring muscles while releasing tension in the legs, hips and buttocks. During this supine stretch, blood flow to the upper body and brain increases as the leg is raised above the head. Using an exercise band intensifies this pose by adding resistance and allowing you to deepen the stretch. You can modify this exercise to suit your level of flexibility by pausing the stretch when you feel your knee or the back of your thigh reach the maximum range of motion. With practice, your flexibility and extension will increase.
Muscle Groups Worked
The hamstring extends along the back of the thigh to the knee. This muscle acts upon the hip and the knee joints. When the hamstrings become tight from lack of exercise or stretching, the flexibility of your legs, hips and lower back may be limited. Maintaining flexible hamstrings is crucial for comfort in sitting, standing, walking, running or other activities that require you to extend and flex your knees. The assisted hamstring stretch loosens this muscle and prevents stiffness or injury to the back of the leg.
How to Do an Assisted Hamstring Stretch
Use a medium-length exercise band for proper resistance in this stretch. Lie on your back on a firm surface with your knees bent and your thighs at a 90-degree angle to your upper body. Settle your spine so that you can feel the vertebrae in your lower back pressing securely against the floor. Contract your abdominal muscles to protect your lower back from strain as you do the stretch. Keeping your leg bent, bring your right knee toward your chest and take hold of the exercise band. Loop the band around the sole of your foot and slowly raise your foot into the air, straightening your leg and maintaining tension in the exercise band. Pause the stretch if you feel tightness in the back of your knee; do not force your leg to straighten if the stretch becomes painful. Once you've extended your leg as far as you can, use the exercise band to gently pull your leg toward your chest to intensify the stretch. Take the stretch as far as you can without discomfort or pain in your buttock, hamstring or knee. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, then slowly release your leg to its starting position. Repeat 3 times on each side.
How to Intensify the Exercise
You can make this exercise more challenging by holding the stretch at full extension for 10 seconds, then lowering your leg to the floor and repeating 10 to 15 times on each side. This movement also tones your core muscles as you engage your abdomen to keep your lower back pressed against the floor. Wearing light ankle weights while performing the stretch will build muscle strength in the muscles in the back and front of your thighs.
Keep your core muscles firm to prevent your back from arching as you do this hamstring stretch, especially if you're performing it as a dynamic exercise. Never extend your knee or hamstring to the point of pain. Devote time to stretching your quadriceps, the muscles along the front of the thigh that complement the actions of the hamstrings, to maintain equal flexibility in both muscle groups.