Hamstrings Exercises | Photos and Instructional Guides for Legs

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The muscles composing the hamstring group has its anatomical location in the posterior region of the thigh (back of the legs). The hamstrings musculature is formed by three important muscles and these include the biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus. The primary function of the hamstrings is to facilitate flexion of the leg, along with medial and lateral rotation which is important for activities such as jumping, pedaling, walking, and running.

Exercise Guides For Your Hamstrings

Elastic Band Kickbacks

Exercise Instructions: This exercise is similar to the one-legged cable kickbacks except that you will be using an elastic exercise band. Keeping your leg straight, smoothly kick your heel backward about one foot. Hold your leg at the top of this movement for a one-count. Slowly lower your leg back to the starting position and repeat.

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Exercise Ball Curls

Exercise Instructions: Lie on your back on a mat on the floor and place your heels on the front upper edge of a large exercise ball. By doing this, your back will actually be lifted off of the floor and only your upper back and the back of your shoulders will be on the floor. In a slow and controlled fashion, bring your heels toward your body so as to roll the exercise ball underneath your legs. Move your heels and the exercise ball about 6 – 12 inches and then return your legs to the fully extended start position. Repeat until you have performed the desired amount of repetitions.

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Lying Leg Curls

Exercise Instructions: This exercise is also known as hamstring curls. Lie on your stomach on the hamstring machine. If you are not sure how to position yourself, simply ask a trainer at your gym to assist you. Begin by curling the weight upward so as to touch your heels to your butt. Return to the start position in a slow and controlled fashion and repeat.

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One Leg Cable Kickbacks

Exercise Instructions: This exercise is the same as the One Legged Cable Kickbacks that you do for your butt. This exercise is performed using a pulley machine. Attach a small hand attachment to the lower section of a pully machine. Place one foot through the handle opening of the small hand attachment so that it becomes wrapped around your ankle. Keeping your leg straight, smoothly kick your heel backward about one foot. Hold your leg at the top of this movement for a one-count and repeat with the opposite leg.

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One Leg Lying Curls

Exercise Instructions: Lie on your stomach on the hamstring machine. If you are not sure how to position yourself, simply ask a trainer at your gym to assist you. Begin with one leg and curl the weight upward so as to touch your heel to your butt. Return to the start position in a slow and controlled fashion and repeat with your other leg.

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Seated One Leg Curls

Exercise Instructions: This is another version of hamstring curl. The difference with this exercise is that you are in a seated position when you execute the movement. If you are not sure how to position yourself, simply ask a trainer at your gym to assist you. Using one leg, bring the weight down toward the ground like you’re trying to touch your heel to the back of your hamstring. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat with your other leg.

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Barbell Romanian Deadlifts

Exercise Instructions: Grab a barbell with both hands using an overhand grip about shoulder width apart and let the barbell hang down in front of your body. Begin this movement by bending at your hips to lower the barbell to the floor and bend knees during the descent. It is very important to keep your back straight and rigid throughout this exercise and let your hamstrings and butt do all the work.

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Seated Leg Curls

Exercise Instructions: This is another version of hamstring curls. The difference with this exercise is that you are in a seated position when you execute the movement. If you are not sure how to position yourself, simply ask a trainer at your gym to assist you. Simply bring the weight down toward the ground so as to try to touch your heels to the back of your hamstrings. Slowly return to the start position and repeat.

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Smith Machine Stiff Leg Deadlifts

Exercise Instructions: Using the Smith Machine, grab the barbell with both hands using an overhand grip about shoulder width apart and let the barbell hang down in front of your body. Begin this movement by bending at the waist and lowering the barbell to the floor. Be sure to keep your legs as straight as possible (a slight bend is ok) and really let the weight of the barbell bring you down. On the way up, really focus on your butt and hamstrings to pull the weight back up. It is very important to keep your back straight and rigid throughout this exercise and to let your legs and butt do the work.

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Standing Leg Curls

Exercise Instructions: Position yourself on the standing leg curl machine. If you are not sure how to position yourself, simply ask a trainer at your gym to assist you. This exercise is performed one leg at a time. Start with the leg of your choice and simply curl the weight up so as to try to touch your heel to your butt. Return to the start position and repeat on the same leg until failure. Switch to the opposite leg and repeat.

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Stiff Leg Dumbbell Deadlifts

Exercise Instructions: Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms hanging straight down in front of your body. Begin this movement by bending at the waist and lower the dumbbells as far down to the floor as you can comfortably go. Be sure to keep your legs as straight as possible (no bend in your knees) and really let the weight of the dumbbells bring your body slowly down. On the way up, really focus on your lower back, butt and hamstrings to pull the weight back up. It is very important to keep your back straight and rigid throughout this exercise and to let your back and leg muscles do the work.

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Information About The Muscles of The Hamstrings

The biceps femoris originates in the sciatic region of the pelvis and has its insertion in the fibula (lateral bone of the leg) and is divided into two parts which includes the long head and the short head. The long head of the biceps femoris crosses the knee joint and has a motor action on this joint. Because it originates in the sciatic region of the pelvis, the long head of the biceps femoris also crosses the hip joint which will have motor action on the hip as well.

The short head of the biceps femoris muscle has its insertion at the fibula and its origin is in the distal part and posterior face of the femur bone. The short head of the femoral biceps only crosses the knee joint, so its motor action is only on the knee joint. The biceps femoris, both in its long and short heads, is located more laterally in the posterior face of the thigh.

Movement Produced By The Long and Short Head of the Biceps Femoris
The motor action of the biceps femoris (both on the long and the short head) will be engaged when contracting and flexing the knee. However, the long head of the femoral biceps, in addition to flexing the knee, also has the ability to produce movement when the hip is extended, so it is considered a biarticular muscle.

Function, Origin, and Insertion of the Semimembranosus Muscle
The semimembranosus is a muscle that is also located in the posterior region of the thigh and its origin is in the sciatic region of the pelvis and is very close to the area where the long head of the biceps femoris is located. Its insertion is located on the posterior aspect of the tibia, just behind the tibial plateau.

The semimembranous muscle crosses both the hip joint and the knee joint. The motor actions are knee flexion and hip extension along with the long head of the biceps femoral. The semimembranosus muscle is also biarticular.

Anatomic Location and Function of the Semitendinosus
The semitendinosus muscle is also located in the posterior region of the thigh and is composed of the biceps femoris and the semimembranosus which make up the overall area of the hamstrings. The semitendinosus is above the semimembranosus and this muscle presents a thinner tendon that crosses and has its insertion on the tibia in its distal face, and below the tibial plateau, which also occurs with the semimembranosus. The origin of the semitendinosus is also in the sciatic region of the pelvis.

The femoral, semimembranosus and semitendinosus muscles cross the knee joint, and due to their anatomical characteristics, these three muscles of the hamstrings include knee flexors and hip extensors. They are stronger muscles in the muscular action of flexing the knees and extending the hip and are very important muscles in the lower body.

Main Characteristics and Motor Action of The Hamstrings
If the hip is flexed, and the hip joint moves forward, there will be a stretching of the hamstrings, and if the knees are extended, this elongation will be even greater. The more flexed the hip becomes, the greater the force of traction of the hamstrings to flex the knee because a greater physiological arc of the action occurs to work on the knee joint.

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