The hamstrings play a crucial role in many daily activities such as, running, jumping, walking and cycling. They are a commonly injured muscle group, particularly amongst sports people, but what many people don’t realise is that poor strength and flexibility in the hamstrings is a common underlying cause of many everyday afflictions. They tend to be underdeveloped due to lack of knowledge and underuse on a daily basis, so to find out more about the multiple major benefits of strong, well-extended hamstrings, read our Top 5 Reasons to Stretch Your Hamstrings!
1. Prevent back pain
Back pain is one of the leading causes of having to take time off work, but what many don’t realise is that weak leg muscles, particularly hamstrings, could be the main cause of such pain. The health of your spine is directly affected by the action of your hip flexors and hamstrings. The pulling of the shortened muscles increases pressure on the bones of your spine, adding strain to your muscles because they have to work harder to hold your body, which can easily lead to injury or strains.
2. Muscular balance with quadriceps
Your hamstrings are typically weaker than your quadriceps, mainly due to the quads being larger and used more frequently on a daily basis. This muscle imbalance increases the chances of sporting and everyday injuries, particularly as you get older and muscle strength decreases. Although the ratio of strength between these muscles varies, for many people hamstrings are more likely to be under-developed (than very developed) and so it’s important to rectify this imbalance with your training or health program.
3. Muscles weaken with age
As you age, your hamstring muscles can become weaker and less flexible. Doing hamstring exercises regularly can help to improve their flexibility and range of motion. Hamstring exercises can also help to improve balance, which decreases your likelihood of falls or even tripping up on uneven surfaces (like concrete sidewalks, paving slabs etc) which can be a problem in later years. In addition, strength-training exercises can help increase bone density, which helps prevent the onset of diseases such as osteoporosis (bone thinning).
4. Injury prevention
The hamstrings are the muscles responsible for the movement of the knee joint during the concentric (shortening) and eccentric (lengthening) contractions. Strong hamstrings increase knee stability and help to prevent common afflictions such as bursitis, sprains and cruciate ligament injuries. Better protection is provided for joints in the lower body, allowing your body to accelerate and decelerate effectively which is incidentally when many injuries can occur.
5. Posture and alignment
Strong hamstrings are essential in helping to keep your spine properly aligned. The skeletal system is a connected chain so if one link moves out of alignment, the rest of your chain will be affected! Weak hamstrings can pull your hips forward compromising your effortless functional movement. This can lead to an alignment in which your lower back arches and shoulders round, which can bring about additional problems such as back pain and even mental health issues such as depression.
The importance of your hamstrings in not only reaching your athletic goals but also in your daily life is often undervalued. Whether your goal is to jump higher, run faster, improve your posture or relieve back pain, improving the strength and flexibility of your hamstrings is vitally important and seriously neglected. There are many simple exercises you can do at home, work or even when out and about to help keep your hamstrings working at their best, it’s all a matter of knowledge, awareness and being willing to practice a few simple movements – stay tuned for some excellent hamstring exercises coming shortly! How do you train yours? Let us know below or @KeepfitKingdom !