How To Use The Foam Roller On Hamstrings To Relieve Tightness & Soreness
By: Zack Mathews, NASM - CPT, CES, & PES, PN-L1
Using the foam roller on hamstrings has its benefits and there’s also a time and place when you shouldn’t use the foam roller.
In this article, I’ll break down how to foam roll the hamstrings correctly, when you should use the foam roller on hamstrings, when you shouldn’t, the anatomy of the hamstring, and frequently asked questions.
Since the hamstring is active in pretty much every single lower body movement we do from squatting to walking, they can get tight and sore pretty quickly.
Here’s your step by step directions:
- Starting from a seated position, place the foam roller under your hamstrings, up near your glutes. Keep your hands planted behind you on the floor.
- Push your hands into the ground to elevate your butt off the ground. The only areas touching the ground will be your heels, hands, and the foam roller.
- Pushing your hamstrings into the foam roller, start sliding your body so the foam roller will begin working its way towards the back of your knee.
- Once you reach that area, go the other direction back towards the upper part of your hamstring / lower part of your glute.
- That will complete one rep!
It’s important to get full range while rolling the hamstrings so ensure that you go from the back of the knee all the way to the bottom of your glute. Depending on the size of your foam roller, you might be able to roll both hamstrings out at the same time or have to do each side separately.
Perform 5 - 10 reps or for 45 - 60 seconds.
During the 45 - 60 seconds, play with the angle of your toe to target different areas of your hamstring.
You can point it up, to the side, and to the opposite side throughout the allotted time.
If you want to make this movement more intense, place one foot over the other so your bodyweight is pushing your hamstrings into the foam roller.
Here's the 3 different ways you can use the foam roller on hamstrings.
As I’ve mentioned already, you want to use the foam roller on your hamstrings from the back of the knee up to the bottom of your glutes. The reason is that the hamstring muscles connect at your knee and your pelvis so you want to make sure to target all of them.
The hamstrings are made up of 3 muscles that includes the:
- Biceps femoris
This is also why I said to play around with your toe position. By pointing the toe up and to each side, you’re more likely to target all 3 muscles when you do your hamstring foam roll.
Frequently Asked Questions
Foam rolling the hamstrings has multiple benefits when performed correctly. It can:
- Help with any tightness you are feeling in that area.
- Potentially help with pain you are experiencing.
- Warm up and prime the body for lower body exercises that involve your hamstrings.
- Help cool you down after a workout.
- Help put you in a good mood because it feels good and loosens up the body.
There are so many people that debate if you should be foam rolling. Recently I heard a well respected coach make a simple response to it. He said “if it makes you feel good, do it”.
That’s why I added that last one about it feeling good. There’s no harm with foam rolling so if it makes your body feel better, do it!
We spend too much time trying to find the optimal “this” or best “that” instead of doing what we enjoy and feels good.
If you are experiencing any sharp pain in your hamstring that can be from a severe strain or full hamstring tear, it’s best to take time off from foam rolling.
You want that area to start healing and one of the worst things you can do is apply more pressure to the area and make it worse.
If you think you might have a severe strain or tear, I would also recommend talking to your doctor before starting any hamstring foam rolling.
To fix your tight hamstrings, you want to do a mix of foam rolling, stretching, and strengthening exercises that target your hamstrings.
You’re in a good place here by learning how to use the foam roller on hamstrings, and now you want to add in the stretching and strength elements.
Here’s a list of my favorite hamstring exercises with dumbbells and lying leg curl alternatives.
I’ve gotten this question a lot from clients where they are doing a ton of stretching and foam rolling for their hamstrings but nothing seems to be helping.
They might feel temporary relief but the tightness will always start creeping its way back in.
I learned from Joe Defranco, who has been coaching clients for over 25 years, that when this circumstance happens, take a look at a client’s hip flexors.
Adding in hip flexor stretches, activation exercises, and foam rolling can help your hamstrings immensely if you can’t seem to loosen them up.
How To Use The Foam Roller On Hamstrings Recap
When you want to properly foam roll your hamstrings, make sure you are targeting all 3 muscles and in a full range of motion.
The hamstrings connect at both the hip and knee so you are only cheating yourself if you don’t roll to both ends.
Be smart with your foam rolling and if you are experiencing lots of pain in your hamstring, stop the movement and consult with your doctor.
45 - 60 seconds per hamstring (or both at the same time) is a good starting point but feel free to spend extra time if you find an area that is extra tight.