Hamstring injuries can be very debilitating and have a relatively high recurrence rate, with research showing once you suffer a hamstring strain, you are up to 30% more likely to suffer a second.
Hamstring strains are common in sports which require lots of running, particularly sharp bursts of acceleration mixed with walking or slower jogging. During the swing phase of running, the hamstrings act eccentrically (lengthen) to decelerate the lower leg. This deceleration of the lower leg is necessary in order to position the foot and ankle for contact with the ground. It is within this swing phase of running that most hamstring injuries occur.
In order for the hamstrings to withstand the forces of running, they must be strong eccentrically; that means they must be strong in a lengthened position and training of this muscle group should reflect that.
Training for the prevention of hamstring strains
To prevent suffering hamstring issues whilst running, get them as strong as you can. Here are some exercises which challenge the hamstring eccentrically, protecting them in that lengthening position during running.
Begin with 3x8 reps at a moderate load and progress to 4x5 with heavier load. Remember hamstrings need to get strong, so heavy loads are what you are aiming for!
1. Romanian Deadlift (RDL)
Begin with the bar close to your body, arms straight.
From here, bring the torso back upright and repeat. As you become technically competent, add load.
Ideally use a partner for this exercise, and get them to hold your ankles tight to the floor as you begin in a kneeling stance.
This exercise can also be done holding a weight plate as you get more competent.
3. Single Leg Kettlebell
Whilst the traditional RDL is brilliant for building strength in those hamstrings, a single leg version is also a very useful tool to ensure both legs are getting equally challenged and there is no movement compensation giving one side an easy ride.
Lift the torso as you return to upright.