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.

IMG_3164IMG_3165

IMG_3168

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.

IMG_31662IMG_31672

IMG_31692

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.

IMG_32272IMG_32292

IMG_32282

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!

Advertisements

Stand Up

“Stand up straight!”

How many times did you hear that from your Mom/ballet instructor/teacher/grandmother/drill sergeant? Can I share something with you? They’re right.

You look taller, thinner, and more confident when you stand up straight. Also, it’s good for you. Like vitamins.

Happy belated birthday, Marines!! Oh, and good posture.

I have noticed my yogi friends have some seriously terrible posture. Rounded shoulders, slouching backs, and forward head posture. What gives?

It has to do with where the resistance is coming from. In yoga, the only resistance you get is from pushing your body away from the ground. This means there’s only one direction of resistance for your body.

Me vs. The Floor (floor usually wins)

Yoga is so great but you must do something other than yoga in order to be a well-rounded, healthy athlete. Sorry, yogis. But this is true for EVERY sport! My first yoga instructor in college used to lift before she taught our class. She was in awesome shape.

Variety = healthy.

My husband says the Marines trained so they could work hard all day and all night (no burnout) so they did lots of different exercises. I subscribe to this method.

Oorah! (JB’s in there somewhere amongst those skinny men)

So, what’s a yogi to do?

  1. Hit the gym.
  2. Provide resistance in another range of motion.
  3. Lift heavier weights.

Grab a band or a cable pulley and PULL!

Do pull-ups! And, no, you don’t have to do a “full pull-up” to get the benefit. Grab the Smith Machine and PULL!

Hamstrings are especially ignored in yoga. Yes they’re stretched, put the resistance is never placed so that the hamstrings can contract fully. You know what that means, time for some curls!

Curls for the girls!

If you think about what you’re doing, you should also bear in mind what you’re NOT doing. Then go do that.

Love to see my yogi friends at the gym! Send me a picture of you getting your sweat on outside of yoga class and I’ll feature it on the blog. Variety is the spice of life, people. Try something new and stay healthy.

Now go out and run!

 

 

Exercises To Do This Week: Everyone Can Do A Pull-Up

Woo-hoo! Time for some cross-training, you fabulous runners. I know, I know, you don’t wanna. But you gotta! Let’s mix it up and work it out with two total-body exercises. GET PUMPED! Disclaimer: the plyometric ski jumps are not for newbies. If you are new to exercising or strength training, master the basics from previous posts for now and move up from there! If you’re ready for the challenge (admit it, you probably are!) then check out these awesome moves. Oh, and I’m going to show you how to do a pull-up even if you can’t do a pull-up. Read on.

Ok, first I have to admit something: I can’t do an honest-to-God pull-up. Never could. Not when I was 9, not when I was 19, not when I was 29…you get the picture. And I’m not talking about those so-called pull-ups where people are swinging their legs all over the place and using momentum to heave their bodies up. I can do those (but I don’t because I am the Form Police, thanks to Obi-wan) but I could never do a proper pull-up. Wimpy? Not on your life. Anyone who calls me a wimp for that has never challenged me to a 90 minute hot vinyasa class. Or a 15K. Nor have the worked out with me. I will dominate! You will cry and apologize. End of story. At any rate, I see the benefit of the exercise and have found a modified way to do it (without swinging around like a monkey)!

Big hand to Rainbow Bright who is the fabulous model today!

1. Modified Pull-ups

    

Grab a Smith Machine and sit underneath the bar so that your arms can straighten, but your bottom only grazes the floor. Keep your hips underneath your shoulders and your rear end hanging down as you pull yourself up towards the bar. Bring your collarbone close to the bar and slowly lower yourself down. Do 10-15 reps, 3 sets. To build up to using less weight, lift one foot. Sexy shoulders, here you come!

2. Ski Jumps

    

Fine a line or place something down that you can easily jump over on the ground. Bend your knees slightly, reach your arms back and jump over your object. Land with both feet on the ground and stop for one second, stabilizing yourself. Repeat: Jump, land, stop, jump, land, stop for 20-30 seconds. Great for strengthening your quadriceps and the tendons and ligaments around your knees. When done properly, the lateral motion and force it takes to push and land forces your glutes to get involved. Gets your heart pumping, too!

The reason I like these two exercises so much is that they hit all the muscles groups at once. Pull-ups are the quintessential upper body exercise that calls upon every muscle to get involved at some point in the motion while requiring balance and stabilization in your core. Ski jumps challenge the control of the quadriceps to land without bouncing, while requiring the push of the hamstrings, glutes, and the often-forgotten calves to propel your body up and over to the other side. Oh, and you hit that core again (if you’re keeping your back straight!). I just love it.

So, next time your in the gym (today, tomorrow?) give these a shot and see how they feel. Let me know how you do! In the mean time, what are you waiting for? Go out and run!

WAIT!!! LISTEN UP, NYC READERS! (This is the corrected version: the event is on Thursday, August 11th at 6:30pm)

I almost forgot! You know how I have ulcerative colitis and how much is sucks? And remember when I met Ali who has Chron’s disease (and how much that sucks–Chron’s, not meeting Ali. Ali’s awesome!) and how she’s is running for the Chron’s and Colitis Foundation of America? Well, she’s having fundraiser on thursday, August 11th at the Upper East Side JackRabbit Sports on Lexington Ave. between 84th and 85th Streets at 6:30pm. Raffles, prizes, games, food, booze! What more could you ask for? 15% of all merchandise bought tomorrow night goes to CCFA on behalf of Ali’s fundraising efforts. So, if you think I’m awesome and my disease sucks, come on out and grab some new running shoes or a hydration belt or some Shot Bloks and support us all! Or donate to the CCFA on Ali’s website. And thanks!