If you are a runner then you must care for your body properly, ensuring it can handle the training sessions you put it through.
Having a selection of exercises that you can do to strengthen your muscles can help prevent injuries while also building up the muscle’s training endurance, meaning you can start training harder than ever before.
In this piece, we look at the hamstring muscles and offer the three best hamstring exercises that every runner should be doing a few times a week.
The Importance Of Hamstrings In Running
The hamstring is a muscle system made up of three separate muscles at the back of the thigh.
These muscles work together to provide control while also producing the force required when running.
When running the legs follow the same pattern one after the other.
When one foot hits the ground the other is lifted and the hamstring plays an important role in this movement.
As the foot hits the ground the hamstring lengthens, when the foot kicks back and is lifted the hamstring contracts.
The hamstring has power over this movement as it slows down the knee so that there is control over the movement of the leg while running.
During a 30-minute job this movement is repeated thousands of times and if the hamstring is injured a runner’s ability to move will be affected.
3 Best Hamstring Exercises For Runners
The below exercises train the hamstrings through movements that cause the hamstring to stretch and contract, as they do when running.
Exercise 1: Nordic Hamstring Curls
- Plank of wood
- Resistance band
- Take your plank of wood and loop the resistance band along the bottom of the plank
- Place the pillows where your knees will be on the plank
- Kneel onto the pillow and loop your ankles through the resistance band
- Slowly lean forwards, controlling your body using your hamstrings, then reaching out your hands when you can’t hold yourself anymore and pushing yourself back up into the starting position
You may only get a few inches at the start but over time you will notice that you can go further and further when leaning without needing your arms to catch you.
This exercise is a fantastic way to prevent hamstring injuries.
It strengthens the muscle as it stretches, and there are not many exercises that do this.
Exercise 2: Single Leg RDLs
- One weighted dumbbell (weight of your choice)
- Stand with your feet a hip-width apart. Take the dumbbell in your left hand
- Slowly, lean forward, kicking your left leg backward with a bent knee. The dumbbell should be getting closer to the ground as you lean
- Return to the starting position
- Repeat for 30 seconds before alternating to the right-hand side
Both the hip muscles and hamstrings are worked during this exercise.
It helps to strengthen the hamstring as it shortens, which is a key part of a runner’s stride.
Exercise 3: Eccentric Bridges
- A slick floor
- Wear socks, no shoes
- Start lying on the ground and place your hands on your chest and toes pointing up towards the ceiling
- Keeping your toes up towards the ceiling, placing your weight on your heels, begin to pull your legs in by raising your knees, once your knees are fully bent lift your hips into a bridge position
- Hold the bridge position before slowly gliding your legs back out on your heels until your entire body is flat on the ground again, with your toes still pointing towards the ceiling
- Repeat as necessary
This is a great way of cooling down after a run as well as strengthening the muscles. This exercise works the hamstring while it stretches.
Start this exercise slowly and over time build up the speed, which will require more force from the hamstrings.
It is not possible to do this exercise on a carpeted floor, to achieve the gliding motion on the heels you will need to be on a slick wood, tiled, or another smooth surface.
Why Strong Hamstrings Are important?
There are many reasons why having strong hamstrings is important for runners but the main two reasons are:
- To avoid injury: hamstrings are constantly contracting and stretching when running and so if your muscles are not strong enough it is likely you will injure yourself. The above exercises can help to reduce the likelihood of hamstring injuries and strains.
- To become healthier: as athletes, overall health is very important and so working to strengthen not just your hamstrings but all of your body is hugely important. The running stride itself is very complicated and so having the strength in your muscles to support this movement, while also enabling you to have more resilience when training.
We hope that this piece has been beneficial to you and that you now have the necessary knowledge to build your hamstring strength and help prevent injuries.
It is important to note that all muscles in the legs should be strengthened for running, not solely the hamstring.