Strengthen hard-to-reach muscles with these highly-effective thigh toners
Your hamstrings, a trio of muscles along the back of the thighs, help you bend and straighten your knees and extend your legs from the hips. Weak hammies make it tougher to run and kick, and contribute to lower-back and knee pain. To stretch and strengthen these under-appreciated movers, try these five fave moves.
1. Hamstring March
Body Part: Core, Butt
Equipment: Bosu Ball (optional)
a) Lie faceup with head and shoulders on a Bosu (or on the ground), arms extended at sides, and knees bent. Raise hips so body is aligned from shoulders to knees. Lift right leg so knee is directly over hip.
b) Extend leg in front of you so thighs are parellel.
c) Return to the starting position and repeat with left leg to complete 1 rep.
2. Hamstring Curl with Towel
Body Part: Butt, Legs
a) Lie faceup on a smooth floor and place feet on a towel, knees bent 90 degrees. Rest arms on the floor out to the sides. Lift hips and toes.
b) Keeping hips off the floor the entire time and abs tight, straighten legs as far as you can, then bring them back in to the starting position; repeat.
3. Dead Lift
Body Part: Butt, Hamstrings
Equipment: 8- 15-pound dumbbells
a) Stand holding dumbbells, arms hanging in front of thighs, palms facing in, feet hip-width apart and knees slightly bent. Squeeze shoulder blades down and together and contract abs, bringing spine to a neutral position.
b) Keeping knees slightly bent, with back and arms straight, flex forward at hips until you feel a slight tension in your hamstrings. Contract your butt and hamstrings, straighten to an erect position and repeat.
RELATED: Stretch complimentary muscles, such as your hip flexors, to prevent injury and hamstring strain. Get started with this pain-relieving hip-flexor stetch.
4. Plank Dumbbell Hamstring Curl
Body Part: Back, Shoulders, Butt, Abs, Hamstrings, Legs
Equipment: 5- 10-pound dumbbells
a) Kneel with palms on ground, arms straight, wrists in line with shoulders. Hold a dumbbell behind right knee by squeezing calf against it. Straighten left leg behind you, balancing on the ball of left foot, and contract abs so body forms a straight line from head to left heel.
b) Maintaining this position, lift right knee up to hip height. Lower and lift knee for all reps; switch legs.
5. Seated Hamstring Stretch
Body Part: Back, Hamstrings
Equipment: Balance Ball, Resistance Band
a) Sit on ball with hands on thighs, knees bent and aligned with ankles, then straighten one leg, toes up, heel on floor.
b) Inhale as you push ball back wutt buttocks and lengthen spine, then exhance as you hinge forward from hips toward extended leg until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings.
c) Hold for at least 30 seconds, then bring torso up and repeat with opposite leg.