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What Is the Purpose & Function of the Hamstring?

author image Aubrey Bailey
Aubrey Bailey has been writing health-related articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in ADVANCE for Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine. She holds a Bachelor of Science in physical therapy and Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University at Buffalo, as well as a post-professional Doctor of Physical Therapy from Utica College. Dr. Bailey is also a certified hand therapist.
What Is the Purpose & Function of the Hamstring?
What Is the Purpose & Function of the Hamstring? Photo Credit lzf/iStock/Getty Images

Your hamstrings include 3 large muscles that run along the back of your thighs. They extend from your pelvis to the top of the bones of your lower leg. The hamstring muscles -- including the biceps femoris, semimembranosus and semitendinosus -- play an important role in activities such as walking, running and jumping. The hamstrings function to bend your knees and move your hips backward.

Knee Function

The main function of your hamstrings is to bend your knees. This movement is performed during daily activities such as walking, running, climbing stairs and jumping. Your hamstrings also help rotate your lower leg. Two hamstrings attached to the inside of your knee rotate your lower leg inward. The third hamstring, attached to the outer border of your knee, rotates your lower leg outward. These movements fine-tune the position of your lower legs as you walk. Your hamstrings also function like brakes on a car to slow the speed at which you swing your leg forward while kicking or running.

Hip Function

Your hamstrings perform hip extension -- backward movement of your thigh. Although the gluteal muscles in your buttocks are the main muscles that perform hip extension, your hamstrings assist with this motion as you move from sitting to standing, as well as with squatting and jumping. Hip extension performed by your hamstrings also helps propel your body forward as you run.

Reviewed by: Tina M. St. John, M.D.

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