Core Series: Hamstrings

Hamstrings…not exactly the muscle group you think of when someone says “core”, amiright?

  1. Biceps femoris
  2. Semitendonosus
  3. Semimembranosus
The problem children of runners the world over.

The problem children of runners the world over.

I kept that picture HUGE so you can see all the little details. See how the hamstrings attach to the bottom of the pelvis (called the ischial tuberosity–please STOP CALLING IT A SITS/SITZ BONE) and then shares an attachment site with the sacrotuberus ligament that attaches to the sacrum?

Here’s the point: tight hamstrings are more than just a pain in the leg. Tight hamstrings can pull your pelvis downward, causing a posterior pelvic tilt. What does that mean? Low back pain and asymmetry. Remember my 3 S’s? Strength, stability, symmetry. Asymmetrical –> injury.

So, tight RIGHT hamstring can also put too much stretch on the RIGHT hip flexor, causing a tension reaction (also can indicate a weak RIGHT hip flexor) and mess up your gait when you walk and run. It’s also just painful.

How to strengthen it?

You can do basic hamstring curls, but that’s not very practical in everyday use. My favorite exercise: Physioball Roll-ins.

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The key part of this exercise is to lift your butt and KEEP YOUR HIPS AT THAT HEIGHT while you bend your knees inward. If your hips go up or down, you lose the exercise completely.

It’s hard, I know. If it’s too easy for you, check your form. The strongest of athletes can’t do this exercise without wobbling.

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For those of you who need a less strenuous hamstring exercise, there’s the Standing Leg Curl. They key part of this exercise is to make sure your bending knee’s hip doesn’t dip as you lift your foot. Standing against a wall or a table will assure your hips stay level when you do it.

Most importantly, SUCK YOUR BELLY BUTTON IN and stick your chest up and out to activate your other core muscles.

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You can add an ankle weight or a Theraband with cuffs when you get stronger.

In order to perform these exercises and get a benefit from them, I recommend starting with only a few reps (2-6) for 3 sets. Only do as many reps as you can maintain perfect form. Stop as soon as your form goes. Rest. Try again after a full minute.

Now go out and run!

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6 thoughts on “Core Series: Hamstrings

  1. Hey Abby!! hiii! For the physioball roll-ins I have been keeping my back on the ground because lifting my hips off the floor causes back pain. Is this really bad? It’s one of the only exercises I have found for my hamstrings without the use of a machine. Should I nix it?

    • Margot-
      If your back hurts doing ball roll-ins, definitely don’t do them. I suspect you might be having some trouble engaging your core and glutes and you should definitely do the standing hamstring curls instead. Suck in your belly button and stand tall when you do them! Good luck!

      • It’s jaclyn suarez by the way, i don’t know why my name was weird on this – it is all very weird. thanks for this, it is def a glute issue – so i will stick to the standing ones until these puppies are strong enough to let me lift my hips off the floor.

  2. Hahaha @ this: “please STOP CALLING IT A SITS/SITZ BONE” I always wondered about this! Every yoga instructor I’ve ever had calls it a “sits bone” and I think, that doesn’t sound accurate… where did this come from? Did one master yogi say it once and the rest followed?

    These photos and instructions are super helpful- thanks for sharing!

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