Hamstring Exercises for Runners

One common muscular imbalance I notice in runners on almost a daily basis is the comparative weakness of their Hamstring muscles in comparison to their the muscles of their Quadriceps.

Below is a collection of Hamstring focused exercises I frequently share with the athletes I work with, in order to help address this imbalance, by strengthening the hamstrings for running.

Swiss Ball Hamstring Curls

A challenge for both core control and hamstring strength, this exercise works the hamstring muscles through from their inner range to outer range positions, at the knee joint in particular.

Maintain a tight engagement of your abdominals while breathing in a relaxed manner as you perform this exercise. Aim for 3 sets of 15-20 reps – slow and controlled.

Swiss Ball Reverse Bridges

The three variations of this exercise provide a hip focused workout for the hamstring muscles, with the knee held locked in a pre-determined range of motion:

Inner Range

Knees held at ~450 Flexion. Try 3 sets of 15 reps

Outer Range

Knees held at ~1500 Flexion. Try 3 sets of 15 reps

Mid Range

Knees held at ~900 Flexion. Try 3 sets of 15 reps

As you raise your hips upwards doing this exercise, keep your core muscles tight, and squeeze your glutes. Maintain a relaxed breathing pattern.

Standing Superman

Combining both a challenge for single leg stability (a vital trait for runners) and eccentric control for the hamstring muscles, this exercise provides more of a functional or running specific workout. Primarily because we as runners need to develop strength and stability not only in floor-based exercises, but exercises which more closely mirror the challenges the body faces when running. The ability to remain stable and controle while on one leg is fundamental to a runner.

Reach forwards with the hands, as you reach backward with the rear leg. You should be aiming to create a table-top like posture. Try 3 sets of 15 reps on each leg, slowly.

Straight Leg Dead Lift

With this exercise we add some light-to-moderate resistance to this hamstring exercise, using dumbbells. The key with this exercise is not to go too heavy with the weight, and to focus on form.

From a standing start, keep the knees slightly ever so slightly flexed, holding the dumbbells straight armed, by the front of your legs. As per the video above – slowly run the dumbbells down your legs, bending only at the hip. Maintain a ‘flat back’ throughout the exercise, and focus on the cues of ‘sticking your butt out’ and ‘maintaining a big chest’.

The main focus of this exercise is the slow and controlled eccentric (lowering) phase. Try 3 sets of 15-20 reps, slowly.

Reverse Medicine Ball Lunge

Most of our exercises so far have exercises the hamstrings either predominantly a the hip or the knee. This lunging exercise however combines loading through range into hip and knee flexion or the front leg. The medicine ball adds resistance to the exercise – being held infront of the  front knee as you drop down into the lunge will add to the focus of the exercise on the glutes and hamstrings. Try 3 sets of 15 reps on each leg, slowly.

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