I used to have weak hamstrings. I thought they were just tight. However, After working with a fitness trainer for a week, I found out that my quadriceps were much stronger than my hamstrings. It was hard for me to do any exercises on the hamstring machines, except if I used really light weights. Eventually, after focusing on hamstring exercises for a few weeks, my hamstrings and quads were more equal in strength.
Consequently, my running also improved. The hamstrings and quadriceps work together to help with your balance during running. Optimally, one muscle shouldn’t be more dominant than the other. The quadriceps move your leg forward, and the hamstrings moves it back. If the hamstring muscles are weak, the gluteus muscles take over. The hamstrings should work in conjunction with the gluteus and quadriceps. Balance is crucial with all the uneven pavement during road and train running.
I found the video below when I was searching for tight hamstring stretches. I thought my hamstrings were tight. In gym class, when we would work on hamstring exercises, I had a hard time doing them. I always wondered why almost everyone else could do it, but I couldn’t. After doing some research, I found that they weren’t tight. I just needed to strengthen them.
In the video, Kirk Warner answered this question for me. It is because I am quad dominant, as he mentions in the video, and so I need to work on strengthening my hamstrings more. Quad dominance is often a problem with runners, which leads to knee pain. It can also result in hamstring and knee injuries. Now my hamstrings are powerful, and I am no longer quad dominant.
Kirk says that when you have tight hamstrings, it may not be that they are tight but that they are weak. Which then, it is better to strengthen them rather than to stretch them all the time. Hamstrings are tight because they are weak compared to the quads.
I suggest doing these exercises two to three times per week. Some of them are hard and will take some time to build-up to the advance movements.
Kirk is not really smooth in doing the exercises, but they are good exercises to do. These are the hamstring exercises he demonstrates. I added a few suggestions.
1. Single leg bridge
Start with a two-leg bridge, and then move up to a single leg bridge when your hamstrings get stronger. Hold for 30 seconds; repeat 3 times on each leg. Keep the leg parallel with each other.
2. Hamstring Curls
Start in the two-leg bridge, then push your feet out slowly in front of you, while keeping your hips up. When you get more advanced, do one leg at a time. Do 12 on each leg.
Kirk says to buy a bucket top. When on a hardwood floor, you can do it in socks. Or you can also use a towel. When on a carpet, you can use a paper plate.
Exercises that Work Both Hamstrings and Balance
The best hamstring exercises are leg curls and deadlifts. I really couldn’t find any other kind of training. Although I added two mini-workouts below that work on both balance and hamstrings. I enjoy doing these movements more than the traditional exercises. Also, once your hamstring becomes more robust, they do need to be stretched. The two movements that I demonstrate are dynamic, which both strengthens and stretches the hamstrings.
Start standing on one foot and lift your other leg up in front of you with the knee bent. While balancing on one leg, bring the bent leg behind you while leaning forward. Your arms will be bent also. Move the same side arm back as the leg, and the other arm will come forward for balance. The standing leg will be slightly bent too. Make the movement slow. Then return to the starting position. Repeat this five times on each leg.
Warrior III Pose
Start in a standing position with your arms straight over your head. Slowly lean forward, keeping your arms by your ears, with your back straight while extending your other leg. Warrior III Pose is when your arms and raised leg are parallel to the ground. Keep your standing leg slightly bent. Continue leaning over until your hands reach the ground. Then, slowly return to a standing position. Repeat five times on each leg.
Hamstring exercises are important to keep the muscles balanced in your legs. We are always working on quad exercises, but not so much for the hamstrings. Keep them both well toned by performing these trainings regularly.
Stretching is also important, as I show in my other blog post, 6 Post-Run Stretches to Prevent Soreness.