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Hamstring Strengthening Exercises

By Karl Orishimo, MS, CSCS

Hamstring strains are a very common injury in many sports such as soccer, rugby and track and field resulting in significant time loss to the athlete. Recurrence rates for this injury have been reported to be as high as 30%. These injuries typically occur as the muscles contract eccentrically (i.e. the muscles are stretched as they work) such as during running or kicking a ball. In order to prevent these injuries and their recurrence, the hamstrings must be strong enough to resist the high forces experienced during these types of activities.

Our research has shown that hamstring strength can be improved using the simple, eccentrically-biased exercises listed below. These exercises use mostly body weight as resistance, require minimal equipment and can easily be performed in the gym or in the home. This program should be performed three times per week for four weeks and in circuit fashion (i.e. perform one set of each exercise on each leg and then move onto the next exercise). We recommend performing three rounds of the circuit, starting with 10 repetitions of each exercise on each leg for the first week and then increasing to 12 repetitions the second week and 15 repetitions in the third and fourth weeks.

Standing Hip Extension with Theraband:

Stand with feet together and loop the Theraband around your ankles. With hands on the hips and maintaining an upright posture in the torso, pull one leg back against the Theraband as far as possible. Slowly return to the starting position.

The Diver:

This exercise is performed as if you are diving into a pool. Stand on one leg with the knee slightly flexed. Bend forward at the waist with the back leg as straight as possible and reach forward until you feel a stretch in the back of your thigh. Slowly return to the upright starting position.

The Glider:

This exercise must be performed on a tile or hardwood floor. You will also need a towel or pillowcase and a chair or railing. Stand with an upright trunk with legs slightly split and holding on to the chair or railing. Shift your body weight to the front leg (i.e. the one without the towel under it) and slowly lower into a split by sliding the other foot back until you feel a stretch in the back of your thigh. Using only your arms, pull yourself back up to the starting position.

The Slider:

This exercise must be performed on a tile or hardwood floor. You will also need a towel or pillowcase. Lie flat on your back with your knees flexed to about 90 degrees and the towel under one foot. Using both legs, lift your hips off the ground making a straight line from your knees to you shoulders. Lift the foot without the towel off the ground and extend the knee. Slowly extend the other knee by sliding the foot forward until the hips are flat on the floor. Return to the starting position by flexing both knees to 90 degress.