When Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul went down with a strained hamstring in Game 5 of the NBA 2018 Western Conference Finals, fans already knew that it was serious. While the Rockets managed to win the game, they struggled to keep pace with the Golden State Warriors in the next two matches with Paul on the sidelines. Analysts pointed to Paul’s absence as the deciding factor in the Rockets’ defeat.
Athletes such as Paul who are dependent on speed and mobility need to strengthen their hamstring muscles to help guard against repetitive injuries. But even regular people need to condition their hamstrings because they are integral in maintaining good body alignment when walking, running, or sitting.
Hamstrings refer to the three muscles that run down from your thigh to your knee at the back of your leg. These three muscles – biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus – are responsible for engaging your leg, especially during activities that require explosive movements.
There are various ways to strengthen these muscles, but these can be divided into two parts – proper posture and strength conditioning.
Proper posture is very important when working the hamstrings, as improper pelvic positioning can put unnecessary tension on the back of your thighs. Because all of the muscles in the lower body are interdependent, not allowing your pelvic muscles to do as much work will inevitably strain your hamstring muscles. When doing an intense activity, this can lead to a pulled hamstring or an even worse injury.
Once you have your posture set, you can proceed to strength exercises. It is vital to warm up when doing lower body exercises, especially when you do not have a regular running routine. Recommended warm-up exercises include the 90-90 Hip Lift and the All Fours Belly Lift.
90-90 Hip Lift
Lay down on your back and prop your feet up on a wall. Lift the pelvis so that your lower back flattens onto the floor. Your back should be at a right angle with your thighs. Breathe in, hold for three to five seconds, then breathe out. You can add a weight between your knees to intensify the routine.
All Fours Belly Lift
Get down on your hands and knees, with your palms flat on the ground. Inhale, and as you exhale, round your back upwards. Keep it in that position for five seconds and repeat five times.
For strength exercises, you can do the Romanian Deadlift and the Barbell Back Squat.
Hold a barbell at hip level with your knuckles outward. Shoulders should be aligned with your back and knees slightly bent. Slowly lower the barbell by extending your butt as far back as you can. Your head should look straight forward and your shoulders must remain aligned with your back. After hitting the maximum range which is a few centimeters below the knee, return to the starting position.
Barbell Back Squat
Grab the bar with your hands overhead as it rests on the rack over your rear shoulder muscles. Take it off the rack and stand with your feet apart by shoulder length. Keep the spine aligned, then sit as if you are going down on a chair. Dip your hips until it is slightly below the knee. Keep the weight on your heels and foot as you bring the barbell back up.
Make these exercises part of your workout routine to help keep your hamstring muscles in top shape. For other fitness-related stories, follow me here or the Techie Doodlers blog. You may also check out Sookie Lioncourt’s post about fitness gadgets to learn more on how technology can assist you with your fitness routines.