Hamstrings and Low Back Fitness Routine

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Back Fitness - The Role of the Hip Muscles.

Woman in childs pose
Hero Images/Getty Images

What does it Take to Get Your Back Fit?

Back fitness involves more than targeting back muscles for strengthening.

While it's true that the multitude of muscles around your spine need to stay in shape in order to manage pain, another part of back health and fitness is pelvic alignment.  Whether it's good or bad, your pelvic alignment will likely translate up to your low back and either support or interrupt the integrity of your spinal curves.

Learn More About Your Back Muscles

Believe it or not, it’s the muscles around your hips that are mostly responsible for pelvic alignment.  These muscles include your quadriceps, outer and inner thigh muscles and the hamstrings.  Each plays its own unique role in balanced alignment of the pelvis, and therefore good posture as well as reduced or eliminated low back pain.

In this article, we’ll talk about hamstring muscles, and in particular, how strengthening them helps your back.  I'll also give you several different types of ideas for hamstring exercises that are suitable for developing your back fitness. Slide on to learn your first move.

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Hamstring Strength and Back Fitness - The Hip Bridge Exercise

Hip Bridge Exercise
Hip Bridge Exercise. Stylepics

Hip Bridge Exercise - a Must for Hamstring Strength and Back Fitness

The hip bridge is an absolute staple strengthening exercise for creating and maintaining a healthy low back.  Not only does it stretch your quadriceps - which most of us need because we sit so much - but it can be very challenging to your hamstrings, as well.

In the hip bridge exercise, your hamstrings (and, depending on your technique, your gluteus maximus, as well) are charged with supporting most of your body weight while it's in the air. This can get very intense, particularly if you're new to hamstring strengthening. 

But strong hamstrings can help pull the pelvis down in back.  This is a good thing for most people.  Many of us have a condition called anterior pelvic tilt, where the pelvis is pulled forward by large girth tugging your pelvis forward, weak hamstrings, or both. An anterior pelvic tilt can accentuate your normal lordotic curve, possibly creating tension and/or pain in your low back muscles.

One of the best things you can do for your hamstrings when you perform hip bridges is to attempt to keep your pelvic position level while it's in the air. With this extra mind-body effort, you'll likely develop a balanced strength in your hamstrings, which may translate to less pressure on your spinal structures and more balance between the low back muscles.

Try it Now:  6 Hip Bridge Variations

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Kneel for Hamstring Strength, Pelvic Position and Back Fitness

Woman kneels while lifting weights.
A kneeling position with good alignment can help you strengthen hamstrings and stretch quads. Stylepics

Kneel for Hamstring Strength

One very simple, but effective hamstring strengthening exercise is to spend time in a kneeling position.

To get this position to challenge your hamstrings to more work and strength, be sure to drop your pelvis down in back.  This helps remove excess anterior pelvic tilt (which was described in the previous slide in this article) and it helps engage the hamstring muscle at the hip.  You'll likely feel quite a stretch at the front of your thigh, in your quadriceps muscles, as well.

Both the quad stretch and the hamstring work will help align your pelvis so that it provides solid front to back support for your spine.

Learn how to Establish Core Support and how to Activate your Deep Abdominals

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Hamstring and Back Strengthening Exercise - Double Thigh Lift

Woman lies in a prone position and lifts her legs.
Woman lies in a prone position and lifts her legs. drkskmn

Double Thigh Lift for Double Hamstring Strength

While I can't promise that a double thigh lift while in the prone (i.e. lying on your stomach) position will exactly double your hamstring strength, I can say that if you engage your core abdominal muscles to stabilize your pelvis, this move will be mainly isolated to your hamstring muscles (where they attach onto your hip).  This can be a very good thing for back fitness.

One goal I always suggest to my clients and students is to create balance in the muscles in and around your pelvic bone.  To do so in this exercise, when you perform the double thigh lift, try to take the legs up with equal effort, and to the same level. Another tip is to be sure that both knees and feet are directly under their respective hips.  Splayed out legs can throw your alignment off, which may result in uneven strength development.  This generally is not very helpful to your back.

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Round Out your Moves On An Exercise Ball

Woman works her hamstring muscles by bringing a fit back toward her butt.
Hamstring strengthening with a fit ball can stabilize your spine. nickp37

Hamstring and Back Fitness on an Exercise Ball

Stay interested in hamstring strengthening by varying your moves.  An exercise ball is a great way to do this, as it develops dynamic strengthening, which is the ability to support and move at the same time.

Try it Now: Exercise Ball Workout Routine for Hamstrings and Back

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Use a Resistance Band to Work Your Hamstrings and Core

Therapists helps a man challenge his hamstring muscles using theraband
Challenge your hamstring muscles with theraband and a good physical therapist. Henglein and Steets/Cultura/Getty Images

Resistance Band Hamstring Workout 

Similar to an exercise ball, using a resistance band may help you develop both strength and flexibility in your hips and back - while adding interest and variety.

Try it Now:  Resistance Band Exercises for Hamstrings, Back and Core

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