Our hamstrings consists of 3 muscles the semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and the biceps femoris.
The hamstrings cross 2 joints, the hip and the knees, and they are involved in hip extension as well as knee flexion.
Runners and weekend warriors tend to neglect their hamstrings in their strength training and flexibility routines and resulting at times in strains, tears and pulls. Many times this injury occurs because of a muscular imbalance, the quadriceps being more dominant or stronger than the hamstrings. This type of injury is very difficult to heal, sidelining runners/athletes for weeks.
The injured hamstring can be classified by the following:
Grade 1 is a mild strain with a few muscle fibers being torn.
Grade 2 is a moderate strain with significant loss on strength
Grade 3 is a complete tear of the muscles.
In order to prevent injuring the hamstrings, it is important to implement exercises that both strengthen and stretches the hamstrings. Pilates is a great addition to any fitness routine, because Pilates creates an evenly conditioned body therefore eliminating imbalances. Personally what I really like about the flexibility side of Pilates is that you are always moving, there is no static holding of the exercises. As one of the principles of the method is control, you are able move your body with proper control and stability.
Another benefit of Pilates, which we all hear about is that Pilates builds a strong core. The core is not only the deep abdominals , but it also includes your low back muscles, pelvic floor, the muscles around your hips and your glutes. Having a strong core will help your body to move more efficiently and with precision.
Here are a few Pilates mat exercises that will help to strengthen not only the hamstrings but the other muscle groups as well.
Leg Pull Down
Get into a plank position, with shoulders over wrists, the inner thighs together. Lift one leg towards the ceiling with your foot pointed. Lift one leg and pulse it twice towards the ceiling. Lower the leg and repeat on the next leg.
Keep your hips lifted as the leg lifts. Repeat 6 times on each leg.
Leg Pull Up
Get into a reverse plank position, wrists under shoulders and hips lifted high. Lift one leg to the ceiling and pulse up twice. Lower the leg to the mat and repeat on the other side. Repeat 6 times.
Lie on your stomach, reaching your arms overhead and your legs straight. Lift the left arm and right leg towards the ceiling, and quickly switch arms and legs maintaining the balance on the center of your torso.
Keep your neck long and no shifting of the hips.
This next exercise is part of the Pilates abdominals series of the 5 exercises used to strengthen the abdominals and to develop pelvic stability. but it also gives you a nice stretch for the hamstrings therefore improving its flexibility.
There is no strength with out flexibility.
Single Straight Leg Stretch
Lie on your back, round your and head and upper body off the mat, reaching one leg to the ceiling and the other leg extended and reaching to in front of you. Place your hands on the leg that is reaching towards to the ceiling.
Pulse the leg towards you twice and quickly switch legs and repeat on the other side. Keep your torso still as the legs move, abdominals engaged, maintain stability in the low back and pelvis.
Let’s keep our hamstrings strong and flexible. Hope you enjoyed this post.