The hamstrings are probably some of the most important muscles of the lower body. They consist of four muscles to make of the muscle region in the back of the leg; biceps femoris (two muscles), semimembranosus, and semitendinosus. All of these muscles generally originate at a similar point around the ischial tuberosity (back of the pelvis) and then insert at different parts of the lower leg on the tibia or fibula.
When the hamstring muscles contract, they contribute in knee flexion (bending) and hip extension (moving the leg backwards. This means that the hamstring muscles play a great role in movements such as squatting, deadlifting, stair climbing, running, jumping, etc. One of the forgotten functions of the hamstring muscles is helping the spine stand erect.
When the hamstrings are weak, they give less support to the spin which can result in poor spine stability and even lower back pain. The hamstrings also tend to be some of the tightest muscles on the human body due to the sitting nature of most careers. No longer do we hunt our food or walk to our destinations. For most careers, people find themselves stuck in a seated position staring at a screen for hours on end. The knee is in a bent position which makes the hamstring muscles stay in a shortened state, resulting in tightness. Unfortunately, hamstrings tend to find themselves both weak and tight in most individuals.
The hamstrings can be stretched in several different ways. The first one is with the use of a strap. You can perform this exercise by lying on your back with the ends of the strap in your hands and around one foot. You will then pull the strap, lifting your let into the air until you feel a tolerable stretch in the back of the leg. You can hit multiple angle of the hamstring by performing the same movement with your leg out to the side hitting groin/ inner hamstrings and then across the body’s mid line to hit the IT band/ outer hamstrings.
The next one can be performed anywhere. This is a great one to throw into your daily routine because it literally gives your no excuse to do it. You will first place one foot out in front with your heel on the ground. Next, pull your toes towards your shin while bend over at the hips with your back straight. A good rule of thumb is to hold each of your stretches for about 10-15 seconds before weight training and 20-30 minutes post workout or any other time throughout the day.
All of my workouts consist of hamstring work due to their great importance to overall health and performance. Here are a few hamstring workouts that you can infuse into your training routine, so you can take your hamstring game to the next level.
Strength Building: HEAVY WEIGHT!
Barbell Squat – 5 sets or 3-5 Reps
Hip Thrusters – 5 sets of 3-5 reps
Reverse Lunges – 5 sets of 3-5 reps each leg
Hypertrophy (Muscle Building): Moderate Weight
Front Squat – 3 sets of 8-12 reps
Romanian Dead Lift – 3 sets of 8-12 reps
Single Legged Bridges – 3 sets of 8-12 reps
Muscular Endurance: Low to Moderate Weight
Barbell Squat: 4 sets of 10-15 reps
Split Squats: 4 sets of 10-15 reps each leg
Walking lunges – 4 sets of 10-15 reps each leg
For detailed instructional videos on these exercise, you can find most of them by checking out the CK Health and Wellness YouTube channel.