Navy Culinary Specialist 1st Class Adrian Escudero demonstrates hamstring exercises. (James J. Lee / Staff)
We put a lot of work into our legs, hosts to the big-power muscles involved in almost everything we do. Quads, calves, abductors and adductors — women love the leg-squeeze machine — all get their fair share of attention.
But often left out in the cold are the hamstrings, important both in extending the hip (especially the final few inches of standing up straight out of a crouch or squat) and flexing the knee during normal walking or running. And tight hamstrings can contribute to lower back pain.
With the exception of the machine leg curls, the following exercises can be done at home or at any gym. Do the curls and physio ball exercise until you're fatigued.
• Sit on a stool — make sure the wheels roll — and grasp the sides. Sit up straight with shoulders, back and core engaged.
• Propel the stool forward by alternately stepping with your heels, toes of the forward foot pointed up, with only your heel in contact with the floor. Keep the strides long and your feet on a straight line. Go for one minute. You'll feel the burn starting around 30 seconds. Progress by increasing the time; and then by doing multiple sets with equal periods of rest time and work time.
Machine leg curls
You can perform this exercise in the standing, sitting or lying position. Your gym will have a machine that allows one or more of these positions.
• Once you're in the proper position on the machine, ensure that the roller pad is at the top part of the ankle.
• Curl your legs so that the upper and lower part of the legs form an L. Hold for a two-count and then slowly release back to the start.
Hip extension and knee flexion on a physio ball
This builds on the bridge movement discussed in past columns.
• Lie on your back with your heels on the ball and arms stretched out to the side.
• Squeeze your glutes, tighten your core and raise your hips off the floor until your hips, knees and ankles are in a line.
• Roll the ball toward you with your heels while continuing to raise your hips. At the finish, your body should form a straight line from chest to knees.
• Return to the start.
Partner-assist hamstring curls
• Lie on your stomach on a bench or on the floor, with legs straight and a partner grasping the backs of your ankles.
• Curl your legs until the upper and lower legs form an L. Your partner should provide resistance as you curl up, and you should provide resistance as your partner pulls your legs back to start.