Running and Hamstring Strength

A little less than 2 years ago, I had torn my left hamstring.  Surgery is the usual means of dealing with this,  but I took a different route. After a solid 6 months of rehab consisting of a  stretching, weights,  massage (thanks Jane) and nutrition, it healed very nicely.

In the past few months, I have had issues with my hip which was very unusual. Turns out my hip is fine but the previously injured hamstring is 30% weaker compared to the other one. Hence we have hip issues. The key here would be balancing both hamstrings and keeping the ratio of hamstring to quadriceps exact.

The exact ratio, strength-wise, that athletes should have as it relates to their quadriceps (thigh muscles) and their hamstrings is 100/80; that is, if one can do a leg extension exercise with 100 pounds, they should be able to do a leg curl with 80 pounds.

Muscular imbalance is a common issue among runners, particularly those who do a lot of hill training. It leads to the aforementioned imbalance which in turn contributes to hip problems, low back issues and the most common, Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, better known as “runner’s knee.”

How to Correct It?

Firstly, get a baseline by testing the strength of each leg using the leg extension machine and leg curl. If balanced, continue on your quest and do periodic training to maintain balance.

If not, look to do:

  • 1 set of 3 repetitions with as heavy a weight as you can handle for 3 reps, leg extensions and leg curls.
  • Rest for 3-4 minutes and do a set of 5 with about 5-10 pounds less.

Consider 2-3 times per week. Add some stretching, particularly for the hips, low back and core in general, and you will be back in business in about 10-12 weeks.

The best part about this is that it is not that difficult, nor time-consuming – the whole thing takes about 6 minutes, most of it resting and it won’t interrupt your training schedule.

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