Reach toward your toes to stretch out and strengthen your hamstrings.
Michael Blann/Digital Vision/Getty Images
The hamstrings, which are the muscles located on the back of the thighs, help you to rotate your leg, extend your hip and flex and extend your knee. As you age, the hamstring muscles can become weaker and less flexible. Fortunately, a variety of exercises can help restore the function of the hamstrings. As always, speak to your doctor before attempting any new exercise, especially if you have a prior hamstring injury or health condition.
Doing hamstring exercises regularly -- at least two nonconsecutive days a week -- can help to improve the flexibility and range of motion of your hamstrings. Hamstring exercises can also help improve balance, which decreases your likelihood of falls. In addition, strength-training exercises can help increase the density of the thigh bones, which helps prevent diseases such as osteoporosis. Stretching and strengthening the hamstring muscles can also help improve your posture and prevent or alleviate back pain.
Target your hamstring muscles with the knee curl. Stand behind a chair with your feet spaced shoulder-width apart. Bend your left knee and lift your heel up toward your buttocks. Hold for a few seconds and then return to the starting position to complete one repetition. Or do the knee extension exercise by sitting all of the way back on a chair so that you feet barely touch the floor. Flex your right toe and lift your right leg up until your knee is straight. Pause for a few seconds and then lower your foot back down. You can also do the chair squat by grasping the back of a chair, bending your knees and lowering your buttocks toward the floor until your knees form 90-degree angles. Reverse the movement and return to the starting position. For optimal results, aim for two sets of 10 repetitions of each exercise on each leg.
Super Stretching Exercises
Do the hamstring stretch exercise by sitting in a chair with your feet flat on the ground. Extend your left leg slightly and position your left heel on the floor. Lean forward at the hips and reach toward your left toes. Hold the stretch and then return to the starting position. Or do the standing hamstring stretch by standing up straight, bending forward at the waist and reaching toward your toes. Stop and hold the stretch when you feel tension in your hamstring muscles. You can also do the towel hamstring stretch by lying on the floor with a towel looped around the bottom of your right foot. Pull on the towel and lift your right leg up into the air until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. For optimal results, hold each stretch for at least 20 seconds on each leg.
Immediately stop if you experience any pain or extreme discomfort while doing hamstring exercises. Take a break, readjust your position or reduce your range of motion until the pain subsides. Always work at your own pace and fitness level. Start with just a couple repetitions, gradually working your way up to the recommended amount as your hamstring flexibility and strength increase. Breathe safely -- exhale during the most strenuous part of the exercise and inhale as you return to the starting position.