Hamstrings are the most powerful leg muscle for runners as they transfer power between the knees and hips, propelling your forward momentum, and control athletic performance. Strong hamstrings are critical for any running athlete who wants to run fast.
Athletes should condition their hamstrings in movement patterns that are similar to their respective sport/s. For the purpose of this article, runners should train their hamstring muscles in the linear movement (such as in running).
Hamstring are often under-developed and weak in comparison to the quadriceps muscle. Strengthening the hamstring muscle can prevent potential injuries to the knee and muscle strains in the leg. Weak hamstrings will also limit your speed potential.
Instead of using the leg curl machine (which isolates the hamstring muscle) in the gym, runners should focus on exercises that engage the entire posterior chain (muscles in the back of the body) to teach the hamstrings, glutes and other "backside muscles" to work together. Choose exercises that involve hip extension and knee flexion; critical movements in running, and your performance will improve.
Here are five exercises runners should incorporate into their strength training program . Select 1-2 of these exercises to use per workout.
· Assume a pushup position
· Walk feet out towards your hands keeping legs straight until you feel a stretch in the hamstrings
· Walk hands forward to return to the pushup position keeping legs straight
· Perform 2-3 sets of 20 yards
2. TRX Hamstring Runners
· Lie on your back and put your heels in the TRX straps
· Bend knees to 90 degrees and lift hips off the ground
· Slowly straighten one leg at a time as if you were running (like an upside down mountain climber)
· Make sure to squeeze your glutes during the movement
· Perform 3 sets of 10-12 reps each leg
3. 1-Leg Swiss Ball Hamstring Curls
· Lie on your back with both heels on the ball and knees bent at 90 degrees
· Raise your hips off the ground keeping hands on the ground
· Lift one leg off the ball keeping it at a 90 degree angle and keep one on the ball
· Slowly pull the ball towards your butt and then slowly return to a straight leg
· Make sure to keep hips elevated during the movement
· For a greater challenge, raise your arms above your chest instead of on the ground
· Perform 3 sets of 8-10 reps each leg
4. 2-Arm, 1-Leg Dumbbell RDL
· Stand with feet shoulder width apart
· Hold one dumbbell in each hand with palms facing backwards
· Keeping the dumbbells close to your boy and your back flat, push your hips back and lower the weights to your shins (or until a stretch is felt in the hamstrings)
· Extend your hips to stand up and return to the starting position
· Make sure to keep your shoulders retracted and not let them rounds forward as you hinge at the hips
· Perform 3 sets of 6-8 reps each leg
5. Eccentric Hamstring Curls
· Kneel on the ground on both knees with a partner holding your ankles
· Keep knees, hips, and upper body in a straight line
· Slowly lean forward taking as long as possible to reach the ground
· Catch yourself with your hands and immediately push your body back to starting position
· Perform 2-3 sets of 5 reps