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Hamstrings, Hamstrings, Hamstrings!!!

Did you know you have 3 hamstring muscles?

  • Medial Hamstring - Semimembranosus. Attaches below the knee on the inside of the lower leg and at the base of the pelvis. 
  • Central Hamstring - Semitendinosus. Attaches below the knee on the inside of the lower leg and at the base of the pelvis. 
  • Lateral Hamstring - Biceps Femoris. Attaches below the knee on the outside of the lower leg and at the base of the pelvis.

This image shows all 3 hamstrings and their attachment points. (Red & Yellow are the lateral hamstring, Blue is the central hamstring and Green is the medial hamstring).

Common symptoms for each of the 3 hamstrings when they are tight and not working well:

  • Medial hamstring: Hip Pain & Injury, Bunions, Plantar Fasciitis, Acne, Diabetes, Digestion, Eczema, Enzyme production, Lyme
  • Central Hamstring: Knee Pain & Injury, Feet Problems, Calve Problems, Herniated Disc, Ruptured Disc, Bulging Disc, Central Nervous System, Degenerative Disc Disease, Insomnia
  • Lateral Hamstring: Lower Back Pain, Ankle Pain & Injury, Calves, Groin Pain, Herniated Disc, Ruptured Disc, Bulging Disc, Degenerative Disc Disease, Frequent Urination, Incontinence, Spinal Stenosis, Prostate Problems, Osteoporosis, Bone Health

Why are the hamstrings so important to the overall functioning of your body?

  • By design, the hamstrings are 'tendinous' tissue. Meaning - they are dense and tough and accumulate un-healthy fascia easily.
  • Because they attach to the pelvis, their health and flexibility determines the movement in the pelvis.
  • When the hamstrings are full of dense and even scarred fascia, they stop moving. They can be 'frozen' in a short position, long position, twisted position, or a combination throughout each hamstring.
  • Inflexible hamstrings hold the pelvis in a dysfunctional position.
  • This creates poor alignment in the hip and knee joints, compression in the spine, and poor posture in the shoulders and neck.
  • Creating an increase in hamstring flexibility and pelvis movement is foundational to having a body that moves and feels better head to toe.

What is the true test of hamstring flexibility?

Most folks think hamstring flexibility is determined by the ability of the hamstring muscles to get long - bending over and touching your toes or doing the splits for example. This is not the true test of hamstring flexibility but rather the test of hip flexor and quadricep flexibility.

If you want to test the flexibility of your hamstrings the best way is to sit back on your heals and see if there is pain and tension in the front of the knee or to kick your heal up toward your butt and see how far up it goes and with what level of power you are able to kick your foot up. True Flexibility is defined by the muscles ability to 'flex' or shorten. In both of these position / movements you are testing the ability of your hamstrings to shorten or work better. 

If you truly test your hamstring flexibility, try these 2 positions and then try some Bendable Body hamstring stretches with resistance and then try the 2 positions again and see if it improves. 

How to release a hamstring and how to heal a pulled hamstring?

Common solutions for a pull in a hamstring or a tight hamstring are traditional hamstring stretches where the hamstring is held in a lengthened position. Another common question is, 'will massage loosen hamstring and does walking help tight hamstrings?' 

Movement is always better than no movement and massage can be helpful for relaxing tense muscles. But when it comes to removing significant amounts of accumulated dense fascia from the hamstring muscles, walking and massage are not particularly effective. Rolfing - which is a specific kind of massage that targets fascia would be more effective than other forms of massage. 

Traditional stretches actually have the capacity to create more dense fascia in your hamstrings! 

During most forms of traditional hamstring stretching 3 things happen:

1. Micro tears form in the muscle. Your body's immune system responds to this by patching up the tears with fascia (white blood cells, fibroblasts, etc.).

2. You are training your muscle to stay over-stretched and weak... and to not contract and be strong like it is designed to do.

3. You are over-stretching your ligaments and tendons and forcing biomechanical substitutions in your joints to achieve a range of motion.

When it comes to how to loosen hamstrings, how to release hamstrings, the most efficient way to stretch your hamstrings is with resistance and going from a short to a long position (while maintaining resistance).  

But what if you have pain in one of your hamstrings... how to stretch a strained hamstring? At Bendable Body we would tell you to leave it alone and go stretch the muscles on the opposite side of the bone - the hip flexors and quads. That way you give the strained hamstring chance to heal and also take pressure off it.

Check out this video where we teach you a resistance stretch for each of your 3 hamstring muscles.

Watch this video and learn stretches for hamstring pain and stiffness: 

6 thoughts on “Hamstrings, Hamstrings, Hamstrings!!!”

  1. Hey, my name is Robena I’m 61 female, I have trouble getting down and up on the floor, any suggestions please, want to try hamstrings

    1. Hey Robena, great to meet you. So we have so many stretches that are both seated and standing. During our weekly live zoom classes – for every floor stretch we also offer a standing modification. Having said that – people who come to us and in the beginning can’t get up and down off the floor – eventually are able to after stretching for a bit!

  2. As I have noticed before with these stretches, I notice an openness right away. Amazing to note in shoulder area too! Two issues for me – any suggestions for modifications welcome:
    1. My knees hurt a bit while doing the actual stretch. Might be adhesions from surgery on L side but I also feel around R knee. I can get through it but it is still uncomfortable.
    2. Often after I do a series of these hamstring stretches (or standing up version) my hamstrings feel tighter the next day / some pain.

    1. Hi Claire, so it could be that you need to do a different version of hamstring stretches (like the one lying on your back) where you aren’t kneeling. And then when your knee improves you will be able to do the kneeling ones. Soreness after stretching is very common. Is that what you are feeling? Muscle soreness like when you workout.

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