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  • Emily McGuire

Unlock Your Potential: Eccentric Hamstring Exercises for Strength & Flexibility

Today, we embark on a journey to explore the profound benefits of eccentric hamstring exercises, an integral component in preventing and recovering from hamstring injuries. Gain insights into the anatomy, understand the advantages, and master essential exercises to enhance your hamstring strength and flexibility. As always, remember to consult with a physician before attempting these exercises, particularly if you're dealing with an existing injury or hamstring pain.



Person doing a hamstring stretch on a bench


Understanding the Hamstrings


Let’s begin by understanding the critical role the hamstrings play in your daily activities. The trio of muscles, the semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and biceps femoris, run along the back of your thigh, influencing everything from walking to jumping. The Hamstring is very dynamic in nature and travels diagonally across both the hip joint and the knee joint. As well, it translates posterior to anterior at the knee indicating that it plays a huge role in controlling the transverse plane (rotation). As the foot hits the ground the tibia internally rotates and the hamstring engages in eccentric control of that motion, as well as managing to engage in the control of the side-to-side frontal plane, and even the sagittal plane or knee flexion. This trio of muscles influences everything when it comes to gait, running, cutting, changing direction, and jumping.



diagram of the three hamstring muscles


What Is Eccentric Exercise?


On a basic level, eccentric movement is the lengthening of a muscle-tendon junction. This is what happens in everyday motion, in every step we take. When doing eccentric exercises, we are performing a more targeted form of this movement. Eccentric stretches focus on lengthening the muscle under tension, making them a powerful tool for simultaneous strength and flexibility improvement. These are essential components of the healing process, playing a vital role in any recovery plan.


Benefits of Eccentric Hamstring Exercises


Discover the numerous advantages these exercises bring to the table, making them a staple in your injury prevention and recovery routine. From promoting muscle healing to enhancing overall function, eccentric hamstring exercises are a holistic approach to hamstring care.


  1. Promote Muscle Healing: Eccentric exercises encourage the flow of blood and nutrients to the muscle, aiding in the healing process.

  2. Increase Muscle Length: These stretches help increase the length of your hamstrings, reducing the risk of re-injury.

  3. Enhance Strength: Eccentric exercises strengthen the muscles while stretching them, creating a balanced and stable muscle group.

  4. Improved Function: By increasing flexibility and strength, you'll regain normal function more quickly.



Essential Exercises for Hamstring Flexibility


Explore our suggested list of crucial eccentric hamstring exercises designed to boost flexibility! We have selected these stretches from a long list of options because they are beginner-friendly and easy to do at home or the gym. See our demonstrations and note how these exercises ensure the hamstring is challenged in all three planes of motion. Detailed instructions accompany each exercise, ensuring you perform them correctly and feel the gentle stretch in your hamstrings. If you would like to see these stretches in motion, check out our hamstring exercise tutorial video on Instagram!


Standing Hamstring Stretch


  • Stand up straight with feet shoulder-width apart and place one foot in front of you.

  • Flex your front foot upwards at the ankle, keeping your heel on the ground.

  • Slowly lean forward from your hips, keeping your back straight and arms outstretched towards your front foot.

  • Pulse in 3 directions, forward, left, and right.

  • Repeat on the alternate leg, you should feel a gentle stretch in your hamstrings.



four figures demonstrating a standing hamstring stretch


 


Single-Leg Straight-Leg Deadlift


  • Stand on one leg with a slight bend in the knee.

  • Slowly lower your torso toward the floor while keeping your back straight.

  • Reach for the floor with your hands while extending the other leg behind you.

  • Return to the starting position and repeat, alternating legs.



two figures demonstrating a single-leg straight-leg deadlift


 


Raised Leg Hamstring Stretch


  • Standing in front of a raised platform like a box or bench, raise your leg to rest your heel on the platform. Keep your grounded foot pointed straight ahead.

  • Slowly bend forward, extending your arms toward your toes.

  • Repeat this motion, adding pulses to either side using the opposite arm as the direction you are reaching.

  • Repeat the exercise on the alternate leg.



four figures demonstrating a raised leg hamstring stretch


 


Eccentric Hamstring Exercises for Strength


Single-Leg Straight-Leg Deadlift with Weight


  • Stand on one leg with a slight bend in the knee, holding a dumbbell in each hand.

  • Slowly lower your torso toward the floor while keeping your back straight.

  • Reach for the floor with your hands while extending the other leg behind you.

  • Return to the starting position and repeat, alternating legs.



two figures demonstrating a single-leg straight-leg deadlift with dumbells


 


Swiss Ball Hamstring Curl Exercise


  • Lie on your back with your legs straight, resting your heels on top of an exercise ball.

  • Keeping a neutral spine position, lift your hips up parallel to your chest.

  • Pull your heels towards your glutes, rolling the ball under your feet.

  • Maintaining this raised posture, slowly slide your heels away from your body, returning to the starting position.



two figures demonstrating a swiss ball hamstring curl exercise


 


Nordic Hamstring Curl Exercise


  • Begin with knees on the ground and torso upright.

  • You will need a counterweight on your heels, this can be done by having someone hold down your heels, by using a Nordic strap, or by hooking your heels under a piece of weighted furniture.

  • With a weighted exercise ball in front of you, cross your arms over your chest and slowly bend at the knee, leaning forward until you reach the ball. Adjust the depth or distance you travel as you gain more strength. This is a difficult exercise and should be done successfully in smaller ranges before progressing.

  • Raise yourself back upright, feeling your hamstrings supporting you.



two figures demonstrating a Nordic hamstring curl exercise
two figures demonstrating a Nordic hamstring curl exercise


Advice on Eccentric Exercises

 

Eccentric hamstring exercises are a valuable tool in preventing and healing hamstring injuries. These exercises can improve muscle flexibility, strength, and overall function. It is essential to approach these exercises with caution; stop the exercise if you begin to feel significant pain. If you are currently injured or experiencing hamstring pain, do not attempt these exercises until you have consulted with a physical therapist or physician.

 


Consider Physical Therapy for Hamstring Recovery

At Rehab United, our dedicated team can create a personalized recovery plan tailored to your needs. A physical therapist is the most well-positioned practitioner to manage and treat musculoskeletal injuries, so it’s imperative to find one you trust to help you through this process. Empower yourself with knowledge and actionable steps to improve your hamstring health. Visit Rehab United for expert guidance and take the first step towards a stronger, more flexible you. Your hamstrings will thank you!




 

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Emily McGuire is a Marketing Associate and staff writer for Rehab United. With a Bachelor's degree in International Business from UC San Diego, she is a California native with a passion for writing, digital marketing, health, and wellness.


Medically Reviewed By: Bryan Hill, PT, FAFS, CF-L1, BFRC, is the Chief Executive Officer and co-owner of Rehab United Sports Medicine and Physical Therapy. Bryan received his bachelor’s degree in Physical Therapy and Health Sciences from the University of New England and has been a physical therapist in the San Diego community since 1998. Through a close professional and personal relationship with renowned therapist Gary Gray, and as a member of the inaugural class of The Gray Institute for Functional Transformation (GIFT) fellowship, Bryan has been a strong advocate, pioneer, and expert in the principles of Applied Functional Science. Throughout his experience as both a clinician and an educator in the field, Bryan has not only treated a wide range of patient/athlete demographics and diagnoses, but has helped inspire and lead San Diego’s aspiring clinicians to become the future of medicine.

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