If you’e experienced a torn or damaged hamstring muscle, you’ll know only too well how important it is to look after them. Read on to find out more about how to activate, train and stretch the hamstrings to strengthen and protect them.
What and where is it?
The hamstrings are actually a group of 3 muscles located at the back of the leg. The bicep femoris, semi membranosis and semi tendinosis. The hamstrings help flex the knee and extend the hip by bringing the leg behind the body. They work as the antagonist to the quadriceps, if the quad flex the hamstrings extend and visa versa.
Why is the muscle important?
The hamstrings work while walking, running and jumping. If they’re strong, you can jump high, run fast and accelerate with explosive power. With well-developed hamstrings, you can maintain good posture and prevent leg injuries. When executing explosive movement, the hamstrings play an important part in shifting the load from your knees to your hips.
During the contraction, your hamstrings shorten and lengthen. The shortening of a muscular action allows you to bend your knee, the lengthening of the muscle helps you to control the deceleration of your body.
For example, when you’re running downhill, the lengthening of your hamstrings helps you to control the speed of the descent. This ability to properly decelerate lowers the amount of pressure on the joints in your lower body and prevents injury.
Strong hamstrings work to stabilize your hips and keep your spine properly aligned. If your hamstrings are weak and tight, they’ll pull on your hips tipping them forward and will compromise functional movement. Your hamstrings also keep your knee and surrounding connective tissue in alignment.
How to activate the muscle?
Side to side lunge
- Keep chest lifted lean forwards and bend one knee
- Touch the floor with opposite hand
- Hold for 1 second
- Swap to other side
- Standing tall
- Lift one leg in front of body and gently swing behind
How to train?
- Lying on machine
- Place feet under pad
- Bring heels to glutes and back down
- Hold weight at hips
- Roll shoulders back and down
- Keep core tight and knees soft
- Lean forwards so weights come to knees
- Squeeze glutes and stand back up
- Hold kettle bell at hips
- Roll shoulders back and down
- Push hips back
- Squeeze glutes and push hips forwards to propel kettlebell forward
How to stretch?
Lying hamstring stretch
- Lie on back
- Lift one leg up and hold behind thigh or calf
- Pull leg in towards body
Standing single leg stretch
- Stand with one leg in front of the other
- Place hands on supporting leg
- Keep chest lifted and lean forwards
Double leg standing forward fold
- Stand tall and reach down to toes
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