What are Hamstrings?
There are technically three hamstring muscles that we are thinking of when we mention hamstrings. They are the Semitendinosus, Semimembranosus, and the Biceps Femoris.
Where are they?
Your hamstring muscles begin at the bottom of your pelvis, continue to cross your knee joints all the way to the bottom of your leg. You also have hamstring fibers that attach to your connective tissue where your tendons and bones meet.
What do They Do?
Your hamstrings are super important and are used in everyday activities like walking, climbing steps, and reaching things on the top shelf, etc. These muscles help you extend your leg behind you as well as bend your knees. Your hamstrings are also involved in the function of your hips and motions like sitting and standing.
1. I have Tight Hamstrings
“Tight hamstrings” are actually more of a warning. When your hamstrings are feeling “tight” this more likely means they are tired and have met their threshold for the day or workout. This feeling is also likely telling you that you’re about to cause injury to yourself.
2. I have Short Hamstrings
Your hamstrings aren’t really “short”, they just lack flexibility/ elasticity. You can adjust this by doing different strengthening exercises mixed with stretching.
3. I Need to Do Yoga to Stretch my Hamstrings
Yoga is a great way to stretch and strengthen your hamstrings. Doing a mix of these is the best way to avoid injury to these groups of muscles.
4. I Can’t Touch my Toes or do Forward Folds
Just because you can’t touch your toes now, does mean you won’t ever be able to. If forward folds are too uncomfortable, there are other exercises or variations to do instead.
5. If I Can Touch My Toes, I should Reach Further
You don’t always need to push yourself beyond your limits. It is perfectly fine to just keep yourself active in order to keep the hamstrings healthy.
How Can I Prevent Injury to my Hamstrings?
The most common type of injury to hamstrings are small tears and strains. You can occur these injuries from sports and exercise, natural wear and tear as well as advancing in age. They vary in degree leveling 1-3. 1 is the easiest injury to heal while level 3 can take up to months to heal even while resting. The most severe often involves the tearing away of muscle from bone.
Injuries often happen when there is an imbalance of muscles between the hamstring muscle group and the quadriceps muscle group. There are plenty of ways to prevent injury like:
- Warm-up before working out. Jumping jacks, jump rope, and running in place are all great options for warming up your muscles.
- Exercise regularly so you don’t lose mobility.
- Slowly increase the intensity and duration of exercise and also vary your type of exercise.
Stretches to Start With:
- Standing Stretch: Lift your leg hip height and let it rest on a chair or counter etc. ( switch legs)
- Standing Forward Fold: Stand with your feet hip-width distance and start to lower your head toward your feet, don’t force anything but let yourself just dangle towards the floor, not letting your knees ben but also not feeling any discomfort or strain
- Leg Extension: Start on all fours, extend your right leg behind you and slowly bring it back in. (switch sides)
- Seated Hamstring Stretch: Sit with both legs straight in front of you. Lift your hands up before stretching them towards your feet. Flex your toes towards your face.