You’ve been running. You know your legs are getting stronger. You may have even learned names of leg muscles you didn’t know before. The fronts of your thighs (quadriceps), backs of your thighs (hamstrings), and bottom backs of your legs (calves), all contribute to your running success. Optimally, your quads and hamstrings will both be equally strong, but this isn’t actually what running emphasizes. Your quads usually bear more of the load. To shrink the gap in their strength differences, you may need to perform hamstring strength training.
Studies have shown that high performing runners may actually be weaker than recreational runners. Despite this fact, those who are highly trained use less oxygen at a given pace because their muscle strength in their quads and hamstrings are more balanced. So even though recreational runners may be stronger, the fact that their quads are dominant over their hamstrings actually makes them have to work harder to run at a given pace than highly trained runners.
Here’s an exercise you can perform to strengthen your hamstrings:
Ball hamstring curl
- Lie on your back and place your heels on a stability/exercise ball with your arms pressing firmly into the floor by your sides.
- Lift your hips off the floor so that your body is in one straight diagonal line from your heels to your shoulders.
- Bend the knees in to bring the ball in toward your bottom.
- Return to start.
- You can do 3 sets of 8-10 repetitions. Rest in between each set.
- To make this move more difficult, try to keep your hips high and extended versus letting them flex as you bring the ball in closer to you.
Perform this exercise as part of your cross training routine and perform quadriceps stretches to help equalize the imbalance between these muscles. Running will get easier as your muscles become more equally strong and you’ll be better prepared to avoid injury like a torn hamstring. Keep this move in your repertoire to be faster, stronger and healthier!
Sarah Scholl, “Owner’s Manual: Strong Hamstrings,” Runner’s World, accessed November 2016. http://www.runnersworld.com/injury-treatment/owners-manual-strong-hamstrings
The Runner’s World Editors, “Winter Weekly Workout – Week 5,” Runner’s World, accessed November 2016. http://www.runnersworld.com/training-video/winter-weekly-workout-week-5
1,2,3 Amby Burfoot, “Study: Strengthen Hamstrings To Improve Your Running Economy,” Runner’s World, accessed November 2016. http://www.runnersworld.com/newswire/study-strengthen-hamstrings-to-improve-your-running-economy
“Stability Ball Hamstring Curl,” ACE, accessed November 2016. https://www.acefitness.org/exercise-library-details/4/59/
Richelle Wescott, NASM CPT, M.S. Exercise Science and Health Promotion, Balanced Body Comprehensive Pilates Instructor, accessed January 2018 at https://www.linkedin.com/in/richellewescott/