Quads are the predominant focus in most lower-body training programs. It’s often thought that the more you can Squat, the stronger you are, and the better you will perform in your sport. Although strong quads are important, ignoring the hamstrings can sabotage your performance and increase the risk of injury.
The hamstrings’ primary functions are to flex the knee and extend the hip. However, they also work together with the quads to stabilize the joints and offset the force produced by other muscles. In fact, a quad contraction produces enough force to tear the ACL if not for the presence of an equalizing hamstring contraction.
The hamstrings also serve a critical purpose when running. As the foot lands, the knee extends, causing a brief eccentric contraction (lengthening under a load), which is the primary cause of muscle injuries. Without proper strength and conditioning, your hamstrings won’t be able to maintain proper function during your competition, effectively putting you at risk.
To target your hamstrings, try the Glute Ham Raise. This strengthens your hamstrings' flexing ability by having you bend at the knees to raise your body, and it improves the muscle's eccentric strength by controlling the descent.
- Position yourself on glute/ham machine with legs locked in place
- Raise torso upward until chest is parallel to floor
- Drive knees into foam pad until they are at 90-degree angle and body is upright
- Lower back down with control; pause for one second and repeat
Learn more about improving your hamstring strength with Florida State University football.