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How I can strengthen my hamstrings? Add to ...

The question

I used to run 25 km a week, but I stopped because of a hamstring injury in my right leg. I have gone through physio. I am now cleared to run again. What exercises can I do to restore my hamstring strength and prevent the injury happening again?

The answer

For the first four to six weeks, strengthen the hamstring muscle with unilateral (single leg) work to decrease the discrepancies in strength between your right and left hamstring.

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Try single leg work on the lying hamstring curl machine.

While lying face down on the machine, pull your right heel toward your bum 10 to 12 times. Repeat with your left leg.

For the next four to six weeks, emphasize the eccentric (i.e. lowering) phase of the motion.

Using the same machine, lift the weight with both legs but lower it using only the right leg for 10 to 12 times. Repeat with your left leg.

Use a weight that is slightly heavier than the one you used for your single leg curl, but not as heavy as if you were performing the entire motion with both legs.

Lastly, introduce exercises that require dynamic hamstring strength.

Try “box heel kicks.” Stand with your right foot on the floor about three feet in front of your left foot, which is on a bench behind you. Do a quick hop, pulling your right heel toward your right bum cheek (yes, it’s tricky!). Don't jump vertically. Instead keep your upper body fairly still and use your hamstrings to pull your heel towards your bum. Start with 4-6 reps and switch sides.

In all three exercises outlined above, let the number of reps you can do on your right leg dictate how many reps you do on your left leg.

TRAINER’S TIP

The hamstring muscle refers to three muscles that run from the back of the knee to the bum. Strengthening the hamstrings is vital for runners because they help propel the runner forward.

Send certified personal trainer Kathleen Trotter your questions at trainer@globeandmail.com. She will answer select questions, which could appear in the Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail website. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

Read more Q&As from Kathleen Trotter

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The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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