Time to read: 2 mins
Training the Hamstrings
For some reason the hamstrings are a commonly neglected muscle group which no one seems to enjoy training! Yet strengthening the hamstrings is one of the most important muscle groups to consider in terms of injury prevention and improving running speed and economy.
The primary role of the hamstring is to flex the knee and also to extend the hip; two actions which are crucial for running. Additionally the hamstrings work eccentrically to play an important role in knee stability and deceleration, preventing excess anterior translation of the knee.
Based on all these facts, here are 3 key exercises that you should be including to maximise that hammy development!
1. Romanian Deadlift (RDL)
The RDL loads the hamstrings eccentrically - starting in the upright position with the bar close to the legs, hinge at the hips, driving the hips backwards and loading into the hamstrings. Your bodyweight should move towards the heels as the posterior chain is loaded.
During this exercise, the back position should remain in neutral, maintaining a natural lordotic curve with the shoulders pulled back maintaining a chest out posture. Move the bar down the legs as far as you can whilst maintaining a neutral spine.
Once maximum depth is reached, forcefully extend the hips to bring your body position back to upright.
Use a partner to hold your ankles down, whilst you start in a kneeling position. You might want to place a foam roller under the ankles for comfort during the exercise.
Keeping your hips extended and body braced, lean your body forward, taking your body weight into the hammy’s as you move towards to floor. Initially just the decent may be enough overload, but if you can manage to reverse the movement and come back up, give yourself a pat on the back!
A push off the floor may be needed to generate some momentum to achieve the concentric action on the way back up.
3. Hamstring Sliders
Starting on your back, place your heels on the sliders. Raise the hips off the floor and pull the heels in towards the glutes.
Once heels are brought in as far as they can, keeping the hips up, slide legs back out to return to the starting position. This exercise can be done either double leg or single leg if you want a harder challenge.
Given the importance of the hamstrings working eccentrically, during all the above exercises use a 3 seconds decent to overload the eccentric function, with a 1 or 2 second concentric phase.
Depending on your current levels of fitness, start with 2-3 sets of 5-8 reps and build from there.
These types of hamstring exercises often cause subsequent DOMS so don’t be put off after your first attempt! Keep things light to begin and build gradually.