Hamstring Strengthening Exercises

By Amanda Mazzocchi, NCTMB

Catalyst Sports and Injury Massage

The hamstring muscles are some of the most neglected and some of the most critical to the prevention of back, hip, leg, and knee pain (see the link on “Psoas” for more information on this).

Unfortunately, unless you go out of your way to strengthen them, or unless you spend 50% of your time walking backwards, they are probably extremely weak in comparison to the rest of your muscles.  Even the most fit runner can experience problems due to weak hamstrings.

Most cardio recruits primarily glutes and quads, and even if a runner has hamstrings that are stronger than the average human, the disparity between their “okay” hamstrings and their “amazing” quads will cause pain and dysfunction.  It’s all about balance!

Here are some simple hamstring exercises that can be done at home.

(click images to view larger image)

Hip Raises:

Lie flat on the floor with your feet up on a couch or a table (this height can be raised as you get stronger).  Keeping your knees straight, push your heels down and raise your hips up off of the floor as shown.

Hamstring Stretches - Hip Raises

Hip Raises - Starting Position

Hamstring Stretches - Hip Raises - Ending Position

Hip Raises - Ending Position

Perform three sets, resting in between.  The number of repetitions in your sets will vary, depending on your strength.  You should feel fatigued in your hamstrings.  To increase difficulty, simply hold at the top of the extension, or perform the raises one leg at a time as shown below.

Hamstring Stretches - Hip Raises - Alternating Legs

Hip Raises - Alternating Legs

Leg Curls:

For this exercise, you will need an exercise ball or a foam roller.

  • Start lying on your back on the floor, with your heels on the ball or roller.  The most important thing with this exercise is to keep your hips straight and not allow them to bend.
  • Push down with your heels to raise your body up off of the floor.
  • Pull your heels as close in toward your glutes as you can, bringing the ball/roller along, as shown.
  • Return to starting position and repeat.
  • Perform repetitions until fatigued.
  • Rest, and perform three sets.
Hamstring Stretches - Leg Curls - Starting Position

Leg Curls - Starting Position

Hamstring Stretches - Leg Curls - Ending Position

Leg Curls - Ending Position

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