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  • Sarah Morton | Chartered Physiotherapist

Healthy Hamstrings 1. What are the hamstrings?

Healthy Hamstrings

From runners, to footballers, to office workers - no matter who you are or what you do, you can be affected by problems of the hamstrings. So in our new blog series we are going to work through the story of the hamstrings.

What are they and what do they do for us? How do you keep your hamstrings healthy? What can go wrong with your hamstrings? How do you recover from hamstring injury?

You can find out answers to these through our Hamstring Blog series. This blog, the first in the series, takes a look at what the hamstrings are and what are the general principals to stay injury-free.

What are the Hamstrings?

The hamstrings are the group of muscles that make up the bulk at the back of your thigh. The upper hamstring connects via the hamstring tendon onto your sit-bone (ischial tuberosity), and travels down to just below your knee. The hamstring is actually 3 muscles, the Biceps Femoris which travels to the outer side of your knee, and the semimembranosis and semitendinosis, both of which travel around the inside of your knee.

Because the hamstring crosses both the hip and knee joints, they have an action to extend the hip (straightening the hip, for example when you push off when you run) and bend the knee (lifting heel towards buttocks). So they contract powerfully when we sprint, they stretch and lengthen when we kick or when we bend forward, and they work with efficient endurance shortening and lengthening when we run long distances. But their role is even more complex. Even though they do bend the knee, if the foot is secure on the ground, the hamstring will also act as a stabiliser of the knee, hip, and pelvis.

How do you keep your hamstrings healthy?

The answer to healthy hamstrings is the same as any muscle in the body. And it is helpful to think of a three pronged approach.

  1. Maintain muscle strength. Are your hamstrings strong enough for the activities you want to do?

  2. Maintain muscle flexibility. Does your hamstring have the range needed to allow you to reach down, bend forward, or kick a ball?

  3. Optimise the group of muscles that work with the hamstrings to create a balanced system of movement. Is your hamstring strength in balance with the strength and activation of your quadriceps, gluteals, core and calf? These muscles are all part of the system that controls the lower body.

Each of these components of hamstring health will be addressed as we work through our hamstring blog series. We will give practical tips and useful exercises to keep your hamstrings in shape.


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