How to strengthen and stretch your hamstrings

When people talk about hamstrings, they are usually referring to the three separate muscles that stretch from the rear end to the back of the knee. Actually, a hamstring is one of the strings ­like tendon felt on either side of the back of the knee. Your muscles pull on the tendons to bend your knees and straighten your hips when you move your leg backward.

Surprisingly, your large hamstring muscles are minimally involved with normal walking and are inactive when you stand, but when you lean forward to sit down or tie your shoes, all three hamstring muscles are engaged. Your hamstrings are extremely important in activities requiring power, such as running, jump­ing, and climbing, which is usually how most hamstring injuries occur. Athletes exercise with resistance to create stronger, faster leg muscles. The rest of us can also benefit from stronger, faster leg muscles—throw in shapely, and its a deal you can't refuse.

The muscles of your quadriceps and hamstrings work as a team of antagonists. Because muscles can only exert a pulling force, the contraction of your quadriceps causes your ham­strings to relax, and vice versa. Located on the front of your thigh, your quadriceps tendons attach the four strong quadri­ceps muscles to your kneecap and extend down to your shin. Your muscle pulls on your tendons to straighten your knee. If you have well-developed quadriceps muscles and your ham­string strength is less than two-thirds the strength of your quad­riceps, the imbalance makes you more vulnerable to injury.

Spend time strengthening and stretching your hamstrings and quadriceps. Hamstrings tend to be tight, so it is especially important to stretch them after each workout. Tight hamstrings are often the culprits in lower-back pain by causing your hips and pelvis to rotate back, thereby flattening your lower back. This position stretches the ligaments in your lower back and stresses your disks. Always maintain the natural curve in your lower back whether standing, sitting, or lying down. Never allow your back to flatten or bow out.

If you sit at your desk every day with poor posture, your hamstrings may tighten. Correcting your posture and stretching will do you a world of good. Poor sitting posture is that your hips slide forward in the chair and your lower back rounds with the tailbone tucked under, for the correct sitting posture, your back is straight and your shoul­ders are back, your rear end touches the back of your chair. Bedsides, Stretch your hamstrings on the plane, at your desk:

1. Use correct sitting posture.
2. Straighten one knee, flex your toes up, and lift your tail- bone (similar to the flat back position).
3. Keep your weight evenly distributed on both hips.
4. Hold for about fifteen seconds and repeat on the other side.
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