3 Approaches to Strong Hamstrings, Good Posture and a Healthy Low Back

To prevent and manage low back pain, you need good pelvic alignment.  For that, turn to your hip muscles!  Hip muscles are located all around the joint: Front, outside, inside and in back.  In this article you'll meet 3 approaches to strengthening your hamstring muscles.  Located at the back of your thigh and hip, hamstrings play an important role in keeping your low back in line.

1
General Hamstring Strengthening Exercises

A woman is lying on her stomach and strengthening her hamstring muscles.
Strengthen your hamstring muscles by lying on your stomach and lifting your thighs. drkskmn

One approach to making strong hamstrings is to grab a mat or a piece of floor and do "land-based" exercises.   Examples of such exercises include hip bridges (which can get very intense, by the way) and others.  

Hamstrings are 2-joint muscles, which, as the name implies, and unlike most muscles of the body, means they cross over two joints.  Hamstrings cross both the hip and the knee.  (Another 2-joint muscle is the quadriceps, which also crosses over both hip and knee.  The difference is the quadriceps are located at the front of your thigh, while the hamstrings are located in back.)

For our purposes in seeking back fitness and pain relief, we are mainly concerned with the hamstrings relationship to the pelvis.  Hamstring exercises for the knee are, for the most part, an entirely different discussion.

For many hamstring strengthening exercises, the best way to realize a benefit is to make an extra effort to keep the back of your pelvic bone dropped down.  This brings the hamstring attachment, which is on the pelvis, closer to the back of the thigh.  Such an approximation between the two bones may help you better engage the muscle.

Related: Hamstrings, Pelvic Position and Your Back Pain

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2
Exercise Ball Hamstring Strengtheners

Woman lies face down on a fit ball and strengthens her hamstrings by lifting 1 leg.
Use a fit ball to work your core and hamstring muscles. elnur_

Replacing the floor or ground with an exercise ball  may challenge your core stability as well as your hip muscles.  The round surface, and tendency to roll, possessed by an exercise ball removes the inherited stability provided when you do "land based" exercises.  In this case, your core, pelvic and hip muscles must take on this important responsibility.  When you have to stabilize yourself (instead of relying on the floor to provide it to you,) you may find your trunk strength, coordination, body awareness improve.

And, the tendency of the exercise ball to roll can also be used to challenge your body with new moves not possible with general "land-based" strengthening exercises.

Related: What is Dynamic Stability?

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3
Resistance Band Challenges for Your Hamstrings and Back

Woman works on her hamstring muscles using theraband.
Theraband can help you develop hamstring strength. elbepictures

A resistance band, also known as theraband, can help bring some spring back into your muscles. It provides a sort of movable resistance - one that responds to the degree of pressure you put into it.  Not only that, but by giving you something to feel as you move your leg, the resistance from the band provides a bit of guidance, or structure.  This may help keep things in better alignment as you do the exercises.  

Perhaps more important, a resistance band may help you replace less efficient type motion that comes from your  knee or foot (or both) with quality movement that comes from  your hip.  Because hip movement is often key to low back health, this kind of focus may prove fruitful to you as you exercise your way to pain relief.

Related: 3 Ways to Get a Good Quad Stretch

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