5 Exercises to Prevent and Treat Pulled Hamstrings

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Pulled hamstrings are one of the most common sporting conditions. Even worse; they have one of the highest re-injury rates.

Hamstring injuries can happen for many reasons, including:

  • Increasing age
  • Low hamstring flexibility
  • Low hamstring strength (especially when compared to quadriceps strength)
  • Fatigue
  • No warm-up
  • Neural tension

A major problem with a hamstring injury is its recurrence. Half the time, people get hurt again within the first 25 days of getting back into sports.

So, a long-term hamstring rehab programme is very important for people who play sports where hamstring injuries are common and for ones who have already hurt their hamstrings. Therefore, prevention of hamstring injury is the best way to go.

Exercises to Prevent Pulled Hamstrings

Check out the following five exercises to help you prevent pulled hamstrings:

1) Figure Four Stretch

This exercise can help prevent pulled hamstrings by improving the flexibility around the pelvis and lower back and helping the sciatic nerve move more freely.

To do this exercise:

  • Lie down on the ground with both knees bent up.
  • Just above your right knee, put the outside of your left foot.
  • Take both hands, and grab your right thigh. Pull it toward your chest.
  • If it’s difficult for you to keep your neck straight, you should put a pillow under your head.
  • You should feel the stretch in your left buttock, thigh, or back, depending on which part is the tightest.
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds; switch sides, and do it again three times.


2) Piriformis Stretch

This exercise works in the same way as the figure four stretch to help prevent pulled hamstrings.

To do this exercise:

  • Lie down on the ground with both knees bent up.
  • Your right leg should be crossed over your left leg. Put your left hand on your shin and right hand on your right knee.
  • Pull with both hands so that your knee moves in a diagonal direction towards your left shoulder. Your right buttock should feel like it’s being stretched.
  • You also pull with the hand on the shin. That turns the hip and makes the stretch stronger. Make sure your knee moves across your body.
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds; switch sides, and do it again three times.


3) Hamstring Stretch

It’s very important to stretch your hamstrings if you wish to avoid pulling them. This stretch will help you accomplish that.

To do this exercise:

  • Sit on the ground with one leg stretched out in front of you and the other on the inside of your upper thigh.
  • If your hamstrings are very tight, you might find that sitting on a pillow that lifts you up a bit helps. Allow your hands to slide down your leg.
  • Most likely, you won’t be able to reach your foot. Just go as far as you can while still being able to keep your knee straight, which should not be too difficult.
  • Your hips and shoulders should be in a straight line, and your leg should be straight in front of you.
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds; switch sides, and do it again three times.


4) Hip Flexor Stretch

To avoid pulled hamstrings, your hip flexors must be loose flexible. The hip flexor exercises can help you accomplish that.

To do this exercise:

  • Place one knee on the pillow and the other on the floor in front of you. Grasp something if you need to keep your balance.
  • Push your hips forward, and tilt your pelvis backwards at the same time. That’s important, as the stretch won’t work as well if your pelvis tilts forward.
  • That will mostly stretch the iliopsoas muscle, but if you’re very tight, you may need to spend more time on that first.
  • Stay in that position, and grab your foot. If you’re very stiff, you may need to loop a belt or towel around your foot.
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds on each leg, and do it three times.


5) Hip Extension

This exercise works out the glutes and hamstrings, helping improve flexibility along your entire back. It’s essential if you wish to avoid a pulled hamstring.

To do this exercise:

  • Stand in front of a wall with your hands about chest-high on the wall.
  • Kick your leg straight back behind you while keeping the knee of the hurt leg straight.
  • Relax, and bring your leg back down to where it started. Repeat 8-12 times.

Add some resistance when you can do this exercise easily and without pain. Make a loop by tying the ends of an exercise band together. Proceed as follows:

  • Put a secure object on one end of the loop or shut a door on it to keep it in place. You can also have someone hold one end of the loop to make it harder.
  • Loop the other end of the exercise band around the bottom of the leg that hurts. Repeat steps 1 through 4 and slowly pull your leg back on the exercise band.



Weakness, poor core stability, fatigue, pain from the lower back & gluteals, and tight hip flexors and hamstrings are the most common causes of pulled hamstrings.

If you wish to avoid pulled hamstrings, you must perform exercises that strengthen the aforementioned muscles and also stretch them from time to time.

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