Are your hamstrings causing you trouble?

Jeroen van Duijn

If you have issues with your knee, hips, ankles and low back then it might be caused by your inner hamstrings (colored yellow in the picture below).

The inner hamstrings are very important muscles. You use them when you hip hinge. This means that you use them when you do kettlebell swings, deadlifts, squat, skipping and when you run. That is if you are doing them correctly by engaging the internal torque chain (ext. obliques, inner hamstrings) and not by activating the external torque chain (outside hamstrings, lumbar erectors) which can cause lower back spasms.

When you don’t use your inner hamstrings while hinging

These are your sacroiliac joints (SI). As long as you use your internal torque chain, then you can hinge at the hip. If you use your external torque chain, it kills the swivel (it locks the joints) and forces you to lift with your lower back erectors.

These are your lumbar erectors. If you deadlift using your back you will develop the “shark fins” which can cause low back spasms.

A weak hamstring is a short hamstring

If you want to be a better at running, deadlifting, squatting or doing double unders, then strengthen your inner hamstrings! I recommend doing the hinge opener which we have been doing lately with both kettlebell and barbell.

When your hamstrings are weak, they will shorten. They shorten to compensate, as a way to increase strength. Take a look at the photo below and notice what it does to your knees and hips. If you are ever wondering why you can’t touch the floor with your hand while keeping your legs extended, it might be caused by your weak and shortened hamstrings!

The good news is that you can change the fate of your hamstrings by doing the inner hamstring opener.
They will improve strength, and therefore, the mobility of your inner hamstring. Mobility is your ability to keep your muscle engaged throughout the range of motion. So the goal is to keep the increase the range of motion through which you can keep your inner hamstrings engaged. This will make you stronger and will decrease the chances of you suffering from a hamstring strain. It will keep your knees and hips nice and happy.

Other muscles will compensate for a weak muscle

Did you also know that weak inner hamstrings are the reason why you have limited ankle flexibility?
When your inner hamstrings are weak, your other muscles work overtime to compensate, and this includes your calves. The calves are not equipped to handle this, so they shorten themselves to try to make themselves stronger, thereby restricting ankle flexibility. So if you improve the strength and mobility in your inner hamstrings (i.e. do the inner hamstring opener), you can improve your ankle flexibility, and you don’t have to waste your time doing banded ankle distractions or calf stretches.

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