Why should I strengthen my hamstrings for running?
Where are our hamstrings located?
The muscles that are most commonly called “the back of our thighs” are actually our hamstrings. They are 3 really strong muscles that help us walk, run, and move with ease throughout the day.
What do they do?
Their main action is to extend the leg behind our hip and bend the knee. However, in running, they are extremely important for absorbing the energy we create and controlling our limbs just before we plant our foot back down on the ground.
The muscle that gets left behind.. literally!
Usually when running, the front part of your thighs, your quads, start to overpower your hamstrings. This can lead to an imbalance which could potentially change the biomechanics of your running, resulting in a higher risk of injury. We have a lot of muscles in our lower limbs for a reason, these muscles have to work together to propel us forward, especially in running. If one of these muscles overpowers the other, the weaker muscle has a hard time catching up. When this happens, our running no longer becomes a smooth pattern but disorganized. This is when injuries occur.
How loud are you when you run?
When the hamstring is supposed to slow down the leg before it touches the ground but it can’t, that results in the runner hitting the ground too hard with their foot. This will increase the force going into the ground (because it was not absorbed by the hamstring) and then that force comes back at you more than double as much. The faster we go, the more energy our hamstring needs to absorb in order to slow down our foot before it finally reaches the ground.
Other injuries due to weak hamstrings
Another biomechanical issue we see is overstriding. This is when the hamstring gets overpowered and the knee does not bend fast enough before placing the foot on the ground. This is where injuries such as shin splints and stress fractures occur.
So are you actually training your hamstrings enough? If not, here are some exercises to try:
- Good Mornings
- Romanian Deadlift
- Progression: Single Leg Romanian Deadlift
Double Leg Hamstring Bridges
- Progression: Single Leg Hamstring Bridges
Don’t forget to book in for an appointment with a physiotherapist at Barangaroo Physio. I am certified to give running assessments and would be happy to get you started on a strength program so that you can avoid injury and become a stronger runner.
Schache AG1, Dorn TW, Williams GP, Brown NA, Pandy MG.Lower-limb muscular strategies for increasing running speed.J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2014 Oct;44(10):813-24. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2014.5433. Epub 2014 Aug 7.