Hamstrings are an often forgotten muscle group – few people skip chest or arm day but, for many, hamstrings can be an afterthought or even left out of a training plan altogether. While hamstrings may not be perceived as the ‘sexiest’ of muscle groups, they play an important role in movement as well as injury prevention.
The hamstrings are a group of three muscles (Biceps Femoris, Semitendinosus and Semimembranosus) located at the back of the leg.
The hamstrings are responsible for internal and external rotation of the knee as well as hip extension. Exercises such as Stiff Leg Deadlifts, Seated Leg Curl and Good Mornings work the hamstrings. Exercises such as Squats and Leg Press are exercises not typically considered ‘hamstring exercises’ but require hamstring strength to counter the actions of the Quadriceps.
Hamstring inflexibility is common and can be a cause of injury. Lower back injury, in particular, can result from inflexible hamstrings. Weak hamstrings can result in knee injury, as the hamstrings can’t effectively counter the action of the Quadriceps. As such, dedicating some time to hamstring stretching (as well as actually training them!) would be beneficial. A combination of static, dynamic and PNF stretching (pushing against a resistance) would be recommended.
Those who focus on heavy squats, leg press and leg extension alongside minimal hamstring work could be more susceptible to injury as the Quadriceps are extremely strong and the Hamstrings are comparatively weak and potentially inflexible. If you’ve knee pain or a tight lower back, the Hamstrings may be the culprit (of course, see a qualified Physio for an accurate diagnosis).
If you feel you’re not giving your Hamstrings the love and attention they deserve, you could try one of the options below.
- Change your split and have a separate day for Hamstrings (and perhaps add calves or biceps)
- Alternate the order of exercises in your leg routine so that on some weeks, exercises such as Stiff Leg Deadlift and Leg Curls are prioritised.
- If time commitments allow, train Quadriceps in the morning and Hamstrings later in the day.
As well as injury prevention, it’s worth noting hamstrings that ‘hang’ from the leg look pretty impressive! You’ll also be safe in the knowledge that you’ll be one of the few that have put the hard work in to achieve strong hamstrings!