Why do we need hamstrings?

Hamstring Strength – and some information about Hamstrings and their importance!

“People tend to ask why do we need our hamstrings and what are their role within the body.”

What are the Hamstring/s?

The hamstring muscle is built up of 3 muscles, biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus. These muscles work together to produce and control movements both at the knee and hip joint.

What is the Hamstring’s main role?

Its main role at the knee joint is to flex your knees from a fully extended position. At the hip joint its role is to assist the gluteal muscles to perform hip extension. The hamstrings act to bend the knee and extend the hip and also pull the tibia backwards, hence serving as a protector of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), the most important stabiliser of the knee.

It plays a significant role in daily activities such as, walking, running and jumping. The hamstrings acts eccentrically to slow the leg and prepare the leg for ground contact during any walking and running movements. Especially in sports such as rugby league and netball which both require speed, jumping, change of direction and deceleration. Having strong hamstrings throughout these movements will reduce your risk of both hamstring strains and ACL ruptures.

How can I train Hamstrings to be stronger?

Exercises that are known to strengthen hamstrings are:

  1. Romanian Deadlift – almost the most functional of all hamstring exercises in terms of its application to picking loads up off the ground and involving active hip extension.  There is a big role in this exercise by the Gluteal muscles so its not an isolated hamstring exercise.  There is risk with RDL in that it is a complex movement to learn well, and so is best coached by a professional so you do not injure your back.
  2. Nordic Hamstring Raises – These are probably in research the gold standard.  They are also the toughest!  These are something that need teaching really well prior to trying them!
  3. Hamstring Curl – if you cannot do anything else above, hamstring curls still work!  They are open chain so some people with previous knee injuries and back injuries need to be careful with these, but you can vary the position of a hamstring curl from lying down to standing up to help.
  4. Swiss ball hamstring curls – These are what we generally use when people are starting out. They are great to use prior to starting other more complex exercises.

We strongly advise to book in with us, or see someone you trust with your body to show you through these first though and also help you decide where you start from.

There is some great research coming out now talking about the importance of frequency when training hamstrings to be stronger.  The research is talking about twice per week being the minimum to train hamstring strength is ideal.

Single Leg Hamstring Exercise/Test

We did this with Harry Gambling, who is one of our performance coaches.  It is a test that is surprisingly failed by a lot of athletes due to poorer hamstring strength than should be present!

What do I do if my hamstrings are tight?

As a Physiotherapist, my role then is to assess the reason for the tightness.  It can be related to the hamstrings being over used and in this case its about correcting the movement patterns that are causing the tightness.

An example of this is if your hamstrings feel tight when you run, it could be because your pelvis is tilted anteriorly and when this happens under load, your hamstrings are over-worked, causing the feeling of tightness.  In this instance stretching your hamstrings can have limited effect, instead what is required is lumbar spine stability (core strength) to help neutralise your pelvis angle when running.

If you are having problems with your hamstrings and would like our Physios to help you find out why and how to fix them, please call 4927 8190 and book in with a Physio at Vector Health & Performance to help you!

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