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Location: The hamstrings are at the back of the thigh (between the knee and the hip). Their tendons cross the knee joint and connect on each side of the shinbone (tibia).
Names of muscles in the group: There are three separate muscles in the hamstring group: the Biceps Femoris, Semitendinosus and Semimembranosus.
Origins and Insertions: These muscles originate just underneath the Gluteus Maximus (buttocks) on the pelvic bone and attach to the tibia (lower leg bone).
Function: The hamstrings help extend the thigh, flex the knee, and also assist in the adduction of the thigh. The hamstrings function by pulling the leg backward and by propelling the body forward while walking or running. This is called hip extension.
Potential Problems: When the hamstrings are tight, they pull on the hip bone causing a slight rotation, which can affect the natural curvature of the back and cause pain and tightness in the lower back. Weakness in the hamstrings can contribute to knee pain and increase the incidence of a hamstring strain.
Exercises: The same exercises that you do to work your quads also help your hamstrings: lunges and squats, for instance. See also: The Quadriceps: The Front of the Thigh
Stretches: To obtain a successful hamstring stretch, lie on your back on the floor or a mat and extend your leg up into the air. Flex the foot and keep the knee straight and bring the leg up as high as you can. You can hold on to the calf of your leg while pulling the leg towards you, but do not put your hands on your thigh; this will prevent the hamstring muscles from stretching.
The hamstrings affect the knees, so you may want to read these related articles:
- Joints and Exercise
- The Knee Joint
- Knee Replacement: The Basics
- Three Leg Bones: The femur, the tibia, and the fibula
For articles about other muscles, see:
- The Abdominals
- The Adductors
- The Deltoids
- The Erector Spinae: Spine Muscles
- The Forearm, Elbow, and Wrist
- The Glutes
- The Hip Flexors
- Latissimus Dorsi: The Lats
- The Lower Leg: The Calf and the Shin
- Muscle Cramps and Other Injuries
- Muscles of the Head
- The Muscular System: How it Works
- Opposing Muscles
- Pectoralis Major and Minor: The Pecs
- The Quadriceps: The Front of the Thigh
- Taking Care of your Feet
- The Trapezius and the Rhomboids
- The Upper Arm: The Biceps and the Triceps
I am a BCRPA-certified fitness instructor in Vancouver, BC. I teach four classes at the West End Community Centre in Vancouver, BC, mostly designed for the older adult. The Inevitable Disclaimer: Everything published here expresses only my opinion, based on my training and research. What you do with the information is entirely your own responsibility. I am not liable for any injury you suffer that seems to be related to anything you read here. Always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program. For other articles, return to the table of contents.
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