Hamstrings, oh hamstrings…I think you’re more important than I realized

As I briefly mentioned in my previous post about my frustration co-existing with my obvious progress, I think strengthening my left hamstrings will help pull that side of my pelvis back into a more normal position.

This morning my little medial hamstrings on my left side are notably, slightly sore, and in a good way. That is so cool. It means they are activating, and can now be strengthened. Seeing as they’ve visibly atrophied (they look and feel so floppy compared to the other side), it’s super exciting to know they are turned on and I can strengthen them. What did I do yesterday to make them sore? I did three sets of 8-10 glute bridges twice total, and the PRI 90-90 exercise sitting in a chair, with the EMS unit on my medial hamstrings.

Evidence for this line of thinking:

The Postural Restoration Institute (PRI) mentions one of the first things generally done is using the hamstrings to pull the left pelvis back.

I even had a knowledgable physical therapist I highly respect tell me single leg romanian deadlifts would help calm down my painful adductors.

And looking back over this year and a half of hell, the weaker that hamstring got, the worse my pain became. At my most painful point in March 2018, if I was laying on my stomach and tried to use my hamstring to lift my foot off the ground, I could barely do it. At the time, I didn’t give it a ton of thought because, frankly, I was overwhelmed and in one of the deepest depressions of my life. Alas.

The more I used walking aids, particularly both forearm crutches, the weaker my hamstrings seemed to get. And the more my pain increased.

This interesting article from Swiss Physio has some interesting points that hit home for me:

“Throughout the stance phase the hamstrings act to stabilise the pelvic girdle and propel the body, and therefore the centre of mass, forward. The faster the walking pace the more muscular activity is needed to maintain stability…

Any weakness may result in an anterior pelvic tilt and thereby an excessive lumbar lordosis, especially if the gluteus maximus is weak as well.”

Yep, that’s me, including the anterior pelvic tilt I go into when placing weight on my left side. So it stands to reason that strengthening my hamstrings (and glutes) will help naturally correct that.

And this interesting statement is from https://fulltorquefitness.com/?p=262, and highlights the importance of the Biceps Femoris (one on of the hamstring muscles) in hip stabilization and the SI joint:

“Together these muscles [the deep longitudinal muscle slings] work as stabilizers of the hips and core. This is mainly seen as we walk, these muscles absorb energy from the ground and transfer it up the body. Where the energy being set up will dissipate before reaching the head if the core is acting properly.

The Biceps Femoris has a special value in the stabilization of the hips. As the Biceps Femoris is contracted the sacrotuberous ligament is pulled down with it. This forces closure of the Sacroiliac Joint (SI Joint).”

Now, as I take steps to strengthen my hamstring, I notice I’m in less pain and feel sturdier on my feet. I’m mentally kicking myself a bit. I really, really wish I hadn’t let the muscle wither away to this point. Oh well…

Interesting observation: after doing two sets of 3 glute bridges last night, I was to the point of exhaustion. When I got up off the floor, I could literally, barely walk. In that moment, it provided me the opportunity to momentarily observe my gait when my glute and hamstring muscles were exhausted. In a way, it was really interesting, because it provided immediate evidence that my hamstrings and glutes are very, very important. It allowed me to hypothesize that therefore strengthening these same muscles should allow me to walk better. That’s encouraging.

It’s a gateway to accessing other areas of dysfunction

Of course I understand that activating and strengthening my hamstrings won’t fix everything, because my situation is complex. However, I strongly feel it is very, very, important because it will (1) directly influence how I walk and reduce my pain levels and (2) allow me access to other areas of my body that need straightening out and progress to more complex exercises that straighten me out as a whole, especially as the left side of my pelvis moves back into a more normal position. It’ll be neat when I can stand on one leg, hip hinge better, do single leg Romanian Deadlifts, single leg glute bridges, squats, and even walking with a more normal gait. These complex movement address other muscles in my body that need balancing.

Training thoughts moving forward 

  • I think I’ll try switching focus to fast twitch fibers for a bit with my EMS unit.  Apparently, hamstrings are primarily composed of fast twitch fibers. I didn’t realize that. Doggonit.
  • Eccentric training where I can.
  • Try different foot positions to target different hamstring muscles (neutral, outward, or inward)
  • Try dorsiflexing and plantar flexing to target different hamstring muscles.
  • Eat more protein.

 

*Did some research from Strength Sensei)

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