For you to sprint as quickly as possibly, all your lower body muscles must contribute to stride power. This includes the hamstrings, which are often overlooked during training, resulting in imbalances between the relative strength of the hamstrings and quads—and tight hamstrings.
To deal with this common problem, athletes should perform hamstring strength and flexibility exercises. Benefits include enhanced stride power and length, increased speed, improved posture and reduced low back pain.
For better hamstring strength and flexibility, incorporate the following three exercises into your workout (video examples above):
In the video above, Georgia softball players perform a great movement for the hammies. Incorporate this exercise into your dynamic warm-up. [Read about the importance of a dynamic warm-up.]
Sets/Reps: 2x5-10 each leg
Coaching Points: Avoid leaning or bending torso // Keep leg as straight as possible // Hold arms in front at a 90-degree angle
A great exercise for hamstring strength is the Romanian Deadlift [RDL], because it helps prevent quad dominance stemming from the regular performance of lower body lifts like Squats and Leg Presses. One excellent variation is the Single-Leg Kettlebell RDL. [View more variations of the RDL here.]
Sets/Reps: 3x6 each leg, 60 sec. rest
Coaching Points: Hold kettlebell in hand opposite balancing leg // Maintain slight bend in balancing knee
Multi-Planar Hamstring Stretch
This post-workout stretch, employed by the Columbus Crew, not only lengthens the largest part of the muscle, it also hits the smaller medial hamstring structures on the inner leg and the lateral fibers on the outer leg with rotational stretches.
Sets/Reps: Hold stretch for 15 seconds each leg
Coaching Point: Make sure non-stretching leg stays on the ground
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock