How to strengthen your hamstring for running and why?

Where are our hamstrings?

What is most commonly called “the back of our thighs” is where our hamstrings are. They are 3 really strong muscles that help us be able to walk and run.

What do they do?

Their main action is to extend the leg behind our hip and bend the knee. However, in running they are extremely important for absorbing the energy we create and controlling our limbs just before we plant our foot back down on the ground. 

The muscle that gets left behind.. literally!

Usually the hamstrings get ignored and the front part of your thigh “the quads” start to overpower. This can lead to an imbalance, changing biomechanics of your running resulting in higher risks of injury. We have a lot of muscles in our lower limbs for a reason, these muscles have to work together to propel us forward especially in running. If one of these muscles overpowers the other, the weaker muscle has a hard time catching up. And for example our running no longer becomes a smooth pattern but disorganized. This is when injuries occur.

How loud are you when you run?

For example if the hamstring is supposed to slow down the leg before it touches the ground, but if it can’t then that can result in the person hitting the ground too hard with their foot. This will increase the force going into the ground (because it was not absorbed by the hamstring) and then that force comes back at you more than double as much. The faster we go the more energy our hamstring needs to absorb to slow down our foot before it finally reaches the ground. 

Other injuries due to weak hamstrings

Another biomechanical issue we see is overstriding. This is when the hamstring gets overpowered and the knee does not bend fast enough before being placed on the ground. This is where injuries such as shin splints and stress fractures can occur.

So are you actually training your hamstrings enough? If not here are some exercises to try:

  1. Good Mornings
  2. Romanian Deadlift

-Progression: Single Leg Romanian Deadlift

  1. Double Leg Hamstring Bridges or 

-Progression: Single Leg Hamstring Bridges

Written by Physiotherapist, Paulina Backiel

 Schache AG1, Dorn TW, Williams GP, Brown NA, Pandy MG.Lower-limb muscular strategies for increasing running speed.J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2014 Oct;44(10):813-24. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2014.5433. Epub 2014 Aug 7.

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