When it’s time to put on your favorite pair of skinny jeans or when swimsuit season rolls around, the backs of your thighs creep to the front of your mind. Exercising your hamstrings -- the group of three muscles stretching from your buttocks to your knees -- can tone this potentially problematic area. Aesthetics aside, strong and flexible hamstrings play an important role in movement efficiency and injury prevention.
When your hamstrings contract, they bend the knee and extend the hip. Hamstring strengthening exercises require these two actions. Some typical hamstring strengthening exercises include leg curls, deadlifts, squats and lunges.
Benefits of Strong Hamstrings
Strong hamstrings allow you to move efficiently and quickly. If you run or cycle, you’ll be able to build up your speed by doing some hamstring strengthening exercises. This type of exercise also helps prevent injuries because the hamstrings stabilize the knee joint. In order to benefit the most from your hamstring strengthening exercises, do some exercises -- such as lunges, single-leg leg curls and single-leg squats -- that work one leg at a time. Because your stronger leg can’t do the majority of the work, these single-leg exercises help balance the strength between your two legs. This can help prevent injury in your weaker hamstrings.
When stretching the hamstrings, you have to straighten your knees and/or flex your hip. Some typical hamstring stretches include bending over to touch your toes, sitting and touching your toes while keeping your legs straight, and lying on your back and bringing your leg toward your chest.
Benefits of Flexible Hamstrings
If you’re like most people, your hamstrings are probably quite tight. Frequent sitting in chairs with your knees bent leads to hamstring inflexibility, and because flexible hamstrings are just as important as strong hamstrings, you should include some hamstring stretches in your workouts. By stretching your hamstrings, you can prevent injury to your hamstrings and lower back. If you typically feel soreness in your hamstrings after workouts, stretches can help reduce this soreness. By regularly stretching your hamstrings, you will also enjoy improved range of motion, not just of your hamstrings but of your quadriceps as well. When your hamstrings are tight, they restrict the motion of the muscles on the front of the thigh.
- The Runner’s Book of Training Secrets; Ken Sparks and Dave Kuehls
- Science of Flexibility, 3rd Edition; Michael J. Alter
- Bike for Life: How to Ride to 100; Roy M. Wallack and Bill Katovsky
- Yoga Journal; Supta Padangusthasana, Reclining Big Toe Pose
- The Concise Book of Muscles, Revised Edition; Chris Jarmey
- ExRx.net: Thigh
- American Council on Exercise: Bodyweight Squat
- American Council on Exercise: Forward Lunge
- Wendy Hope/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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