Toning the muscles behind your thighs is necessary for a powerful workout, and just to get around in the everyday.
Supple hamstrings are vital to your flexibility, to protect and enhance knee function and to just feel like the best you.
During fitness training, the focus is generally on gaining strong back muscles, on losing weight, on working toward a flat stomach, on building pectoral muscles...
Seldom does anyone think about toning hamstrings.
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Situated at the rear of your leg, above the knee, they are a trio of interdependent muscles: the semitendinosus, the semimembranosus and the biceps femoris, all of which facilitate hip muscle function and permit knee flexion.
Poorly conditioned hamstrings could keep you from so much as climbing a set of stairs!
If that limitation of mobility doesn't scare you now, think about your golden years: what will your senior fitness profile look like?
Do you find it difficult – even impossible to touch the floor with your legs straight? Even with just your fingertips?
Do you often get a feeling similar to ants crawling along the back of your legs and behind your knees?
Now is the time to do some strength training and muscle conditioning on your hamstrings.
Reflect first upon that great law of our nature, that exercise is the chief source of improvement in all our faculties. - Hugh Blair
To lose weight, to gain muscle mass; to tone or sculpt your body: there is a wealth of exercises and activities to trim your thighs – an integral part of them being your hamstrings.
Every move targeted especially to hamstrings should only be done after warm ups.
Our Superprof training specialists will now share their knowledge on how to tone and build up your hamstrings.
Working Your Hamstrings: Safety First (and Last)
As with all fitness classes near me, intense or not, diving in head first with no consideration for proper preparation, and without a fitness assessment, will not only lead to a poor sports performance, but could actually cause injury.
Even if you incur just a muscle strain, you could lose weeks of training time, or worse: your health and fitness coach could sideline you for months.
However, if you warm up properly, doing stretches and a vigorous cardio workout, you can avoid getting benched and needing rehab.
No matter what part of the body you are training, the instruction persists: don't neglect your warm up!
Any competitive runner will tell you: hamstrings work hard.
From crouching at the starting block to extending the leg when your foot hits the ground – and then pulling the lower leg back up for the next stride, hamstrings are constantly in play.
If you are passionate about running, your online personal trainer will instruct that workouts should target your glutes, as well.
Jogging is a good cardiovascular activity to warm up most of your body, including your thighs.
Your hamstrings need a more specialised treatment.
Warming up means: raising your body temperature to force greater blood flow to your muscles.
Exactly how do you warm your hamstrings up?
Athletes qualified in exercise physiology and kinesiology recommend:
- step one leg forward, keeping your weight on the back leg
- the leg you are standing on should be slightly bent, knee flexed
- plant the heel of the forward leg and raise your toes, as though curtseying
- lean your torso forward as far as possible, keeping your hips static.
Hold that position for five seconds, and then change legs and repeat.
It pays to be mentally prepared for your physical conditioning, especially when warming your hamstrings.
Stretching your hamstrings while stressed, tense and inflexible would be somewhat akin to jumping rope with a live wire.
We agree that such an exercise routine could be stimulating, but maybe we should reserve such electrifying physical activity for professional athletes.
Once your hamstrings feel as limber as the rest of you, treat yourself to a few heel-glute kicks – five reps for each leg should be sufficient, and...
Presto! Your legs are ready to work out!
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Work Your Hamstrings Without a Fitness Instructor
There are many ways for you to train on your own, without subscribing to a gym or fitness club – where it sometimes feels like you are losing money rather than weight every month.
Prime example of a core training fitness move: push ups – in all of their glorious variety. Practically everyone knows how to do them, and they cost nothing extra: no trainers, Sweaty Bettys or fitness professionals needed.
Personal fitness at home – or outdoors, or anywhere else: it is entirely possible to bulk up your thighs, trim your ankles and improve your cardiorespiratory system.
All you have to do is move, keep moving and move some more!
Our fitness professionals now disclose a few floor exercise programs you can do, that will put absolutely no strain on your wallet.
These moves are perfect for beginner athletes and special populations, such as the disabled or youth groups.
Remember: even functional training requires warm ups before workout.
The Pelvic Lift with Chair
For this exercise, you will lay on the floor and place your calves on the chair. Placing pressure on your heels, lift your pelvis as high as you can. Hold for a five-count, and then release.
This modification of the classic pelvic lift move, done with feet flat on the floor, puts extra emphasis on your hamstrings.
It also requires an abdominal girdle.
Of course, the classic pelvis lift would also help tone and strengthen hamstrings. You could alternate between the original and modified moves for optimal working of the target area.
Twelve reps should be sufficient, to start. If you are at intermediate level, you could comfortably do thirty of these invigorating moves.
Chairs are very handy to use as exercise equipment, aren't they?
Place one foot on the chair while adopting the classic lunge position. Nudge the foot that is on the floor a bit forward, while keeping your chest expanded and your head high.
Flex your rear knee and push your pelvis forward. Your back should remain straight.
Hold the pose for a slow count of five – when you start to feel a glow in the back of your leg, and then release.
Switch legs, and go again.
The beginner should manage three reps of ten; the more advanced fitness groups could easily pull more than five reps.
Every fitness specialist emphasises: if pain is immediate, acute and ongoing, stop what you're doing and seek out the advice of a health professional.
At no point should you accept agony as a part of your physical training.
Nationally, every personal fitness trainer is required to obtain First Aid Certification before being allowed to work through any fitness center or gymnasium, and as an in-home personal trainer.
Working with a personal trainer will not only save you from injury but also motivate you and measure your progress.
S/he might add leg curls to your personal training sessions, too.
How to do Leg Curls
Laying face-down on your exercise mat, prop your upper body on your elbows.
Be sure to keep your head in line with the rest of your spine.
On the inhale, lift your calves slowly and progressively, until you can bring them back no further.
Exhale as you bring them back to original position, equally slowly. Repeat.
The beginner athlete should crank out ten of these low impact curls. Professional athletes use a machine, with weights to work and condition their legs!
If you are taking intermediate or advance fitness courses, you may be using a similar set-up.
Working Ischios with Resistance Bands and Other Gym Equipment
If cutting a fine figure on holiday is your goal but speed walking is the only sport you participate in, you should consider adding to your fitness routine.
Not that there is anything wrong with speed walking. At least, you are raising your heart rate.
At your local physical fitness center, you will find free weights, barbells, resistance training, and an entire league of machines are all waiting for you to expand your fitness education.
You will find a fitness professional to help streamline your training techniques and help build muscle endurance, too.
This move has a rather gruesome name – especially with Nut Crack Night just around the corner.
No worries, though: nowhere in the following instructions will you be called upon to unearth a body.
What this move calls for is placing dumbbells at your toes, which should be shoulder width apart.
You can also use a barbell for this exercise, but it is not as challenging as using individual weights.
Keeping your back straight, bend at the waist and pick up the weights. Reverse the move, placing the dumbbells in their original position.
Obviously, you should not use heavier dumbbells than you can comfortably lift.
If you are only beginning your fitness program, you should select lighter ones than you normally lift, so as to not unduly strain your back.
This exercise is for athletes more advanced in their fitness profile. It would involve having a spotter, preferably one who has knowledge of the personal training business.
To execute this move flawlessly and safely, hoist a barbell with an appropriate amount of weight for your level of training and endurance onto your trapezoids.
With your feet shoulder-width apart and a gentle bend in your knee, lean forward at the waist, and then hold the position for ten seconds.
Raise up on the exhale.
Again, we urge you to caution with this move. It should only be executed by those with several months of strength training behind them.
You should never attempt lifting weights without a spotter, no matter how far along you are in your fitness career.
Resistance Training for Your Legs
Your fitness goals should naturally include the maximum attainable level of sports conditioning and endurance.
That is why we urge you to find a personal trainer who will help you design an individualized training program, work with you one on one, and keep you motivated.
If you work out in a gym, you should work with someone who has at least Level 2 personal trainer certification.
In-home personal trainers are required to have completed at least Level 3 certification.
Exercising is a serious proposition, and should always be done safely. We know, as you do, that exercising is rewarding – both for your appearance and your well-being.
It only makes sense to train safely!
Cooling Down After the Workout
After your personal training session or a group training session at the gym, we mustn't forget our cool-down exercises.
Rigid hamstrings are, among other musculoskeletal woes, a cause of back pain. Poorly worked muscles tend to cause your hips to work harder, leading to misalignment of the spinal column.
An abbreviated yoga session would go a long way toward preventing post-workout discomfort, and would virtually eliminate muscle aches the next day!
Your fitness trainer would help you get in shape while cooling down with these stretching exercises.
- Standing upright, take one step forward. Point the forward toes. Bend at the waist, and then drag your toes back in line with your other foot, using your exercise mat as resistance.
- Standing straight, prop the heel of one foot on a chair. Your other leg should remain straight, with knee slightly flexed. Bend forward at the hips without releasing tension on your propped leg.
- Sitting on your exercise mat, stretch one leg forward and curl the other one back. Reach for your outstretched foot.
- This move is known as the Hurdler Stretch.
- Lay perpendicular to the wall, with your glutes firmly against the baseboard. Stretch your legs vertically, using the wall for support. Slowly lower your feet down, over your head, keeping your toes pointed.
Discover also how to strengthen and tone your back.
Always keep in mind that, whether toning, sculpting or gaining muscle mass; whether with isometrics, kettlebells or an elliptical trainer, fitness accountability rhymes with body flexibility.
Final Words from Our Training Specialists
Muscular endurance is vital to any exercise program.
Exercise trainers have the knowledge, skills and abilities to design a personal training program tailored to you.
Your private training may include corrective exercises, especially if you suffer from regular back pain or have had setback in your personal fitness training.
At-home workouts have their benefits, but nothing beats an accredited fitness program led by a certified personal trainer.
Most Superprof trainers offer their first lesson free!
If you prefer motivation from fellow exercisers, you could participate in circuit training at a fitness studio, or work out in a small group at the gym.
Just remember: to achieve your goals, be sure to include all muscles groups into your program design, even those overlooked hamstrings.