Target Muscle/s: Hamstrings
Sets & Reps: 10-12 reps
Tempo: Eccentric: slow, controlled lengthening of muscle
Frequency: Twice a week strength training program (or as advised if part of rehab plan)
Despite the popularity amongst runners of performing strength exercises for the glutes, when it comes to distance running the hamstrings actually play a greater role. On an elite sprinter you will see some very developed glutes (buttock muscles) but take a look at an elite distance runner and you will notice much more development in the hamstrings. When it comes to distance running, one could argue the hamstrings play a more important role than the glutes, so it makes sense to prioritise them in your weekly strength training exercises. When it comes to injury, weak hamstrings are actually most vulnerable each time your front leg starts lowering down to the ground in preparation for landing. At this time, the hamstrings are working eccentrically (under tension whilst lengthening) to control the straightening of the knee. Research shows that most hamstring injuries in runners are caused by not having enough eccentric strength, so hamstring strengthening exercises should focus particularly on the moment when the hamstring is lengthening as opposed to shortening. Arabesque Deadlifts do exactly this by putting tension on the lengthening hamstring of the supporting leg (the one you are standing on) as you slowly bend forwards at the waist to touch the wall in front of you. The hamstring of the leg you are raising behind you is also working hard, so overall it’s a great hamstring exercise.Arabesque Deadlifts For Runners - Video at sportinjurymatt.co.uk... Click To Tweet
1. Stand just over arms length from a wall or mirror. Raise one of your legs so that you are balancing on the other. Make sure that the knee of the grounded leg is slightly bent.
2. Slowly reach forwards with both hands whilst raising the other leg up behind you. Think about lengthening the body in both directions, reaching forwards to touch the wall as well as reaching back with the raised foot. As you reach forwards, you should feel a stretch sensation up the back of the grounded leg. This is the hamstring working eccentrically, controlling the movement whilst it lengthens.
3. Once you reach the wall/box, hold the position for 2 seconds ensuring that the leg behind you remains straight and raised, then push yourself back to the upright starting position with raised knee. Repeat for 10-12 reps so that by the last rep your hamstring is fatigued and you are unable to do any more.
4. Once you can perform more than 12 repetitions, make the exercise more difficult by either moving further away from the wall, not using a wall for support, or by holding a weight, e.g. medicine ball or kettle bell.
• Make sure the knee of the grounded leg remains slightly bent. Locking it out puts more strain on the knee ligaments rather than the hamstrings.
• Avoid clenching your toes, especially if you are doing the exercise barefoot. Stability needs to come from the hips not the muscles of the foot or lower leg, so try and keep the feet relaxed.
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