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3 Hamstring Exercises for Runners: Build Strength & Stop the Strains!

Updated: Sep 27, 2023

I was flying around the last turn of the 400m and just about to enter the straight away...

and I felt it.


I panicked.

Let off the gas because I felt a "hitch" in my hamstring,

...but finished the last 100m.


My cross country coach happened to be at the track meet.

She came over later and asked, "what happened? Your form got weird at the end."


I didn't know it at the time, but I'd just avoided a major injury.

While whatever this minor "hamstring hitch" was, it WASN'T a hamstring strain.

If you've ever had one or known someone with one....
they are stubborn sons of guns.

But there's more to strengthening hamstrings than *just* avoiding or preventing a strain.


Strong hamstrings for running mean:

  • improved running economy

  • faster paces

  • fewer injuries

  • ability to produce more power...

Are to you sold yet? ;)


Let's dive into the Best 3 Hamstring Exercises for runners... that aren't just nordic hamstring curls.


3 HAMSTRING EXERCISES for RUNNERS:

Circuit:

3 sets each // Medium-Heavy weights


Backwards Bear Crawl

  • 5yrds x2

Single Leg Bridge with Foot Elevated on Edge of Step Holding Weight Overhead in Both Hands

  • x12 each leg, heavy weight

Halos in an Elongated Runner's Stance Foot on Edge of Step

  • 6 reps clock wise; 6 reps counter clock; R and L leg // medium weight


HOW STRONGER HAMSTRINGS MEAN FEWER INJURIES

Backwards Bear Crawl

  • THE SECRET: While bear crawls alone won't strengthen your hamstrings to bullet-proof levels, this exercise begins as an isometric (think: simple muscle contraction) and moves into requiring the hamstring to stay contracted and strong while lengthening, exactly what happens with each and every stride you take.

  • bear crawls are also an excellent core exericse and at the same time, develops your upper body push strength (you're literally pushing the ground way to keep from face planting.) All of this is crucial for maintaining excellent running form and posture during faster paces

Single Leg Bridge with Foot Elevated on Edge of Step Holding Weight Overhead in Both Hands

  • long title for a not-long-exercise. sorry guys lol.

  • THE MAGIC: we're taking a simple, single leg bridge and elevating it. Single leg bridges are a fantastic foundational exercise, meaning they already look like running. The fun starts when we add to that foundation.

  • While this might not look spicy to your hamstrings, believe me, it is. This bridge loads your upper body, continuing to work that push strength along side your core. Your lower body still has to move the extra weight that's in each hand and we bias your hamstring engagement by elevating your foot while at the same time working on single leg balance and stability. You can easily increase or decrease the difficulty level of this exericise by increasing or decreasing the weight you're holding on to.

Halos in an Elongated Runner's Stance Foot on Edge of Step

  • I know, you all are probably sick halos by now. But I love them, so we're doing them haha

  • DON'T FORGET: you only get the full effect of this exercise if 90% of your body weight is on the front leg, with 10% in the back. By doing this, you ask your quads and hamstrings to work TOGETHER (a very important concept and ratio in recent research).

  • It's pretty easy to see how this one looks like running, right? THE KEY here: the halos. As you move the weight around your head in both directions, you're changing your center of mass, where the most weight within/around your body. Your hamstrings (and really the entire elevated leg) has to respond INSTANTLY to those changes (or perturbations). By training your hamstring in this way, you're preparing it to adapt to whatever your run throw your way.

WRAPPING UP

You know what the best part is with these exercises?

They're *literally* made for YOU.

You can do them at home.

In the gym.

They work if you're traveling and on the road.


Strength training like a runner doesn't have to complicated.

It needs to be precise.
Accessible.
And fine-tuned to your exact needs as a runner to get you the results you're training for: your best race or longest run yet.


And you're worth it.


If you plan on giving these a try or adding them into your rotation, I'd love if you let me know! Leave a comment below or message me on instagram so I can cheer for you. :)


And if you loved these exercises that:

  • look like running

  • work on building the exact specific strength you need as a runner

  • AND that they're included in a circuit that doesn't take ton of time...

You'll be excited to hear that I'm building a 16 week strength program for busy runners who are looking to run they're next half and/or full marathon stronger, better, and more confidently, knowing that injury is in the review mirror. It's also designed for the intermediate to advanced runner whose on a mission to rebuild so they can run better than ever.


If you want to be the first to know, make sure you're getting weekly run-mail by grabbing my FREE strength guide for runners HERE!


I can't wait for you to try it out!


Until next time, running fit fam...


Dare to Train Differently,

Marie Whitt, PT, DPT //@dr.whitt.fit



 

REFERENCES


Correlation of Eccentric Strength, Reactive Strength, and Leg Stiffness With Running Economy in Well-Trained Distance Runners

DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000003446


Relationship Between Functional Hamstring Quadriceps Ratios and Running Economy in highly Trained and Recreational Female Runners

DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000376

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