We all know that the hamstrings are super important when it comes to endurance sports and no-one knows this more than the running community. We hear all the time of people complaining of hamstring issues, injuries, pulls, tightness. However there are three simple moves that you can do to help improve the strength, conditioning and flexibility of these muscles.

1. Lunges

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The lunge is one of the most under utilized exercises but runners and athletes of many creeds and categories. Not only is it highly functional, mimicking the movement of an exaggerated stride, but it also hits the entire musculature of the legs, from core to quads, hamstrings, calves and glutes. This simple move can be performed both body weight, or weighted, using barbell, dumbbells, weighted vest or kettlebells.

How can I include them in my programme?

  • Simple sets – perform sets of 10-20 reps each leg with body weight or weighted reps. Rest for 45 seconds to a minute and then go again for a total of 3-4 sets.
  • Walking Lunges – performed with a single distance or total rep count in mind, focusing more on endurance and mentality, grab your weights or set up with just your body and start lunge walking until you reach the final destination. Focus especially here of good solid strides, balance and control with each rep, especially as you tire.
  • Reverse lunges – similar to the original simple set idea of doing 10-20 reps each leg but this time you are stepping backwards into a lunge. This challenges your balance more as well as taxing your hamstring more with each rep than the forwards stepping lunges would.

2. Hip Bridges

Hip Bridge: Push or Pull? | FitnessMash

This is an exercise that requires a mat and enough space to lie down. Sit onto your mat and assume a crunch or sit up position, feet flat on the mat and back flat also. Place your hands palms facing don on the mat by your sides, squeeze your glutes and brace your hamstrings as you drive your hips up from the mat and hold that strong position. This move focuses more on hamstring control and stability than the previous one but it is extremely useful for improving the endurance of the muscles and reducing injury risk.

How can I include them in my programme?

There are two styles I like to use;

  • The first represents a plank style move where we focus more on one single held rep. This isometric contraction method develops endurance and strength over the single rep. Hold for 30-60 seconds and then rest 60 seconds and repeat for 2-3 holds. Make this rep body weight.
  • Multiple reps – I still use a small hold here as well but you are pausing for 3 seconds at the top rather than 30 seconds or more. I tend to perform this for 10-20 reps and it can be sued as a body weight or weighted move, placing a kettle bell or barbell on your hips as you drive up into position.

3. Single Leg Dead Lifts

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Focusing on total control and flexibility here this move is excellent for developing equal strength across both legs. Unlike the previous two where both legs can work simultaneously in some form, here there is no hiding place, Your legs work alone and any weakness or lack in stamina will be revealed and thus you can balance and improve the strength and endurance of the muscles evenly. With a real focus on maintaining a strong core and a straight back, hold the weight in one hand, raise the opposite foot of the ground and extend it behind you, and hinge at the hips reaching down for your toes, like a hamstring stretch, then drive your hips forwards and contract your glutes pulling your torso back to a vertical position.

How can I include them in my programme?

Single sets are the way to go here but you can do it either weighted or body weight. Normally performing sets of 10 each leg and resting for 45-60 seconds between the 3-4 sets.

If you have any lower back weakness I recommend performing this with light weights or body weight and focusing on increasing the reps rather than loading the body with a heavy weight and tilting forwards. Slowly add the reps and build up the strength in the core as well.

Even if you have no weaknesses just start light, it is about the control, stretch and contraction not the weight.

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