The hamstrings are tendons (strong bands of tissue) at the back of the thighs that attach the large thigh muscle to the bone. The term “hamstring” also refers to the group of three muscles that run along the back of your thigh, from your hip to just below your knee.
The hamstring muscles aren’t used much while standing or walking, but they’re very active during activities that involve bending the knee, such as running, jumping and climbing.
A hamstring injury is a strain or tear to the tendons or large muscles at the back of the thigh. It’s a common injury in athletes. The recovery time depends on how severe the injury is. A strain may take a few days to heal, whereas it could take weeks or months to recover from a muscle tear.
Causes may be weak or tight hamstrings; muscle imbalance between hamstrings and quads; weak glutes; not warming up properly or increasing the intensity of your run too soon.
Regularly stretching and strengthening; warming up before exercise and stretching afterwards, may help reduce the risk of injuring your hamstrings.
In Pilates, we work to achieve an optimum balance of flexibility and strength within muscle groups and between agonist and antagonist (opposing) muscles such as quads (which straighten your legs) and hamstrings (which bend your legs).
However, note that different sports have different needs. If you are a dancer, you will need long hamstrings, but if you are a runner, long hamstrings may cause you to overwork your glutes.
So, although it might be a great ‘party rick’ it is not always appropriate for all of us to have an ambition to get our hands flat to the floor with our legs straight.