Hamstring muscle(s)

What they do and what you should know.

This is the first in a series of posts that will briefly describe important aspects of our anatomy and what you should know to help stay healthy and strong.

The hamstring(s) are the big muscles at the back of your thigh. They are 3 individual muscles that work together to flex the knee and extend the hip.

When you move your leg directly behind you (hip extension), like while walking or running. Or bend your knee (knee flexion), like while climbing the stairs or pedaling a bike, you are using your hamstring muscles.

This is simplified version of the hamstring bio-mechanics but what is important, for our purposes, is that the hamstring muscles are used to walk, run, stand up, pedal a bike and jump just to name a few.

The three muscles are:

  • biceps femoris (long and short head)
  • semitendinosus
  • semimembranosus

Now that you know the names you can forget them and just think of them as 1 big REALLY important muscle.

Why REALLY important?

The hamstring group is used almost every time you move your body from place to place.

If these muscles aren’t working at their best, due to injury or atrophy your ability to walk, run, jump or get up from a seated position will be compromised.

Additionally, if there is too much muscle tonic (tightness) the hamstring group will pull down on the posterior hip and create exaggerated posterior pelvic tilt (PPT), your hips will get pulled down from the back and your spinal alignment will be compromised. This can cause back pain.

How to keep them at their best:

  • Release
  • Stretch
  • Strengthen

Release: Massage your hamstring muscles and the surrounding fascia (connective tissue).

Your hamstrings (and all muscles) develop “trigger points”. Trigger points are tight, painful “knots” of muscle fiber that naturally occur due to use of the muscle. Massage promotes release of these knots. This is called “myofascial release”. Massaging your muscles can relieve pain and tightness, thus improving the feeling, health and function of the muscle.

When you massage yourself with a foam roller or other tool it is called self myofascial release or SMR.

Stretch: elongate the hamstring group using various stretches. Stretching is generally therapeutic but an important result of effective stretching is that you will promote the proper “length – tension relationship” between the muscle(s) and joints. This relationship can get out of “whack” due to chronic movement patters (endurance sports) or positions (sitting too long) and create the tightness, pain and thus dysfunction.

The process of stretching is best done after the SMR and can dramatically help relieve back pain if your hamstrings are too tight.

Strengthen: There are almost countless ways to exercise and strengthen the hamstring muscles. Body weight, exercises include walking, running and jumping. Resistance training exercises for the hamstrings include: squats, lunges, dead-lifts, weighted step ups and hip bridges, just to name a few.

Now you know a little more about the hamstring(s). If you have any questions or would like learn about how Zoetic Coaching can help develop a program to release, stretch and strengthen your hamstrings (or any other muscle) give me shout at george@zoeticcoaching.com

Thanks for reading!







George Curtis

All stories by: George Curtis