Hamstring Injury Prevention and Training for Sports Performance

By:  – John M. Cissik is the president of Human Performance Services, LLC

Hamstring injury prevention and training are keys to better sports performance. They are important for sprinting, changing direction, kicking, throwing, hitting a baseball or softball, etc. They are also thought to have a role in preventing anterior cruciate ligament injuries.

RELATED: Study Reveals the 2 Best Hamstring Exercises

The hamstrings have a couple of important sports functions. First, they extend the hips, meaning they drive the feet toward the ground. So when you sprint, your hamstring muscles (along with your glutes) exert force against the ground.

Second, they flex the knee, helping to absorb the impact when you land from a jump.

Sprinters are especially prone to hamstring injuries, because sprinting requires the hamstrings to do two things at the same time: drive the foot toward the ground and prevent the knee from hyperextending.

Hamstring injuries often result from a lack of strength when the muscle is lengthened.

Here are some exercises you can do to build your hamstrings and improve your athletic performance, plus some ways to integrate them into a training program.

RELATED: Great Hamstring Exercises for Track Athletes

Hamstring Exercises in the Weight Room

Three of the best exercises that target the hamstrings in the weight room are the Romanian Deadlift, the Good Morning, and the Nordic Hamstring Curl.

Romanian Deadlift (RDL)

  • Hold a barbell with an overhand grip.
  • Place your feet hip-width apart with your knees unlocked.
  • Pull your shoulders back and stick your chest out.
  • Push your hips back and lean your upper body forward.
  • Allow the bar to slide down your thighs. When you have gone as far forward as flexibility allows, reverse direction. It is very important to perform this exercise by pushing your hips back, not by squatting. It’s also important to keep your chest out and shoulders back during the entire exercise.

Good Morning

  • Stand with the bar on the back of your shoulders.
  • Place your feet hip-width apart with your knees unlocked.
  • Pull your shoulders back and stick your chest out.
  • Push your hips back and lean your upper body forward. When you have gone as far forward as flexibility allows, reverse direction.

Like with the RDL, the hips should perform the exercise. Focus on keeping your chest out and shoulders back.

Nordic Hamstring Curl

This exercise should only be performed after you are thoroughly warmed up. You will need a partner.

  • Kneel on the ground with your feet positioned behind you.
  • Have your partner apply pressure on the back of your ankles so your feet do not lift up.
  • Keep your body straight, from your knees to your shoulders, as you use your hamstrings to lower your body to the ground.
  • Try to resist the lowering and take as long as possible before you reach the ground.
  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

RELATED: 4 Bodyweight Exercises to Strengthen Hamstrings

Hamstring Exercises on the Field

You can integrate these three exercises into a speed and agility program to strengthen your hamstrings. Normally these drills are done for 20 to 40 meters.


  • Stand tall and face the course.
  • Keeping your left leg straight, lift it up in front of your body.
  • Reach across your body and attempt to touch your left foot with your right hand.
  • Switch sides. Continue alternating for the desired distance.

Reverse Crab Walk

  • Sit on the ground so that your back faces the course.
  • Place your feet flat on the ground.
  • Place your hands on the ground next to your hips.
  • Lift your hips off the ground.
  • While maintaining this position, walk backwards for the desired distance.


  • Assume the push-up position facing the course.
  • While keeping your hands on the ground and your legs straight, walk your feet up to your hands.
  • Walk your hands out until you are back in the push-up position.
  • Repeat for the desired distance.

Sample Hamstring Training Program

With hamstring training, it’s important to take a total-body approach. Isolating the hamstrings for 15-20 sets in each workout will be counterproductive. Your hamstrings will be so tired, they will be more susceptible to injury when you play your sport. With this in mind, here is an example of how to integrate hamstring training into a comprehensive athletic conditioning program.


Strength training

  • Back Squats: 3×8-12@70-80%
  • Romanian Deadlifts: 3×8-12
  • Bench Press: 3×8-12@70-80%
  • Bent-Over Rows: 3×8-12
  • Military Press: 3×8-12

Speed/agility training

  • Add Marches for 3×20 meters to the warm-up
  • Standing Starts: 3-5×10 meters
  • Backpedal: 3×10 meters
  • Backpedal + Turn and Sprint: 3-5×10 meters
  • Shuffle right/left: 3×5 meters each
  • Shuffle right/left + turn and sprint: 3-5×10 meters


Strength training

  • Power Clean, 3×4-6@60-70%
  • Clean Pulls, 3×4-6@70-80%
  • Push Jerk, 3×4-6@60-70%


  • Squat Jump, stick the landing: 10x
  • Counter-Movement Jump: 10x
  • Standing Long Jump: 10x




Strength training

  • Front Squats: 3×8-12@60-70%
  • Lunges: 3×12-15 each leg
  • Good Mornings: 3×12-15
  • Nordic Hamstring Curls: 2×5


  • Incorporate Inchworms into the warm-up, 3×20 meters
  • Bounds: 3×20 meters
  • Standing Starts: 3×40 meters
  • Pattern Drills for agility: 10-15 minutes




Strength training

  • Incline Press: 3×12-15
  • Pull-Ups: 3xMax
  • Giant Set (Front Raises + Side Raises + Rear Deltoid Raises): 3×10 each, no rest
  • Biceps/Triceps Superset: 3×15-20 each


  • Kettlebell Swings
  • Lunges
  • Heavy Rope Slams
  • Reverse Crab Walks
  • Kettlebell Swings
  • Bear Crawls
  • Heavy Rope Slams
  • Ankle Hops
  • Kettlebell Swings
  • Reverse Lunges
  • Heavy Rope Slams
  • Side Lunges

Perform each exercise for 30 seconds. Only rest enough to move to the next exercise. Repeat the circuit three times.

This article originally appeared on Stack Media. Copyright 2014.

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