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Ask Dave – Increasing Hamstring Flexiblity

I got a good question the other day from one of my members.

He comes to me for strength and fitness training but has recently also taken up an acrobatics class. He’s realised that his ability to “base” a person, ie by the guy on the floor holding up the “flyer” is severly limited by his hamstring flexibility.

Imagine being the dude on the bottom without good hamstring length

Imagine being the dude on the bottom without good hamstring length

He’s rounding his low back in order to make up for this lack of mobility.

And all he needs to do is flex his hip to 90 degrees, that’s not an exceptional degree of flexibility at all, but it’s very common that people can’t reach this without having to go to their low back.


This is NOT a poor stretch, I’m merely using it as an example of how most hamstring stretches go into the low back. You can clearly see this dudes spine illustrating my point

So how can we improve this?

There are many hamstring stretches available. The common issue with many is that they also involve rounding the low back, think standing toe touch as an example.

Plus many are assive stretches, which have little actual carry over into real life.

So what does a guy who needs to build an active range of motion need?

I prescribed him a two pronged approach.

Prong 1: Prone Hamstring Contrast – Relax Stretches

Simply lie on your back, raise one leg and hold it there with the aid of a belt/towel/strap around the ball of the foot. Pull until you feel a light stretch in the hamstrings, ensure the knee is locked out straight.


Wait until the light stretch dissipates and the position in comfortable.

Now, use your hamstrings to pull against the strap. Hold tight with the arms, don’t allow any movement. Try to bend your leg and bring the foot to the floor, while simultaneously preventing that movment happening with your arms.

Hold this tension, build it, use strength, for 6 – 10 seconds. Then let it release and pull the leg up further. You may gain several degrees of flexion, you may only get a slight increase. Repeat this process 4-6 times, or until no further progress is made. Now hold the last stretch position for approx 1 minute to dial in the new length.

This process can be repeated 2-3 times on each leg.

Prong 2 – Active knee extension.

Sit on your backside on the floor. Pull your bent leg in towards your chest. Now, keep hold with one or both hands under the hamstring, near the knee and extend your leg out. Don’t let the knee drop away from your chest and try to force the leg straight.

Use the strength in your quads.

This isn’t easy.

As you progress, you’ll eventually get the knee straight, locked out. Once acheived, try to hold the knee closer to the chest. If you can keep the knee against the chest and lock the knee out, start the process again without using your hands for support.

Maybe one day, you’ll make it look as easy as Hunter Cook does in this video:

First part of the video (for each side) – demonstrating passive flexibility. The forward fold. Showing that with application of an outside force (in this case- gravity)- I can easily get my head to my knee. ▪️ Second part of the video- showing a portion of what I use in my personal KINSTRETCH practice. A knee hinge with my hip flexed. Trying to apply enough force with my hip flexed to keep the ball pinned between my knee and shoulder. Then- contracting my quad to straighten my leg without losing the pressure of the knee pinning the ball. ▪️ Goal here- close the gap between passive flexibility (demonstrated) and active use of all of that ROM (aka mobility). Trying to take my passive range and make it usable. ▪️ I wonder if I’ll be able to bring a straight leg to my head, actively, with enough practice? Only time will tell. #HunterFitness #FRC #FRCms #KINSTRETCH #mobilityisnotflexibility @drandreospina

A video posted by Hunter Cook (@hunterfitness) on Jul 26, 2016 at 8:09am PDT

But remeber, our Mr Cook is a freak of nature who also works very hard at this stuff…..

Treat this as any other exercise, try 3 sets of 8-12 reps per leg.

How to program these two stretches.

Use them either together, 2-3 days per week on non consecutive days.

Or, if you’d rather stretch more frequently, alternate between them on alternating days.

These make a great end to a lower body workout, but after any gym session is good. I wouldn’t recommend these before heavy lifting or power exercise.

Now, go have fun with these and let me know how you get on.

Oh, and did you see Hylete, the clothing brand I’ve adopted as my work uniform have done a spotlight feature on me? Have a look here:


Dave Hedges

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