How to Do a Seated Hamstring Stretch: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do a seated hamstring stretch to improve mobility and flexibility, plus modifications to make it easier or harder.

Published Date: Jul 24, 2023
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Flexibility plays a crucial role in your overall well-being, contributing to enhanced athletic performance and reduced risk of injuries. It also makes everyday activities, like sitting up straight and picking something up from the ground, more comfortable. Among the many stretches that target the lower body to improve flexibility, the seated hamstring stretch stands out as one of the simplest and most effective ones. By targeting the muscles in the backs of your thighs (hello, hammies), this stretch promotes flexibility, mobility, and a host of other benefits.

Here, we’ll cover the benefits of doing the seated hamstring stretch, whether you're focused on fitness or dealing with joint or muscle pain — plus, modifications to make the stretch work for you.

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Dylan Peterson, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist and Clinical Reviewer
Dr. Peterson is a Hinge Health physical therapist who focuses on developing clinical exercise therapy programs and member education.

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What Is a Seated Hamstring Stretch?

The seated hamstring stretch is an exercise that targets and stretches the muscles that run down the backs of your thighs, known as the hamstrings. It is a static stretch that is often performed while you sit at the edge of a chair (or bench) with your leg extended in front of you.

What Muscles Do the Seated Hamstring Stretch Work? 

No surprise here: The seated hamstring stretch primarily targets and stretches the hamstring muscles, which are a group of three muscles located at the back of the thigh. These muscles include the biceps femoris (the outermost hamstring muscle), the semitendinosus (positioned in the middle of the hamstring group), and the semimembranosus (the innermost hamstring muscle). The seated hamstring stretch elongates and lengthens these muscles as you lean forward, promoting flexibility and increased range of motion in the hamstrings. 

This stretch also works other nearby muscles, such as the glutes (buttocks) and the muscles of the lower back.

Benefits of the Seated Hamstring Stretch

The seated hamstring stretch can help you perform daily activities (like reaching down to the floor) and reduce tension in your hips and low back after long periods of sitting or standing. Other benefits include: 

  • Increased flexibility and range of motion in your hamstrings. This can improve overall mobility and make activities such as bending, reaching, and squatting easier and more fluid.

  • Injury prevention. Tight hamstrings can contribute to various injuries, such as strains and sprains. Flexible hamstrings help reduce muscle imbalances and tension, decreasing the risk of these injuries.

  • Pain relief. Tight hamstrings can contribute to lower back pain by pulling on the pelvis, causing increased stress and strain on the lower back muscles. They can also contribute to knee pain. The hamstrings provide stability and help bend and straighten your knee. Tight hamstrings can pull on the whole system, so that everything isn’t moving quite as it needs to. Stretching and releasing tension in the hamstrings can help alleviate tightness in the lower back and knees and help reduce pain in those areas. 

  • Stress reduction and relaxation. Stretching exercises can have a positive impact on mental well-being. They promote relaxation, reduce muscle tension, and help alleviate stress and anxiety.

Seated Hamstring Stretch: Exercises and Modifications 

The information contained in these videos is intended to be used for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice or treatment for any specific condition. Hinge Health is not your healthcare provider and is not responsible for any injury sustained or exacerbated by your use of or participation in these exercises. Please consult with your healthcare provider with any questions you may have about your medical condition or treatment.

Seated Hamstring Stretch

Seated Hamstring Stretch

Seated Hamstring Stretch

Seated Hamstring Stretch

To do a seated hamstring stretch: 

  • Sit at the edge of a chair and stretch one leg out in front of you while resting your heel on the floor. 

  • Hinge at your hips, leaning your chest toward the floor. 

  • Hold for a few deep breaths before returning to your starting position. 

You should feel a stretch in the back of your leg, calf, and hips as you do each repetition. 

Everyone is different, which is why you may need to modify the seated hamstring stretch to meet your needs. 

Seated Hamstring Stretch Modifications

Seated Hamstring Stretch Modifications

Seated Hamstring Stretch Modifications

Seated Hamstring Stretch Modifications

To make the seated hamstring stretch easier:  

  • Bend your knee slightly when you hinge your hips forward. 

  • Loop a strap, towel, or resistance band around your foot and use that to gently pull yourself forward.

To make the seated hamstring stretch harder: 

  • Hinge your hips further, reaching your chest closer to the floor, to deepen the stretch.

  • You could also reach for your toes, instead of just leaning forward, to enhance the stretch on your hamstrings.

You can apply one of the above modifications to make the exercise easier or harder, or multiple modifications at once. 

How Hinge Health Can Help You 

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program. 

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you.  

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. 

See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.

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  1. Hamstrings. (n.d.). Physiopedia. Retrieved from