The Importance of Hamstring Flexibility
Ben Beasley,SPTA, B.S. Exercise Science
In today’s society, we have become more immobile than previous generations. Whether it be due to our sedentary desk job, sitting to watch TV and have dinner, or just plain inactivity, we are causing more impairments and dysfunction to ourselves than we may think. The good news is- it’s preventable and somewhat reversible! In this article, we will be covering the hamstrings’ involvement in our daily lives, an anatomy overview and the importance of maintaining flexibility to promote mobility and prevent ailments in the future.
Each day when we swing our legs out of bed to start the new day, stand up from a chair at work to go make a copy at the printer, or even walk to our car after work, our hamstrings play a vital role in making these tasks possible! If you feel under the lowest part of your gluteal muscle, you will find your sit bone (Ischial Tuberosity). It’s located on each leg and is the origin of where the hamstrings begin. The hamstrings are located on the back of your thigh in between the glutes inserted just below the back of your knee. It’s comprised of a group of three muscles: biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus. Their main responsibilities include: bending the knee and backward extension of the legs (key components of sitting), standing, walking, and rotating the lower legs.
Why is stretching this muscle group so important? The reason is that they are the primary movers in between two major weight-bearing joints in the body, the hip and knee. When the hip and knee get too tight over time, the hamstrings pull downward on the pelvis increasing lumbar discomfort and increase the pull to the back of the knee joint. This creates an increased pull on the front of the knee limiting repetitive tasks such as jumping, running, bending, and stooping as well as creating gait dysfunction. It is crucial to complete stretching routines before and after exercising to avoid muscle injuries. Stretching also helps increase blood flow and the transference of nutrients flushing out the waste in the muscles being stretched.
There are several ways to stretch your hamstrings while standing, sitting in a chair, on the ground or on your back. Hold a tolerable stretch for up to a minute, alternating sides for 2-4 reps each. There are several diagrams below to follow for your reference:
If you spare 4-6 minutes out of every other day to do any of these stretches at your preferred position, your body will thank you greatly in the long run. With the increased flexibility you will achieve after persistency, you will greatly reduce your risk of lower back pain and potential knee discomfort. In addition, your muscles will be warmed up before initiating physical activity and will help prevent fewer injuries. You now have the tools and knowledge of why it is important to take care of your body NOW. It will take care of you in the years to come!
Ben is a Personal Trainer and has his Bachelors in Exercise Science from UCF where he specialized in Human Performance.