I’m sitting on a ferry and then bus ride, still in a state of
bliss on my way back from the island of Kea to Athens . . . now fooling around with my phone flipping through photos, and I come across - oh yeah! There's my old Find My Hamstrings Project that I hoped to share with like-minded people.
Maybe you are them!
Onward to Hamstring Self-Discovery:
Here on the left is a beautiful illustration of the hamstring muscles, from Netter's Atlas of Human Anatomy. The lateral and medial hamstring groups both attach on the pelvis at the ischial tuberosities (so much more elegant than "sit bones"). They travel down over the back of the thigh and attenuate into tendons that frame the back of the knee (popliteal space!) and attach on the medial and lateral lower leg. See? Their centerline is on the posterior thigh.
See the back of the knee where the tendons of the hamstring muscles cross over to attach on either side of the lower leg? That's the "knee pit." To position our femurs in a neutral position, we line up the knee pits until they face directly backward, so when the hamstrings contract, the knee joint bends in the sagittal plane. Problem is, if our feet are lined up in neutral most of us discover that our knee pits face outward, revealing that our femurs (thigh bones) are inwardly rotated in relation to the lower legs.
In the slide show below, I explore with my fingers, tracing the perimeter of both lateral and medial groups of muscle.
- In the first 4 images my femurs are relaxed into internal rotation.
- The next 11 photos (the ones with the inner edge of feet lifted) show me attempting to keep my femurs externally rotated to a neutral position. Watch the hamstrings shift position. Neat, huh?
So, are your hamstrings on the back of your leg, or are they facing out?
Before I performed this little self-obsessed experiment, I already was completely convinced that I need to practice the position and exercise of External Femur Rotation*, but I wanted to get a better sense of just what is happening with the position of the muscles directly involved. It helps me when I get a wider focus**.
Try it out in the mirror, and you can get a very red face, too!
(Or get a friend to help, instead.)
** (Speaking of wider focus and overall picture, you may have noticed how my Achilles tendons look really weird when my knee pits are lined up. Yes, it's troubling, isn't it? That's a whole 'nother piece to work on. Hint: "Shank Rotation." The fun never ends!)