The hamstrings, located on the back of the thighs, bend the knees and play a key role in running. According to the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma, running's repetitive natures places runners at risk for hamstring injuries and strains. University of Delaware Sports and Orthopedic Clinic recommends that runners do exercises that strengthen the hamstrings to prevent injury and improve performance.
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Stability Ball Hamstring Curl
Building hamstring strength improves a runner's posture and gait, according to the Boston Running Center. A runner with weak hamstrings may place too much of her weight on her heels when she lands, placing excessive stress on her hips, knees and ankles. The stability ball hamstring curl strengthens weak muscles. To do this exercise, lie supine on the ground. Place a stability ball under your calves and feet. Rest your hands on the mat, next to your hips. Lift your hips until they form a straight line with your shoulders and knees. Next, curl your knees in towards your chest. As you do this, the ball will roll in toward the back of your legs. Extend your legs to straight and repeat until you complete 15 repetitions. To make this exercise more challenging for your hamstrings, rest only your feet on the ball.
Standing Hamstring Curls
The University of Delaware recommends standing hamstring curls to strengthen the back of the legs and prevent running injury. To do a standing hamstring curl, stand up straight, move your feet directly next to each other and rest your arms on the back of a chair. Lift your right foot behind your body, pointing your toes toward the ground. Lift your foot toward your butt, stopping right before your heel makes contact with it. Lower your right foot until it is about to hit the floor. Immediately, repeat and continue until you complete 15 repetitions. Wearing ankle weights increases the intensity of this exercise.
Running High Knees
Runners should do plyometrics exercises to increase force production of the hamstrings, according to the University of Delaware. Plyometrics engage the hamstrings' fast-twitch fibers which are responsible for short, explosive bursts of movement. Sprinters or interval runners benefit from plyometrics that increase muscular production in a small period of time. Running high knees strengthen the hamstrings and utilize fast-twitch fibers. To do this exercise, stand up straight and form 90-degree angles with your elbows. Run in place for a few seconds to build speed. Then, lift your right knee as high as you can toward your chest while lifting your left hand to your chin and lowering your right hand toward your glutes. Land on the ball of your foot. Immediately, lift your left knee and right hand while dropping your left hand toward your glutes. Continue alternating until you complete 15 knee lifts on each side. Proper form is essential during this exercise; keep your back straight and slow down if you find yourself slumping or arching your back.