The hamstrings bend the knees and assist the gluteus maximus with extending the hips. Most of the time, they are forced to contract eccentrically. An eccentric contraction occurs while the muscle lengthens, which is opposite to the more commonly understood, concentric contraction, which refers to a contraction as the muscle shortens. Specifically, the hamstrings eccentrically contract during the “catch” phase of walking and even more intensely during running. Eccentric exercises have been found to decrease hamstring strains. Be aware that performing exercises that stress the muscles eccentrically will typically cause significantly larger amounts of soreness.
Unless you have a barbell at home, a trip to the gym may be necessary to perform these exercises. If doing these for the first time, it’s recommended to perform the exercises under a professional’s supervision.
Stiff Leg Deadlift
Hold a barbell with hands waist width apart and let the bar hang down in front of you. Stand tall with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width. While keeping your back straight and your head up, bend forward at the waist. Only allow the knees to bend slightly. While you lower down, be sure not to hold the weight out, but keep it as close to the body as possible. Lower down until the bar comes to your shins, and then rise back up to a standing tall position. Complete two sets of ten repetitions.
Place the barbell on the back of your shoulders and hold it with both hands. Stand up straight with your feet approximately shoulder width apart. Keep your legs straight and bend forward at the waist, once again keeping your back straight and your head up. Only lower down as far as you can while keeping your back straight, and then slowly rise back up. Complete two sets of ten repetitions.
Stand tall with your feet approximately shoulder width apart. Take a large step forward with one foot, and then bend your front knee and lower your body down until you your back leg comes close to the floor. Push backward off the front foot and return it to the starting position. Repeat, but this time stepping with the opposite leg. Complete two sets of ten repetitions with each leg.
Eccentric Hamstring Curl
Get down your knees with your feet behind you. Either hook your feet under a bench or ask someone to firmly hold your ankles down. Keep your torso rigid and slowly bend forward toward the floor. Be aware that this is a very difficult exercise, so be ready to catch yourself if you lose control and start to fall forward. Lower yourself forward as low as your strength level allows, and then raise yourself back up. Complete two sets of five repetitions.
To prevent or limit the amount of soreness in the hamstrings, immediately stretch them after the workout. Sit tall with your feet extended in front of you. Slowly bend forward at the waist and reach forward toward the toes with your hands. Stop when you feel a stretch in the hamstrings and hold that position for 30 seconds. Complete two repetitions.
About this Author
Kimberly Nunley has been writing since 2002. She contributes to an online music site, where she reviews albums and conducts artist interviews. As an assistant college coach, Nunley was in charge of the team’s website and blog. She also spent seven years working as a personal trainer. Nunley received a Master of Science in kinesiology from California State University.