What are the Best Hamstring Exercises for Sprinting?

What are the Best Hamstring Exercises for Sprinting?


 ( What you are looking at is a stick drawing Charlie made for his training manual to show an exercise he used and felt was effective for it's practical transfer of use for his sprinters. We used a leg press machine to perform this exercise but as you can see from the drawing, instead of using it for a seated leg press we turned our bodies around to mimic the hamstrings action pushing off the starting blocks when sprinting. The universal we used was an old style of machine not seen often) 


The best hamstring exercises for sprinting comes from sprinting itself. One of the next best set of exercises for the hamstring and sprinting are speed drills. (also referred to as Power Speed Drills) ( the next time someone tells you speed drills or power speed is old school or out of date, ask them how fast they have legally run? ;) This will qualify the content of what they speak of ;)  Below are a list of hamstring exercises to possibly   supplement your speed training. 

Outside of sprinting fast , this blog will share some insights on an article recommending “ 7 best hamstring exercises”  and how they fit into my training experience as a former Canadian National 100m sprint hurdler.

1.Back Extensions
One leg back extensions are an okay idea except be mindful of one leg anything in my humble opinion. Coach Charlie Francis  preferred both leg work to prevent injury. ( Charlie was not wrong much about all things to do with training) I do singles and doubles and also add in arm pulls with varied weights.Having said that as an ordinary middle aged female, double leg work is efficient and safest)  I find single leg anything requires more attention and higher risk of injury almost all the time outside of those days when you are feeling AMAZING. Learn your own body and what works best for you. Careful training is smart training as prevention of injuries is time saving. Injuries suck and are draining in multiple ways. Coaching athletes to be cautious is tough. Learning it as an athlete takes time and most people seem to learn the hard way. Sometimes you might not get second chances depending on injury severity.  Don’t confuse caution with less effective training or cautious means you are weak or afraid.  I rarely missed a full training day ever. Training might be modified but I always view training as an opportunity to see how much I could "get" each time I stepped into a workout.  Elite athletes tend to understand caution better than less experienced athletes .  Single leg stuff is higher risk for cramping. I guess cramping does not matter so much if you don't mind missing training. I was taught to  " Live to fight another day" and if you don't have to do something with risk don't. Find an alternative exercise or skip the exercise entirely.  I have a back extension machine and it's one of the most essential exercises for anyone and especially important for sprinters because of how it develops your entire back end. 

2. Natural Glute hamstring raise
I know I already made the point of ultra careful but if you are trying new hamstring exercises be fully warmed up and progress slowly.   The disconnect in literature regarding training IMO can be not knowing the common training mistakes and what the exercise looks like within a performance program vs a fitness program.  Keep the  emphasis on slow with this exercise. Start with a repeatable angle  and work towards going lower over time. You can get plenty done without going to the floor.

3. We called this exercise Hamstring Ups
(also called the Scissor hip Extension)  We did this exercise first with double legs and then progressed to single legs.  I would not start doing this exercise with speed. Make sure you can successfully do this exercise for 3 sets of 15 over a few to several week period , feel great at doing it and then add the variable of speed.  As a trainer or coach make sure your athlete or client is fully warm. Cramping is very common with this single version. 

4. Leg curl
We did a lot of leg curls or hamstring curls as we called it. My first weight lifting had leg curls in each 6 week block of 1. Anatomical Adaptation Phase, 2. Max Strength Phase One, 3. Max Strength  Phase Two.  After this background we did a lot of supplementary leg curls depending on need and time of year. 

5. I am not familiar with this exercise
but it sounds interesting and I love how easy that would be do replicate anywhere.

6. Band Stomping
We did several versions of band resistance exercises but not like this. This exercise looks like the leg swings we did ( daily)  only with  added resistance. It looks like a great exercise. 

7. Stiff Leg Good Morning
I never did much of this exercise but I know CF liked it. I was much better at  squats, cleans and RDL in that order so consequently I spent more time performing these lifts. You need to choose exercises where you get the biggest bang for your buck in your training. 
My first organized weight lifting was 6 weeks beginning in August and ending in late September. This training coincided with the end of my competitive  season and the very beginning of my fall training in Canada. 

  1. Half Squats were the first exercise
  2. Vertical / Upright Row 
  3. Leg Curls
  4. Incline Bench
  5. Reverse Leg Press ( shown in photo above) 
  6. 6. Dead Lifts.

( These lifts were ordered in priority and sometimes I might not have been able to finish all my lifts. I loved the feeling the results of lifting weights, getting stronger and running fast. I hope my comments shed some light on how we used the hamstring exercises discussed above).

"Sprint you own life"
Coach Angé Coon 

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Josh, thanks for your question. We went half way to the ground or even 1/4 of the way down which would call a half squat or quarter squat. I did 1/4 squats due to a large leg length difference.
Some people like to use a bench as a guide but the temptation to sit on the bench and push off might be a problem.
Coach Charlie Francis felt front squats and full back squats were not necessary for sprinting and even detrimental. Check out weights for speed in the store and that might help you better understand lifting weights in the context of speed as your number one priority ahead of squats.

angela coon

how low are the half squats? i was wondering as some consider parallel squats as a full squat and some consider below parallel as a full squat


Hi Mike,
Thanks for the question.
The short answer is the weight percentages varied a great deal in the years I spent training as did the reps. My initial lifting began with 3 sets of 12 reps @ 40 percent 1 rep max. ( likely I started with the bar ) . Seventeen weeks later I was doing 3 sets of 4 reps @ 90 % and 3 sets of 2 or 3 reps @ 95%. Sometimes we used a bench for half squats but only in the beginning as I had never squatted before and it was suggested so I could " feel" where I was going. By the end of my serious , competitive track career I never used the bench as I did not feel the need or desire. I don’t think I would ever teach someone to squat with a bench but that is only my personal thought. I am certain there are serious lifters out there that might snicker etc but I don’t really care because using a bench or not has little to do with anything. Most importantly make sure you are fully warm before you lift weights and learn as much as you can about the right way to train and lift heavy weights.
Your comment has inspired a blog post so you might want to check out what more I have to say about your question.
I hope your training is going well and you are healthy and above all enjoying the journey of your pursuits.

Angela Coon

Hi Ange
I have a question on Half Squats?what is the weight percentage used in your training and the reps.Also do you use a bench for half squats,Thanks


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