The hamstrings, the muscles located at the rear thigh, are involved in most leg movements. This is especially true for exercises that specifically target the legs. This can be troublesome for exercisers with injured or recovering hamstrings. For these exercisers, avoiding all leg exercises is often undesirable. Yet exercising with a hamstring injury can be even more undesirable. A solution does exist, as you can perform those few exercises that do not engage the hamstrings.
As the quadriceps are the front thigh muscles, direct neighbors of the hamstrings, most quadriceps exercises involved the hamstrings, even if they appear not to be engaging the rear thigh. Leg extension exercises though do not recruit the hamstring muscles. This holds true for both sitting and standing leg extension exercises. This is because in a leg extension, your hamstring is stable and fixed in one position. Take the sitting leg extension as an example: Because you are sitting in a machine with a fixed position, your hamstring cannot move and will not contract when you kick forward by flexing your knee -- which is the exact movement of a leg extension.
Hip Adductor Exercises
All hip adductor exercises, whether they be sitting, standing, or lying, are safe for exercisers who want to avoid hamstring use. Unlike leg extensions, the hip adductor exercise requires the whole leg to be moved. Because the movement is lateral, to the side, rather extending forward, the hamstring is not called into use. While some of the smaller muscles in the front area of the thigh contract during this movement, the rear thigh is totally uninvolved.
Calf exercises that do not involve a curl, such as the flexed leg curl, are safe. Specifically, the calf exercises that do not engage the hamstrings are calf raises and calf presses. Calf raises are exercises where weight is placed above your body, requiring you to raise your heels of the ground to move the weight. Calf presses put the weight on the other end, usually on a lever machine or sled; this exercise requires you to press with the ball of your foot to move the weight. Just as with quadriceps exercises that keep the hamstrings in a fixed position, these calf exercises do not require the hamstrings to move.
The shin muscle, anatomically known as the tibialis anterior, has a number of exercises nearly mimicking those of the calf exercises. Because the shin is on the opposite side of the bottom of the leg of the calf, exercises training it usually do not require the movement of your hamstrings. Much as with safe calf exercises, the safe shin exercises are raises and presses. In these exercises, you will reverse what is being raised or pressed; in the calf press you push with the ball of your foot, while in the reverse calf press, you push with your heel. Likewise, in the reverse calf raise, you lift the balls of your feet of the ground.
- Human Anatomy; Elaine Marieb, et al.
- Functional Anatomy for Sport and Exercise; Clare Milner
- Anatomy of Exercise; Pat Manocchia
Having obtained a Master of Science in psychology in East Asia, Damon Verial has been applying his knowledge to related topics since 2010. Having written professionally since 2001, he has been featured in financial publications such as SafeHaven and the McMillian Portfolio. He also runs a financial newsletter at Stock Barometer.