Hamstring Health For Sprinting

It is easy to find volumes of information regarding training the hamstring for size, strength and appearance however training the hamstrings for sprinting is a specialized discipline. Developing healthy hamstrings for sprinting and speed work requires you pay attention to a variety of factors as well as pure strength. Here are my top four factors you MUST pay attention to:


  1. Train the hamstrings as extensors of the hip as the most important way to train the hamstring for sprinting (opposed to training the hamstring as a flexor of the knee)

  2. Regeneration and therapy performed in small amounts OFTEN opposed to large amounts infrequently

  3. Keep your hamstrings warm and dry in and out of training

  4. Electric Muscle Stimulation (EMS) can play a wide role in building and strengthening as well as rehabilitating hamstring injuries


Before we look at these factors in detail, here are two key facts to consider:

Hamstrings operate at the highest velocity (up to 88kph for elite sprinters) of any muscle group. To understand this, think that if you are running at top speed your hamstring contracts as a flexor of the hip and as your leg extends behind you in your stride, your hamstring continues to contract at more than double your top speed as it flexes the knee and recoils the lower leg before the leg starts moving forward again. 

What are the implications of the speed of this muscle?
The implications of this is muscles moving at this speed makes the hamstring sensitive to injury if high intensity training is attempted with poor technique or during conditions of incomplete regeneration or overtraining”. (page 40 The Charlie Francis Training System)


The hamstring is one of the largest muscles in the body. When it is tight, overworked and or trained primarily as a flexor of the knee the risk of injury increases. Large amounts of time and energy go into the rehabilitation for an athlete who has a hamstring injury.


Hamstrings: Extensors of the Hip for Sprinting

The hamstring has multiple roles as flexors of the knee and extensors of the hip. For Sprinting, coaches and athletes need to focus on the following exercises:

  • Half squats
  • Reverse Leg Press
  • Power cleans done with excellent form
  • Exercises with pulleys and cables
  • Explosive medicine ball drills

Easy to perform non-strength exercises that facilitate hamstring development should also be done. These are:

  • leg swings
  • side leg swings
  • donkey kicks
  • hurdle drills against the wall


Two Common Mistakes in how the Hamstring is trained for Sprinting 
  1. Overtraining the hamstring with high volumes of large variety of lifts. 
  1. Emphasizing strength training as a key goal instead of speed work as the key priority.


Regeneration and Therapy Performed Often

A hamstring might be strong and it might also look big and beautiful. For the hamstring to be healthy for sprinting ROUTINE regeneration done in small amounts often is most effective.

A common mistake made by coaches and athletes is avoiding therapy all together because they think it’s not needed, the thought that it is expensive or they don’t understand the importance.

Quality sprinting requires muscles rested but reactive, strong but loose, agile yet relaxed. Routine regeneration and therapy facilitate healthy hamstring development.


Keep Your Hamstrings Warm for Best Performance

Wearing layers of clothing to keep all of you muscles dry and warm helps speed up the process of getting appropriately warmed up to do the highest quality of work as well as the highest intensity of work.

Work to improve your method of warming up which should include routine exercises performed daily all year around including competition. (See my blog on the warm-up)

Heat can be added to hamstrings and or tighter muscles to assist in the process of getting your muscles in the best possible state for training.

Heat can be put on any muscles, wrapped in saran and then loose tensors overnight for best results.


Electronic Muscle Stimulation

EMS can be used to both strengthen hamstrings and relax or massage the hamstrings. The usefulness as well as the effectiveness of this small device is invaluable.


Wellness for Hamstring Health

 Hamstrings need to be warm to be loose and relaxed.

 Hamstrings need to be strong, but agile and balanced.

 Hamstrings need routine rest, complete regeneration to be ready for more work.


The notion of wellness or balance as an athlete is vital. At the heart of preparing your hamstrings to be as healthy as possible, this large muscle group must be hydrated and fortified with the best nutrition possible. As a coach or athlete you need to understand that while strength building plays a key role in sprinting, your long-term performance of the health of your hamstrings is most important.

I hope your training has been going well.

best and warm regards,




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Thank you for your comments Keats.

Coaches and athletes will be able to benefit from playing an active role in the prevention of hamstring injuries.

angela coon

Great points and recommendations! I agree that the key is health and wellness of the athlete first with a balanced of approach of speed/sprinting, strengthening, recovery and assistance exercises given to this incredibly important muscle group.

Keats Snideman

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