Your hamstrings cross both your hip and knee joints, consisting of three major muscles - biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus - that extend from your sit-bones to your knees. Since these muscles cross both the knee and hip joints, it should come as no surprise that they play a major role in the movement of both joint groups.
Muscles work in pairs, so weak hamstrings leave your quadriceps solely responsible for the stabilization of your knees and hips, resulting in imbalances that may leave an individual vulnerable to various injuries, including ligament tears, back pain, and knee pain. Conversely, hamstrings that have been strengthened without being properly stretched shorten and tug down on the hips, tipping them forward and causing lower back and knee pain.
Suffice it to say that hamstring maintenance is a two-fold undertaking: keep those hammies strong but don’t forget to stretch them out! Strong hamstrings will help you run faster and improve explosiveness and power while helping out posture and preventing leg injuries. Pair those strengthened hamstrings with strong quads and you’ll reduce strain on various ligaments, including the ACL.
When you stretch your hamstrings out at the end of a workout, you are preventing them from shortening and losing their elasticity, a side effect that compromises agile movement and increases the risk of injury and chronic pain.
To get you started, we’ve chosen a few of our favorite easy to learn hamstring exercises and stretches to try out the next time you hit the gym!
Kettlebell Swings - single or double-handed
Glute Bridge Raise
Kettlebell One-Legged Deadlift
Gym Ball Leg Curls
**As always, your form is absolutely key. If you are unfamiliar with the appropriate form or execution of any of these exercises, we recommend the articles and videos of Breaking Muscle or the Onnit Academy as references before attempting any of these exercises.
Triangle Pose - 20 sec per leg
Pyramid Pose - 20 sec per leg
Forward Fold - 20 seconds total
Reclined hamstring stretch - 20 sec per leg
**Remember to respect your body’s limits! You should be able to feel a stretch, but it shouldn’t hurt. A slight bend in the knee will prevent hyperextension if you're feeling tight, and remember to take deep, long breaths.
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