Strong Hamstrings for Running Season

Strong Hamstrings for Running Season

Best exercises to strengthen the hamstrings for the running season!

Runners need strong hamstrings for 2 reasons:

  1. Avoid injuries and to be stronger and faster athletes.
  2. Hamstring injuries are very common in runners and range from ‘muscle pull’ i.e. muscle strain to chronic overuse tendon injury known as tendinopathy.

The recurrence rate of any type of hamstring injury is high, so to be an efficient runner a good strengthening program is vital.
We’ve put together a few of our best Hamstring strengthening exercises which are based on recent evidence!
Hamstring muscle functions in both shortened and lengthened position while running. Strengthening the muscle in both directions is important to reduce chances of injury. There are two types of exercises in this program:

  1. Concentric: A concentric exercise is a strength training movement where the muscle tension rises to meet the resistance as the muscle shortens.
  2. Eccentric: An Eccentric exercise is a strength training movement where the muscle lengthens as the resistance becomes greater than the force the muscle is producing.


Level 1: Low intensity exercises

1) Bridges:
Lying on your back with knees bent, feet away from the buttocks.
Lift the bottom off the floor so your shoulder and feet make a “bridge”.
Dosage: 15 reps x 3 sets
Start with your body weight. Hands can be placed on the floor for balance but should not be used. Can progress with a weight/dumbbell on hips.

2) Lunges:
Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Step forward and bend both knees, lowering until your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle.
Shift forward onto the front leg, push off on both legs and step through, lifting your back leg and bringing it forward so your rear foot lands ahead of you in a lunge position.
Start with body weight and progress by holding dumbbell/barbell based on your level of strength.
Dosage: 15 reps x 3 sets

3) Single leg Romanian deadlift (RDL)
Stand on one leg with your knee slightly bent and hold a dumbbell in each hand.
Bend at the hips and extend your free leg behind you.
Lower your torso until you are parallel to the floor. Your foot, leg, hips, torso and head should make a straight line.
Return to the starting position and repeat with the opposite leg.
Dosage: 15 reps x 3 sets

Level 2: Moderate intensity exercises

1) Hamstring bridges
Lie flat on your back with a chair in front of you. Place your heels on the chair. Your feet should be at shoulder width apart and your knees should be around 90º. Place your hands on either side of your hips.
With your heels, extend your hips vertically. Hold the position during the required time.
Return to the starting position with a smooth movement.
Dosage: 15 reps x 3 sets

2) Single leg bridges:
Lie on your back with your arms by your sides, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor.
Straighten and raise one leg and lift your hips as high as you can. This is the same exercise as before, but with one foot on the ground. Lower your hips, repeat, and then switch legs.
Dosage: 15 reps x 3 sets

3) Leg curls:
In order to perform the leg curl with bands, lie on your stomach.
Tie the bands low to the ground because if tied too high, it will slip from your feet on when performing the exercise.
Place the bands in your feet (one band in each foot) as seen in the picture below. If you place the bands as in the image it shouldn’t slip along the movement. If you can’t access two bands you can do it with a single leg.
Move yourself to a distance where you feel some tension.
Pull with your legs as far as you can, hold the position for half a second in the final part, and release. You can hold yourself to the ground with your hands.
Dosage: 15 reps x 3 sets

Level 3: High intensity exercises:

1) Hamstring tantrums
This is a ballistic exercise. It is normal to feel some delayed onset muscle soreness between 48-72 hours but this should be manageable.
Lie on your stomach and get your partner to hold a swiss ball firmly onto your lower back.
Now start to slowly alternate your heels up to the ball and apply pressure with you.
The ball will bounce the heel back off so control it and return to the start position
Over time to progress the difficulty then increase the speed and add ankle weights. The aim it to do this close to fatigue.
Dosage: 3-5 sets of this with 3 mins rests between.
This session can be done 2-3 times per week

2) Nordic curls:
Start on your knees with a pad or cushion underneath for knee support and have a workout partner hold your lower legs or ankles in place on the floor. You can also anchor your lower legs under an immovable piece of equipment like a Smith machine with the barbell set to the lowest height. Your feet and ankles should be in line with your knees.
Place your arms by your sides and pre-tension your shoulders and hips. All repetitions should begin from this starting position.
Slowly lower yourself toward the ground while maintaining a straight line from your knees to your head. Lower as far as you can using only your upper legs, then place your hands in front of your body and use your hands to catch yourself when you can no longer lower yourself in a controlled manner using only your legs. Your body should maintain a straight line from your head to knees while lowering toward the floor.
While maintaining your alignment, squeeze your hamstrings to pull your body back to the starting position. If needed, use your hands to help initiate the upward movement. Squeeze your glutes and hamstrings to finish the movement, maintaining a straight line from your head to your knees while pulling yourself back to the starting position.
At the end of each repetition, your shoulders should finish directly over your hips.
Dosage: 2–3 sets of 5–10 repetitions.

3) Bridge and leg slides:
Lie on your back with knees bent to 90 degrees. Place slide discs under your heels. (If you do not have slide disks, a towel on a smooth surface can work).
Slowly come up into the bridge position.
Hold the bridge position and now slide the legs out to straighten the knees without
completely dropping down through the buttocks on the floor
From this position, side the heels back in by bending the knees, lift the buttocks up and come into the bridge position and then slowly return to starting position. Dosage: Repeat for 10-12 reps x 3-5 sets

Start these exercises from level 1 and slowly building yourself to level 3.
We guarantee that these exercises will give you bullet proof hamstrings! Just in time for the running season, book in and see any of our expert physios for a check in.


Ref: Tsaklis, P., Malliaropoulos, N., Mendiguchia, J., Korakakis, V., Tsapralis, K., Pyne, D., &
Malliaras, P. (2015). Muscle and intensity based hamstring exercise classification in elite.