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Muscle of the Month - The Hamstrings

Hamstring Muscles

You can't do the Hokey-Cokey without them!

What are they? They're a group of three long muscles, individually called the Biceps Femoris, the Semitendinosus and the Semimembranosus Where are they? These muscles run from our hip, across the hip joint and down the back of our thigh bone to below our knee, fixing into the calf bones. They're rounded muscles which lie close to the surface of the skin so you can feel and see them quite clearly.

What do they do?

These muscles have quite a variety of functions. In the simplest form, they bend our knee (think of a 'hamstring curl' exercise). In addition to this, when the foot is on the floor these muscles help us lengthen at the hip. This can be felt when walking. Our hamstring muscles also help us twist the leg inwards and outwards. This range of movements makes the whole group effective at creating stability at the hip and knee joints.

How do I activate them? If you pull your heel towards your bottom you'll feel them contract but you can also activate them by swivelling on one foot, by bending the knee and turning it inwards or by pushing off one foot as you take a step forward. Their prime hip-stabilizing function can be felt by kneeling upright and leaning the whole body forwards from the knee joint.

Why do we need them? These muscles clearly follow the backline of the thigh and are a great example of what are known as skeletal muscles. Their contraction and extension creates movement at the knee and hip. We need them for this most basic of motion but they also help us create more interesting and agile manoeuvres. Without them a footballer couldn't bring their leg to kick a ball, a walker couldn't control any steps downhill. They help put your left leg in, your left leg out, and to shake it all about. They help you turn around. Without your hamstrings, the Hokey-Cokey would be a pretty quiet affair.


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