Functional Anatomy Part 3: The Hamstrings

This is a series focusing on specific muscles to help you better understand why you need to strengthen or stretch specifically to prevent or heal injuries. This month we take a closer look at hamstrings.

1. Where is this muscle?
The hamstring muscle group is made up of the biceps femoris (which has two different parts), semitendinosis and semimebranosis. It is located at the back of your thigh and originates at your ischeal tuberocity (the pointy bone at the bottom of your bum) and back of your femur (leg bone) and insets into your tibia and fibula bones (bones that make up your lower leg).

2. What does it do?
This muscle group is responsible for hip extension (bringing your leg behind you) and knee flexion (bringing your foot to your hip) as well as knee internal and external rotation (twisting your knee).

3. Common injuries?
Hamstring inflexibility is very common and can cause lower back discomfort when performing lifting type activities with straight legs.
Hamstring weakness is very common in the Elk Valley with sports such as skiing that use quadriceps (front of your thigh) more than hamstrings. When you get an imbalance from the front to the back of your leg, your knee joint get taxed and become prone to injury especially when performing squat type motions that involve the knee and hip.

4. How do you strengthen this muscle?
This muscle can be strengthened in the gym using the seated or lying leg curl machine or the hip extension machine. If you are using a ball, you can lay on your back with your feet on the ball and lift your hips. This exercise may be progressed by rolling the ball in and out keeping your hips lifted. An easy home exercise to start with is lying on your back with your knees bent and lifting your hips. Discontinue any exercises if you feel any pain.

5. How do you stretch this muscle?
The hamstrings can be stretched in a few different ways, but the easiest is to lift your foot onto a chair, straighten your leg and bring your belly button towards your leg. Take 5-10 slow breaths. Remember, you should never feel any discomfort when stretching.

Remember that you should never exercise through pain and of course please play safely and have fun!