How to Foam Roll Hamstrings for Increased Flexibility & Recovery

foam roller hamstring release

 

Nic Bartolotta, MPT, HHP

Your hamstrings are one of the most important muscle groups in your body, especially as an athlete. They’re responsible for daily movements like walking, running, squatting, and jumping. But after an intense workout or long day of sitting, your hamstrings tighten up and become sore. Decreased mobility and soreness negatively impact your athletic performance and can make even the most basic movements difficult.

 

Foam rolling helps you treat your hamstrings to a deep tissue massage. But with so many questions about when, where, and how to foam roll hamstrings, it’s hard to know what’s effective and what isn’t. Our resident physical therapist Nic Bartolotta, MPT, HHP is going to walk you through exactly how to foam roll your hamstrings to keep your legs and lower back in top shape. 

Benefits of foam rolling your hamstrings

Strong, flexible hamstrings reduce lower back pain, improve posture, and increase athletic performance. But it takes more than strength training and a bit of stretching to unlock their potential. Foam rolling your hamstrings is the best way to make they function at their best.

Here are just some of the benefits of massaging your hamstrings with a foam roller:

  • Reduce lower back pain & improve posture - Breaking down myofascial tissue and improving the flexibility of your hamstrings will significantly reduce your lower back pain and improve your posture. 

  • Warm up your muscles for intense exercise - Foam rolling before a workout increases your blood flow, expands your range of motion, and prepares your body for an injury-free workout.

  • Improve recovery times after workouts -  Foam rolling helps release tension and eliminate soreness in your muscles, helping you to recover without pain and get back to training at 100%. 

  • Treat & prevent injuries - Tight hamstrings can lead to pulled or torn muscles, knee pain, and lower back injuries. But by massaging these muscles with a foam roller, you can circulate blood & other vital nutrients to treat injuries and prevent future ones. 

When to foam roll your hamstrings

Most people are split on whether you should use a foam roller before or after a workout. We encourage our athletes to do both, here’s why:

Before Exercise

Foam rolling before a workout helps circulate blood to your muscles & joints, preparing them for training. It breaks down the myofascial tissue, increasing your range of motion and reducing the risk of muscle injury. 

 

To effectively foam roll your hamstrings before working out, do it before your dynamic warmup and sport-specific movements.

After Exercise

After an exhausting training session, all you want to do is lie down on the floor and relax. But before you do, you need to initiate the recovery process so your hamstrings will be ready to go again tomorrow. To get the most out of your foam roller, use it before doing static stretches or any other cool down exercises. 

How to foam roll your hamstrings: a 5-minute routine for maximum performance & recovery

The hamstrings are composed of three muscles: the semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and biceps femoris. They play a major role in the structure and function of your posterior chain, which controls your body’s balance and posture. This two-step hamstring foam rolling routine targets each of these muscles to improve recovery and eliminate soreness. 



Place the Rolflex foam roller over your thigh with the contoured roller resting on the back of your leg (the hamstring muscles). Slowly move the roller back and forth across your upper thigh – this will start to circulate blood and break down damaged tissue. Make sure to target the entire muscle group by rotating the roller to the inside and outside of your thigh. Do this for 1 minute.

 

Once you’ve massaged the hamstring muscle group, it’s time to target trigger points with active release therapy. As the foam roller moved slid over the hamstrings, you likely noticed that some areas were more tense than others – these are called trigger points. Place the Rolflex directly over one of these trigger points, then extend your leg so that it’s straight out in front of you. As you contract the hamstring to extend your leg, the contoured roller will break up the hard, connective tissue surrounding your tissue. This is called myofascial release, which will reduce muscle tension and promote recovery. Do 5-10 repetitions for each trigger point, then move onto the next point. 


Repeat this process for both legs to avoid muscular imbalances but do the entire routine on one leg before moving onto the other. It should take you just 2-3 minutes per leg for a total of 5 minutes. 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

Does foam rolling help hamstrings?

Foam rolling helps hamstring muscles by reducing tightness, breaking down damaged tissue, and preventing injuries. It can also prevent lower back pain and knee injuries caused by tight hamstrings. 

How long should you foam roll your hamstrings?

You should foam roll your hamstrings for no more than 1-2 minutes. Doing it for any longer can actually increase your risk of future injury and cause more pain in the interim. 

How do you loosen tight hamstrings?

You can loosen tight hamstrings with a foam roller, dynamic & static stretching, and strength-training.