The Importance of Hamstring Strength and Flexibility
The Hamstrings are made up of three muscles on the back of the upper leg. They are usually a secondary muscle to the quadriceps, the four muscles to the front of the upper leg, for most daily activities like walking and standing up from a seated position. From a perception of strength, our daily activities influence the hamstrings to drag behind the quadriceps, emphasizing the importance of balancing our musculature through proper gym workouts that include exercises like hamstring leg curls. If attention isn’t given to the hamstrings through exercise and flexibility, they become susceptible to injury and they can even make other parts of the body more susceptible to injury, such as the lower back. If your hamstrings are tight and can’t bend through a healthy range of motion, the tension is many times delivered to the lower back, creating unnatural movement that can cause a strain. Hamstring tightness and weakness has a huge impact on our posture. Standing tall with proper posture to keep our joints in an ideal healthy position requires our hamstrings be long and strong to do their part.
To test your hamstring flexibility, warm up with 10 minutes of light to moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise. Then, lie down on your back and bring one leg up while holding it near straight. Your leg should be able to comfortably achieve a 90 degree angle or less at the hip compared to the upper body (as pictured on our Instagram account and below). If you can’t comfortably achieve this hip angle, set that as a long or short term health goal. Incorporate stretches daily and perform hamstring exercises 2-3 times per week to improve your flexibility. Exercising your hamstrings may make them feel tight while they are filled with blood when your working them out, but putting a muscle through range of motion with weight imposed on it has be proven to increase flexibility (the second most flexible people in the world behind gymnast are body builders!). Daily stretches should be static, not bouncing or ballistic and held for 60 seconds. 3 sets of 60 second stretches per day will make a world of difference in hamstring flexibility. If you are still struggling to achieve healthy hamstring flexibility with basic stretching, have one of our trainers at Hillinger Personal Training teach you facilitated stretching which has been proven to further increase hamstring flexibility over standard stretching.
In the gym our emphasis should always be to keep our muscle long and strong as opposed to short and tight. Hamstring tightness and weakness is the most common issue I deal with when starting with clients that have been inactive. I always tell my clients if you want to know what the most important muscles to give attention to with your exercise program, look behind you. Our daily lives emphasize too much use to the front of our body, pulling us too far forward. Our health and posture to stay upright, tall and strong require us to give attention to the back of the body.