The hamstrings are an important muscle group for the development of the low body.
They seem to get forgotten about since most activities are quad dominant. Running, sports, squatting, and cycling are all focused on the quads.
One of the most important things that most people need to work on is their ability to use their posterior chain (glutes and hamstrings).
Those that can use their hamstrings well are more likely to prevent injury and build a strong set of legs.
Preventing Hamstring Strain
Hamstring strains tend to plague runners everywhere. The [not so] funny part is that they are a simple thing to prevent.
Strain happens when a muscle is not capable to absorb the demands placed on it.
Weak muscles lead to strains. I’m sure you know someone who has been running enough to suffer from hamstring issues.
When we run, we actually must decelerate loads of up to 7x bodyweight on each step.
There are roughly 750 steps on each leg in a mile which means a lot of force is absorbed in the leg.
Who is responsible for deceleration when running? You guessed it, the hamstrings.
This is why it is so easy to strain a hamstring in runners and sprinters. Those that do not work to strengthen the hamstrings are just a ticking time bomb.
Considerations for Knee Pain
Sports and most other activities are very quad centered as I mentioned earlier. This means that the quads do a ton of work.
Because of this the quads become very strong, but also very overused.
Overused quads put a lot of stress on the knee. There is a big tendon that goes from the quads and over the knee cap. When the quads are tight, it just pulls on the knee cap.
Strong hamstrings will help balance out the forces of the knee and relieve some of the pressure caused on the front.
The knee is a stable joint. It will find stability wherever it needs to. There are muscles on the front, back, and sides of the joint. If one muscle group is lacking then overuse and pain start to set in.
Functional Training of the Hamstrings
I really hate the term functional because it has no meaning yet everyone throws in around.
Functional training of the hamstrings means training the hamstrings in a way that replicates how they get used in life and sport.
Unfortunately for most traditional exercises, they do not fit the bill.
The hamstrings flex the knee as well as extending the hip.
Hip extension is more important than isolated knee flexion because it happens more in our lives. When you stand up, run, jump, etc. it all happens in hip extension.
Isolated knee flexion seems to only happen in flexion exercises.
3 Exercises to Increase Hamstring Strength:
Single Leg Buck
This is a good exercise that can be done anywhere. You can throw your heel up on a stool or step and then push the hips towards the sky.
The glutes will help the hamstrings so you get double benefits from the movements.
Glute Ham Leg Curls
This exercise builds hamstring strength through a leg curl that stays in hip extension the whole time.
There is a huge eccentric part of this movement which means that there will be some soreness after due to an increased force production.
Single Leg RDLs
These are another exercise that will leave you sore the next day but they are also one of the best for developing hamstrings, hip stability, and glute strength.
The hamstrings are an important muscle group for injury prevention and lower body strength.
Anyone that has issues with the hamstrings or would prefer not to have any would benefit from these exercise.