CoreBody Blog

The Long + Short of Your Hamstrings

Pilates Helps Build Strong + Pliable Hamstrings

Healthy Hamstrings Lead to Improved Posture, Walking and Injury Prevention.

There are three hamstring muscles that literally hang from your sits bones to your lower leg bones. This group of muscles has a direct effect on hips and knees. When the hamstrings are healthy, both strong and long, they play a key role in stabilizing the knee joint as well as hip and torso positioning.

Hamstrings are part of our core system of movement. Comprised of the biceps femoris, semitendinosus and semimembranosus, hamstrings are the group of muscles that help us walk, sit and stand up more efficiently. Part of our superficial back myofascial line, hamstrings are not “front and center”, but rather often forgotten as they are behind us, literally part of our backside!

Benefits of Hamstring Health?

When they’re working well, our hips feel free the low back is supported and we can move through our daily lives with ease.

Indicators that your hamstrings need attention:

  • Sore and achy low back, even after walking;
  • Difficulty getting from sitting to standing and visa versa;
  • Sitting for long periods of time;
  • Need and want to improve posture;
  • Stiff or hyper-mobile body.

Postural Side-Effects of Tight & Weak Hamstrings

When hamstrings don’t engage properly, or they are tight, they affect the knees, pelvis and hips affecting posture from heat to toe.

“Tight” hamstrings can be caused by a variety of factors

  • An injured or unstable lower back;
  • An aggravated sciatic nerve;
  • Lack of mobility in the hip joint;
  • Under-active glute muscles leading to over-active hamstring muscles;
  • The positioning/alignment of your pelvis;
  • Old injuries.

Hamstrings & Knee, Quad or Buttock Pain

Knee issues can be poor balance between quadriceps and hamstrings;

Tight quads can be found when hamstrings are strained;

Buttock pain can occur when hamstrings are too tight or weak.

How Does Pilates Mat + Spring-Based Work Help Hamstring Health?

Pilates mat and apparatus based exercises contribute to strong and pliable hamstrings, the perfect balance for improving hamstring strength, as well as ensuring these muscles remain long and flexible. Spring-based work, helps avoids overworking or overloading the same muscles and joints. Each opposing muscle is worked or lengthened simultaneously!

Hamstring Harmony

Healthy hamstrings means the glutes and hamstrings should work together synergistically.  Working the glutes prior to the hamstrings will result in better recruitment of both. Pilates shoulder bridge, roll up, side lying series are excellent for this as are SO many other exercises we already do in our sessions!

Eccentrically, Hamstrings are the Breaks for Injury Prevention

Studies have shown that including eccentric hamstring exercises in a strength program greatly reduces the risk for this injury to occur.

The eccentric control we must have when working with the apparatus springs ensures that “on the return” of the spring to its resting position, you will build eccentric hamstring strength which is oh so important to prevent hamstring injuries!

In George Barker’s article “Hamstrings: Why you Should Be Training Them More”, he explains how it is NOT your hamstring muscles that prevent injuries, but it is your brain that prevents the injury.

Barker states, “The body’s neuromuscular system will always attempt to protect itself from injury by making the muscles in this case the hamstrings, feel “tight”, reducing the range of motion at the joint.  It is rarely due to a physical shorting of your hamstring muscles but the brain not allowing your hamstring muscles to stretch further, either due to weakness or instability, risking injury.”

When working with the apparatus springs, we must have eccentric control to ensure that “the return” of the spring to its resting position will help build eccentric hamstring strength and in turn prevent hamstring injuries.

The Take Away

Pilates differentiates from other forms of training, in that it looks at the body as a whole unit, from posture, to lengthening what is tight and strengthening what is weak. Pilates promotes hamstring health by stabilizing the hip and knee joints while supporting the low back to move through our day without pain and most importantly, with ease.

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