Hamstring Health For Sprinting

November 27, 2015 by Angela Coon
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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How To Rehab a Hamstring Injury www.charliefrancis.com

June 01, 2012 by Angela Coon


Much debate about hamstring rehab 
The following page has been copied from Gerard Mach's book on Sprints and Hurdles( no longer in print)  from 1980 when Gerard was the Head Coach of the CTFA . Charlie was strongly influenced by Gerard and gave him a great deal of credit for his success as both an athlete and coach.
While I have not included Charlie's ideas in this article  I wanted to share this as I want people to see where some of Charlie's ideas came from. 
Further information regarding Gerard can be read in " Speed Trap" available in the store and Amazon but Charlie also talks about Gerard's influence in his Training Manual I am currently scanning to be made available on Amazon as well as this site.
Post September 1988  Seoul Korea athletes and teams were reluctant  to work with Charlie.  The Vermeil brother's ( Dick and Al ) recommendations brought many veteran professional athlete's seeking Charlie's extensive experience dealing with consequences of overtraining with specific attention to repeat hamstring injuries. Charlie taught his  clients that careful and methodical treatment will allow even the most severe tear to heal in a 10 day period. Charlie also enforced the idea that scar tissue needs to be properly managed as to prevent related injuries pulling from the original scar tissue.
I have tried with no success to contact Gerard. His contribution to athletics in Canada and the world has been significant. 
Angela Coon
Injuries and Injury Prevention in Sprinting and Hurdle Events
The most common and typical injuries in the sprinting events are hamstring pulls, shin splints and Achilles tendon problems. All injuries are basically the result of too intensive training programs or through training programs executed on too hard surfaces for too long a period of time.
The first symptom of tiredness by a sprinter will be a slight soreness of the hamstring muscle and the calf muscle. 
A normal massage and easier training the days before competition should eliminate these small problems.
Negligence in the first phase might provide bigger problems later, because of the fact that the muscles are flexible. The muscle stress during work stiffens muscles and shifts more and more to the distal parts, going from the calf muscles down through to the Achilles tendons.
In this phase of injury, a daily special “sprint” massage should be performed to prevent a more serious injury. The training should be changed with less speed work and intensity. At that time, as well as with shin splints, the training should be directed to a training program where other muscle parts can be involved and the running program would be easier on softer ground (grass). 
Training After a Hamstring Pull
Immediately after a hamstring injury, where some muscle fibres are torn or ruptured, an ice compress should be used to stop internal bleeding. The first day after the injury should be a passive rest. The second day’s activity will depend on the extent of the injury.
An assessment of the next competition must be made. For the sprinter, it is usually possible within two or three weeks to have a race at 200m. This must be done with a limited 30-40m acceleration and maintenance of speed.
For the 400m runners, a 400m race in 10 to 14 days, with a limited acceleration distance of 30m from the starting blocks is usually possible. A limited acceleration distance means the athlete must be under the maximum speed without the maximum stride length. Under those circumstances, to perform well, the athlete should be in good specialized training condition to maintain the limited speed over the 200 or 400m distance. 
On the second day after a hamstring pull, the athlete is able to execute the following workout:
One Leg Marching – power speed and strength endurance where the injured leg doesn’t work.
One Leg Skipping – power speed and strength endurance where the injured leg doesn’t work.
One Leg Exercise – power speed and strength endurance where the injured leg doesn’t work.
Exercises without extensions, jumps and bounding. Some medicine ball exercises in sitting and lying positions in which the hamstring muscles are not actively engaged. Some weight exercises – where the hamstring isn’t actively engaged.
After 3 – 4 Days:
- Both legs marching in power sped and strength endurance.
- Both legs skipping – in power speed and strength endurance form.
- Both legs A exercise – in power speed endurance.
- No extention – jumps or boundings
- Medicine ball exercises
- Weight exercises
- Running in tempo in interval for limited distances:
2 x 10m
4 x 10m
6 x 20m
6 x 20m
8 x 20m
10 x 20m
etc. down to 2 x 20m
After 5 – 6 Days:
- All exercises like before plus tempo
2 x 30m
4 x 30m
6 x 30m
8 x 30m
10 x 30m
etc. down to 2 x 30m
acceleration repetition 6 x 20m
After 7 – 8 Days:
Workout like above and acceleration 20m and maintain limited speed 100 – 200 – 300m. Starts from starting blocks 20m.
After 9 – 10 Days:
Workout as above and starts from starting blocks 30m or 40m competition (30m acceleration)
The Following Days:
Normal training with the speed limitation. From 6-8 days, massage of injured muscle may be started.
After good races at 200m the sprinter might compete again in the 100m.
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