Hamstring strength is one of the most important qualities that we are looking for in an athlete.
Most of our kids have hamstrings that are significantly weaker than their quads. In most sports, the quads get all the work and the hamstrings are just there for the ride.
Being able to close the gap on the difference in strength is important for performance and injury prevention.
One of the best trends that I have been seeing lately is with athletes coming off of an ACL injury. There seems to be more of an emphasis on testing hamstring strength now than a few years ago.
This is great because the old method sucked. Testing range of motion or just using a time frame still is part of the puzzle but it is not complete. Adding in the hamstring strength test, along with some others, is a step in the right direction.
This almost forces athletes that needed surgery to train if they want to play again. No more just waiting a year of doing nothing but 20 sessions of PT. Doctors are not clearing these athletes unless they show the ability to pass strength tests.
I know I went to the extreme with the ACL example but hamstring pulls, knee pain, and hip issues can often be cleared up with better hamstring (and usually glute) strength.
Hamstring strength also makes athletes quicker. These muscles are responsible for slowing an athlete down to change direction. Athletes that struggle to decelerate themselves lack quickness. This is is because they spend too much time slowing down when they should already be gone the other way.
Track athletes are fun to watch when doing an agility drill. They are often super fast because their sport requires them to run really fast for whatever distance. They do not have to slow down a lot. Their ability to decelerate and hamstring strength is not quite there.
Improving hamstring strength is easy. We have two categories or tracks of hamstring exercises that I like to use: hinge patterns and curl patterns. Using both in the program is the best option. The only concern is that some young or inexperienced athletes will struggle with the hinge movements.
PB Ham Curl
Valslide/Slideboard Ham Curl
The reason I like to use both categories is because the curl movements are more of an isolation exercise and the hinge movements are going to involve more joints.
I know that isolation exercises kind of get a bad rap because muscles do not work in isolation. Well when we are trying to rapidly bring up the strength of a particular muscle group, some isolation might be a good thing.
In a 2 or 3 day training program, I would like to see 1 Deadlift, 1 other hinge movement, and 1 curl movement performed throughout the week. Anything more is perfectly fine.
A 4 day training program would have 1 deadlift, 1-2 other hinges, and 1-2 other curl movements. This should equal out to 4 movements.
Hitting these numbers will provide more than enough training for the hamstrings.
The last part of this is to take it to the turf. When performing speed work you have to train for deceleration. Most people just want to go, but we have to practice slowing down. Start out sprinting, pick a spot, and take as few steps as possible to stop on that spot. Repeat often.