Proper Hamstring Stretching for Low Back

A black and white drawing of a person bending at the hips to perform a traditional standing hamstring stretch where you try to put your head to your knees and touch the floor.

If you’ve ever been to Physical Therapy for low back pain or an injury, I’m certain you’ve been told that you have tight hamstrings.

But, did you know there’s a better way to stretch these muscles than simply bending over and touching your toes?

There’s one thing that you must keep in mind when stretching your hamstrings.

You shouldn’t round your back!

Think about it…

When you bend over to “stretch your hamstrings,” how much are you stretching your hamstrings and how much are you stretching your back?

This straight legged, rounded low back position is what everyone cautions you against when performing deadlifts, RDLs, and other low back exercises.

All you’re doing when you stretch this way is reinforcing a position that most experts would agree isn’t healthy for your low back.

So instead of stretching your hamstrings AND your low back, try these two stretches. They will better target your hamstrings while keeping your spine in a neutral position.

Prop your foot up on an object and lean in with a FLAT BACK until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings.


Use a band or rope to pull your leg up until you feel a stretch in your hamstring. Keep both legs straight and your low back flat!!

Is any one method better?

According to research the means of static stretching (in pics above) were more effective in producing an increase in hamstring flexibility over a 4-week period than PNF stretching (check out the video below) and active stretching.

Additionally, the research suggests that a significant difference in hamstring flexibility cannot be achieved in 2 weeks of the protocol. Differences were seen in 4 weeks.

What’s the protocol?

Simply holding a static hamstring stretch (specifically in the position shown in the 2nd picture above where I’m on my back) for 30-seconds each leg 3 times a week!

When you effectively stretch the hamstring by “isolating” the muscle group as I demonstrate in the pictures above, it doesn’t take a lot of work to produce statistically significant results.

But, be sure to stick to the 30-second time limit.

Why?

Most research has shown a decrease in muscular force production with longer duration stretching.

For instance, one research study looked into the effects on power when holding hamstring stretches for different lengths of time. The researchers concluded that a decrease in maximal voluntary contraction of the hamstrings did not occur when static stretches were held for 30-seconds.

The researchers also found there to be similar improvements in flexibility when compared to a 60-second stretch. However, this longer duration resulted in a significant decrease maximal voluntary contraction.

So, in a nutshell, when holding a static stretch, do so for 30-seconds.

If you hold the stretch for 60ish seconds, you will experience a decrease in power output at your hips.

Obviously, this is not something you want before you wrestle.

Studies Referenced

Davis, D., P. Ashby, K. McCale, J. McQuain, J. Wine. The effectiveness of 3 stretching techniques on hamstring flexibility using consistent stretching parameters. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 19(1), 27-32. 2005.

Ogura, Y., Y. Miyahara, H. Naito, S. Katamoto, J. Aoki. Duration of static stretching influences muscle force production in hamstring muscles. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 21(3), 788-792. 2007.

Related Posts:

Positional Release For Wrestling

Positional Release For Hips

Your Ultimate Guide to Recovery

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Hi, I’m Dickie (the author of this blog). Here I am with my good buddy, Kyle Dake. While he doesn't have a nice coat like me, he is pretty good at wrestling. Here's what he said about my training system:

Before I began lifting using Dickie's system my wrestling skills were getting slightly better. I've now been lifting under his guidance for more than 5 months and I have begun to dominating ALL of my competition. At first I had little faith in Dickie and his program, but now I would run into a wall if he told me I would get stronger! I know it sounds insane, but I would. The bottom line is Dickie is an expert and knows what he is talking about. If you want to defeat those kids whom you've always lost to and reach a level you never thought possible, I suggest you start lifting using Dickie's system immediately.

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7 Comments. Leave new

  • Whats the most anyone should stretch for best results? Because this is my last year of wrestling. And I wanna do the best I can.

    Reply
    • Hey Nick,

      If you’re super tight, then I think it’d be beneficial, but if you check out this post you’ll notice that none of the high level wrestlers that were tested in the various studies were very flexible. In fact, if I remember correctly, one of the research papers mentioned that the researchers were a bit shocked at how poorly most of the wrestler performed on the basic sit and reach test.

      It’s really finding the right balance. Obviously some flexibility is needed. But typically, the more flexible you are, the less explosive you are, and as we both know, you need to be pretty damn explosive to be an effective wrestler.

      Does this help? Let me know and I’ll get back to you. Thanks for commenting man.

      Reply
      • Yes, it does thanks for responding yeah like I can put my hands on the ground easy when touching my toes but if i stretch with a straight back I cant go down very far at all. But thanks I’ll start caring more about explosiveness. Do you know what some good exercises are to help me stay in a stance longer without my lower back hurting? Cause I’m the strongest kid on the team and the fastest and I’m 160 but where I lack is in the 3rd period its hard for me to keep a stance.

        Reply
        • Since you’re already strong and explosive, perhaps some stretching and mobility work wouldn’t hurt. Research by the world’s leading back expert, Stuart McGill, suggests that both tight hamstrings and poor hip mobility have been linked to low back pain. Use the stretching covered above and check out this post (Squat Like A Stripper) on how to improve your hip mobility.

          If at any point you feel like it’s really causing a big decrease in your ability to produce quick and powerful movements on the mat, just back off on it. Additionally, as far as timing- I’d suggest mobility work before practices and matches and stretching after.

          Another thing to look at is the endurance capacity of your core. If you want, let me know and I can write a post on some testing you can do and what the results mean. Tuesday is the day I put up new posts, so if you get back to me, I can have it done by then.

          Are you on my email list? If not, click here and sign up so you’ll get the notification; that is, if you want me to write the post.

          Reply
  • Yeah I definitely try it! But Im really good upper body wise, and Im fast, But my dead lift needs work. I can hip thrust high 3s. But I strained my SI joint to weeks before districts last year being stupid. So dead lifts are where I’m really lacking. I really need to work on my lumbar spine stability and endurance. Do you know what could help me with that?

    Reply
    • Yeah, I’ll put a post together for Tuesday. I’m reading a really good book right now on low back performance related issues.

      Reply
  • Alright, thanks Dickie!

    Reply

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