How to Strengthen Your Hamstrings

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Many years ago I injured my hamstrings running because my quads were stronger than my hamstrings. Can you suggest some exercises to (gently) strengthen my hamstrings?

An Answer from Sarah Brown Who Is A Fitness Expert

Hamstring injuries can be very painful and debilitating. The best way to prevent a re-occurrence of any injury to rest, stretch and strengthen.

Your hamstrings consist of three muscles: biceps femoris, semitendinosis and semimembranosis (no wonder we just called them hamstrings). The muscles originate at the base of your pelvis, and insert into your upper tibia and fibula (shin bones). The hamstrings’ main function is hip extension and knee bending. The hamstrings are what we call fast twitch muscle fibers, which contract quickly and are capable of producing a great deal of force, but fatigue quickly.

Before beginning any exercise program it is important to check with your health care provider to ensure that you are indeed ready.

Sarah’s Hamstring Sextuplet

Warm up for 10 full minutes walking, or using any cardio machine. You want your muscles to be very warm.

1. Standing Leg curl:

– Place your hand on the wall (for balance)
– Slowly bend your knee, bringing your heel towards your buttock
– Slowly return your foot to the floor
– Perform 8-10 repetitions per leg, 2-3 times
– Progression option: ankle weight, increase repetitions, increase sets

2. Forward Fold:

– Stand with your feet hip width apart, knees slightly bent to 45 degrees
– Fold forward from your hips, let your head hang down and hold onto opposite elbows
– Begin to slowly straighten your knees as much as you are able
– Hold for 1-2 minutes

3. Lying Down (Prone) Leg curl:

– Lying down on your stomach, arms bent over head at 90 degrees (like goal posts)
– Slowly bend your knee, bringing your heel towards your buttocks
– Slow return your foot to the floor
– Perform 8-10 repetition 2-3 times, option to do one leg at a time
– Progression option: ankle weights; increase repetitions, increase sets

4. Wide Forward Fold:

– Stand with your feet three feet apart, knees bent to 45 degrees, toes forward
– Fold forward from your hips, bringing your hands down onto the floor underneath your shoulders
– Begin to slowly straighten your knees as much as you are able and hold for 1-2 minutes

5. Bridge Pose:

– Lie down on your back (supine). Bend your knees so your feet are on the floor, hip width apart and you can just touch your heels with your fingers
– Press the upper arms and feet down, curl your tail bone down and scoop your hips off the floor
– Hold for 30-60 seconds, slowly lower down vertebrae by vertebrae
– Repeat 2-3 times
– Progression: extend one leg straight up , increase your hold

6. Supine Hamstring Stretch:

– Lie down on your back, knees bent, feet on floor
– Take hold of your right leg with your hands (whichever part of the leg you can reach – hamstring or calf)
– Inhale and draw your leg towards your chest, keep your buttocks on the ground
– Hold for 1-2 minutes, repeat left

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