me: Hey Shorty, what are hamstring good for anyways?
Shorty: Well my friend, let me tell you a thing or two :). Your hamstrings have a few key functions in leg movement, as well as in stabilizing your knee and pelvis. Last week I laid the hamstrings out in anatomical detail, but today I will talk about them in pretty simple movement terms.
An easy way to feel your hamstring working is doing an exercise like bridging. This movement is moving towards hip extension (aka moving your leg behind you). The hamstrings help with the first few degrees of hip extension in movements like walking, running, swimming etc. Exercises like bridging and swimming in Pilates can help you feel a strong contraction of the hamstrings.
Another healthy function of the hammies is to stabilize your pelvis. huh?
Because parts of your hamstrings connect to your sits bones, the hamstrings can work to stabilize your pelvis bones. When the muscles around your pelvis are in harmony, the hamstrings work to pull the sits bones earthbound, helping ground you! Conversely, if your hamstrings are unevenly developed right to left, they can unevenly pull on your pelvis and cause sacroiliac or back discomfort. If your hamstrings aren't firing well at all, you may be stressing the joints of your pelvis and lower back too much because it cannot stay solidly grounded.
Healthy hammies work to stabilize and flex (bend) your knees. Last week I showed how your hamstrings attach to either side of your knee, just below the joint. When your hamstrings are evenly developed, you will have a nice even gait and support from both sides of your leg. However, your knees are tricky. It is very easy for your lower leg to spin in or out. The hamstrings can help this by pulling on one side or the other. It is important to keep the inner part AND outer part of your hamstrings strong so that the force on your knee stays balanced!
You must maintain even strength between the hamstrings and quadriceps. This balances the front and back forces on your hip, support of your knees, the relationship of your legs to your torso, and overall grounding to the earth.
Many of us have slight imbalances with the way that we work our hamstrings - either one side is stronger than the other, one part of a hamstring dominates, one side is more flexible than the other, the hamstrings are much weaker than the quads etc. A lot of time hamstrings are forgotten when working on leg strength but they are SO important for finding balance in strength building and alignment. Always make sure to take the time to check in with them, strengthen them, stretch them, and use them to help you stay strong and grounded!