Overland Park CrossFit Presents: Your Forgotten Muscles: Hamstrings and Spinal Erectors
All your life you’ve neglected them. Bicycling, skiing, running, sitting, jumping — you’ve ignored them. That little twinge in your knee? That tightness running along the outside of your leg toward your hip? A low back that goes out on your every now and again for no reason? That just might be them telling you that you shouldn’t have ignored them for so long. We’re talking about your forgotten muscles: the hamstrings and spinal erectors.
The hamstrings refers to the three muscles on the back (posterior) of your thigh. Their main function is to both flex the knee and extend the hip. Spinal erectors are a major lower back muscle group whose main function is to work with other posterior muscle groups to help extend the trunk. Many, if not most, people lack sufficient hamstring and spinal erector strength and are often quad and ab dominant. This sets people up for muscle imbalance and potential injury.
Let’s first talk about spinal erectors. “Core strengthening” gets a lot of love. But what does that really mean? Most people work on their abs — hey, we all want them, right? — while neglecting the posterior muscles in the lumbo-pelvic hip complex, particularly the spinal erectors. While this may earn you points at the beach, you’re created imbalanced musculature which will not only affect performance but also make you more susceptible to injuries.
When we talk about hamstrings, we need to really talk about the knee. When your knee joint is functioning properly, the hamstrings contract and prevent forward sliding of the femur (thigh bone). When hamstrings are weak, the femur slides forward and puts a shearing force on the knee cartilage. The knee is meant to handle compressive force (pushing down), but not shearing. Over time, this has the potential to wear down the cartilage and make it more susceptible to tears.
At Overland Park CrossFit, we believe training should be about improving your quality of life. That means being able to be active outside of the gym. Of course, being balanced will help you inside the gym with all your WODs and numbers, but if you like to ski, hike, run, climb, throw, shoot hoops, or just play with your kids in the park, you need to strengthen your weak parts.
To do this, we take a two-part approach. We want absolute strength in our muscles by lifting heavy things with proper form, but we also want to train for muscular endurance. This is the same reason we do our shoulder stability work. Muscular endurance allows us to maintain proper position (posture!) in everyday activities.
Peoples’ backs go out all the time, often for what seems like no reason, but under-active spinal erectors may just be a major culprit. It’s not necessarily about “doing something” to set your back pain off, it’s EVERYTHING you’re doing. Sitting in a poor position all day, lifting those grocery bags improperly, even things you can’t control like being crammed on an airplane. Having spinal erectors with sufficient muscular endurance will help you fight against the poor positions you may be in and allow you to maintain the good ones!
So now go hit your knee stability circuit and do some good mornings. Let’s get strong to stay healthy!