Hamstrings have a huge effect on your posture. Over tight hamstrings can cause a slumped back and rounded shoulders. When you look at the structure of the muscles of the hamstring you will notice that they attach on the sit bones and below the knee.
If these muscles are tight and not allowing a full range of movement it can then lead to all kinds of discomfort i.e. low back pain, groin pain, knee pain and aching pains in the sit bones. Many people sit at work during the day with their knees bent therefore constantly shortening the hamstrings.
At purestretch we always emphasise working on the hamstrings throughout the entire class, as we believe it is one of the most important areas to stretch as it has an impact on many other muscle groups.
The Technical Bit..
The 3 main hamstrings are :
- Biceps Femoris
Take a seat, now bend your knee and can you feel two “stringy” tendons? This is the “string” of your hamstrings.
The “string” on the outside is the Bicep Femoris which attaches to the sit bones and the outside of the fibula.
On the inside you can feel the semimembranuosus and the semitendinosus, these “strings” also attach to the sit bones but then come on the inside of the leg and attach to the tibia.
The “ham” part of the hamstrings, is the meaty part at the back of the thigh- this is the belly of the muscle.
Here’s an interesting fact!
Many say that the adductor magnus is the 4th hamstring due to the similarity in structure, proximal attachment, and innervation to the hamstring muscles.
Form First, Stretch Second
It's all about that form...
As you may expect a lot of people who come to a purestretch class have, or think they have, tight hamstrings. This can mean that they find getting into the position for some of the hamstring stretches quite tricky. What you need to do here is look at their form. Form is about getting the body in the best possible alignment where the muscle is not in a contracted state and the two attachment points are as far from one another as they can be without being under tension. It’s all about that form.
The head is lifted off the mat and there is tension in the neck and shoulders, the knee is bent and the grounding leg is lifting off the floor
The back is very rounded, shoulders are slumped and the chin is jutting forward- this is not good form!
In a hamstring stretch a lot of people want to get their nose to their knee (or their knee to their nose) as they think that is the aim of the stretch and they bend the knee to get there. What is the function range of movement they actually need at the hamstrings? Think of the attachment points of the hamstrings muscles..
Can we fix it?
Yes, we can!
Form can be improved if not corrected in most circumstances. To help improve form, blocks, balls, straps and your hands-on assistance will be invaluable. Once you have corrected someones form, give them ownership of that correction and ask them to get the same equipment themselves for the next time they come to class.
Try a block?
If their head is lifting off the mat, place a block underneath their head to allow the upper body to relax
Leg in the way?
If the leg that you're not stretching is uncomfortable – then move it! It’s not involved in the stretch so put it in a comfortable position.
Lift me up
If their back is rounded, sit them on a block to allow them to lengthen the spine and find that fab form!
Can't teach without your toys!
Make sure you always have a few key pieces of kit to hand!
here's what perfect form looks like...
This is great form! Lovely length behind the knee, the hip grounding down to the mat and a relaxed neck. in the following photos Ciaran is capable of lengthening the leg behind the knee and adding 'toes to the nose' to also get those Calves and Achilles into stretching mode but some may feel more comfortable with a slight bend to the knee and a relaxed foot and the other leg bent.
The height is the stretch...
Again, great form. Long, lengthened back. Length achieved behind the knee, not so easy for some and the added 'toes to the nose' to hit the calves and achilles
Try hands on! Watch the videos below to see how you can physically help get them into that perfect form!
Hands-On Correction for Seated
This is a great hands (or foot) on correction for a seated hamstring. To prevent over-stretching, make sure that you get them out of the stretch before you correct them.