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5 Most Effective Hamstring Exercises for Soccer Players

Most soccer players are quad dominant because all we do is run forward. Running forward consists using the quad more often than the hamstring. We also are always in an athletic stance when on defence so that we are able to recover or retreat when an offender is attacking. When we are in that stance we are using a lot of quad to hold that position. I am not saying that when running forward you do not use your hamstring. But what I am saying it is not under consistent tension like the quad for a long period of time. So when we start to sprint hard and when we do a lot of them that is when the danger come and we pull a hamstring because it is not strengthened enough for the work that we just did. Or it is just weak.

Little anatomy on the hamstring. The functions of the hamstring are:

  • extending your hips
  • flexing the knee
  • posteriorly tilting the pelvis.

To train the hamstring, you are either going to flex the hip and extend it or flex the knee and extend it.

If you want to take your training to another level and actually become faster and prevent injury to your hamstring doing the following exercises will help.

Nordic Hamstring Curl:

Partner Assisted:

Athlete gets down on his or her knee with feet behind him and body in a vertical position.

Use a partner or a trainer to hold your ankles while you brace your core.

Once your core is tight, slowly lower yourself to the ground. Athletes body should be tight as they make their decent.

Avoid flexing of the spine. Really focus on keeping core tight.

Once you hit the ground, push yourself back up and do it again.

Start off by doing 1-2 sets of 2-4 reps and as you adapt work your way up to 4-5 set of 6-10 reps.

Romanian Deadlift

The RDL as everyone calls the movement, might be the most effective hamstring exercises out there. This exercise, when done properly, hits hamstring and glutes so well that you are feeling it for days. When doing it you want to make it heavy with reps around 6-8 and 3-4 sets. If you are new to the movement then you should start off by just doing the bar or adding a few pounds to the bar. If that is hard just use a Kettlebell and do 1-2 sets of 6-8 and build from there. Below is a tutorial that explains how to set up and do the movement properly. Add these as accessory to a day that you may be doing a lot of quad dominant work, for instance squats or lunges.

Single Leg Romanian Deadlift

SL RDL is basically the same as the RDL but the athlete will use only 1 leg to do the movement and the other leg is off the ground moving back.

This movement can be used by any population that is looking to increase athleticism, general health or injury prevention. The SL RDL is great for an individual coming off a knee injury because it places less stress on the knee since the movement is mostly from the hip.

Common mistakes that happen when doing the SL RDL are trying to reach forward with the torso, which causes the weight to go forward then the athlete will start to round their back. Another mistake is hyperextending the lumbar spine at lockout. Basically, when you come back to the starting position you do not want to have a curve in your back but drive and squeeze the glutes.

When doing the SL RDL do about 1-2 sets to start off and work up to 4 sets. A good rep range would be 8-12 reps. Heavy weight is better than lighter weight. If you are just starting work up to heavier weight. The heavier weight will help with balance and help you get stronger.

Glute Ham Raise

GHR is another great posterior chain exercises that many do not do. When I refer to posterior chain, I am referring to muscle on the back side of the body. These muscles usually never get touched directly in many programs. They become weak over time and injuries occur.

When doing the GHR you want to make sure that you are not doing a back extension with GHR. You want to make sure you are really driving your knees into the pad and pressing your toes into the back support so that you are using your hamstrings to move you out of the bottom position. Above is the starting position and below is the top. As you contract hamstring and push toes you will end up in the top position.

The benefits of this exercise are that the athlete will hit the eccentric portion harder than the leg curl (which is the next exercise). The athlete is also strengthing the back-kick of a sprint and is able to then get a benefit for spring speed. Lastly, this is an alternative for an athlete that cannot load their spine from a deadlift or squats.

1-2 set of 4-6

2-4 sets of 6-8 ( work up to this)

Hamstring Curl (w/ physioball or valslide)

The last exercise is quite basic and great for a novice athlete that has not done that much training. There are two modalities that an athlete can use for this exercise. The first one is a physioball and the second one are valslides. The valslides are similar to furniture moving slides.

The valslides are great because they are a little more versatile. You can go in different direction with them for instance in a V or a closer stance like an I. They are a little harder than the physioball because the hamstring is under constant tension since you are pushing into the ground at all time to stay on them.

The physioball is more of a beginner because the ball is really supporting you. You’re only pushing your heels into the ball, really focusing on the hamstrings pulling the ball in and take out using your feet. Another option is putting your feet in a butter fly position and pulling it in. A little more glute isolation there.

This is a great accessory exercise or after doing a hard lift of squats or deads. You can also do them before doing deadlifts and pre-exhaustion ( which I will cover in another post)

These exercises are not only beneficial for soccer players. I have noticed this issue with many players that I see daily so I figured I would write about an issue that will help them in the long run. I use many of these exercises on general population clients. They are great exercises for injury prevention and overall health.

If you are interested in learning more contact us at Jsisman@prepareforperformance.com

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