6 Exercises That Strengthen Runners’ Hamstrings

As a full-body exercise, running is one of the healthiest ways to stay fit. But running can also put a lot of stress on your body, leading to repetitive stress injuries and imbalanced muscle growth. If you do not work your other muscles—especially the hamstrings—you will not get the full benefits of running.

Although the hamstrings put the power in a runner’s stride, they can become weak and tense if you do not properly exercise them. Unfortunately, the hamstrings are some of the most ignored muscles on a runner’s body. Using 6 of the best bodyweight hamstring exercises for runners, you can put the strength back into your stride.

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The longer you ignore your hamstrings, the higher your risk of developing pain in your knees or iliotibial band. Let’s take a look at why and what you can do to toughen up your hamstrings.

How Weak Hamstrings Affect Your Running

Although running uses your full body, you will see the biggest effects on your legs and core. Running uses more than just a single muscle group in the legs, though. Your quadriceps pull your legs up and forward. Your hamstrings provide a great amount of support and force when you push off from the ground.

If your hamstrings are weak, you will end up over-relying on your quadriceps and dump an unnecessary amount of strain into your knees. As you continue to run, you might be able to maintain a normal speed, but over time, you will develop injuries that will keep you out of commission for a few weeks.

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This is why it is important to specifically target your hamstrings with directed workouts. A simple flow through these seven exercises will help prevent knee and hamstring injuries, such as a pulled muscle, and put more power into your running. If you have time, get out your sports mat and go through a set of:

  • Single leg dips (x20 for each leg)
  • Single leg bridge (x10 for each leg)
  • Single leg bridge holds (20 second holds for each leg)
  • Lying leg lifts (x20 for each leg)
  • Leg Extensions (x20 for each leg)
  • Clamshells (x20 for each leg)

If you are unfamiliar with any of these exercises, continue down to read about each one in detail.

Single-Leg Dips

Runner Hamstring Exercises - Single Leg Dips

Single-Leg Dips

You will need a stable surface such as a hardened box or stair to complete this exercise. Begin by standing on the edge of the surface, balancing on one foot with your other foot floating out in the air. Carefully bend your knee until you have lowered into a single squat.

As you lower yourself, point your extended foot towards the floor. Raise back up and repeat. Complete this exercise 20 times then switch to the other leg.

Single-Leg Bridges

Runner Hamstring Exercises - Single leg bridge (holds)

Single-Leg Bridge

Start by laying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, just below your hips. With your hands on the floor, down by your sides, begin by raising your hips towards to sky to create a bridge position. Keep your weight evenly distributed through your shoulders and the floor of your feet.

From the bridge position, raise one foot towards the sky until your leg has completely straightened. Without lowering your foot, drop your hips back down and then lift back up again. Complete this exercise 20 times and then switch to the other leg.

Single-Leg Bridge Holds

Start as if you were going to do a single-leg bridge with your feet planted to the floor below your hips. Raise your hips and a leg towards the sky and hold the position for 20 seconds. As you hold the position, be sure not to sag into your hips and keep your body flat. Lower to the floor and repeat with the other leg.

Lying Leg Lifts

Runner Hamstring Exercises - Lying Leg Lifts

Lying Leg Lifts

Lie on your stomach with your face to the ground and both hands by your side. Without bending your knees, raise one leg as high as you can without it hurting. Hold for a second and then lower back down to the floor. Repeat 20 times and then switch sides.

You can add resistance using a few ankle weights or make the exercise easier by not raising your leg as high.

Leg Extensions

Runner Hamstring Exercises - Ball Extensions

Leg Extensions

Lie flat on your back and raise both feet up onto a balance ball. Roll the ball inwards by bending your knees and raising your hips until the ball moves in towards you. Straighten back out and roll the ball away from you.

Before continuing, be sure to check your balance and reorientate if you need to. You can increase resistance by rolling the ball slower and milking the exercise.


Runner Hamstring Exercises - Clamshells with Band


Using a mat, lie on your side with both feet on top of each other. Bend your knees in toward your chest as if you were sitting in a chair. Begin to raise your top leg as high as you can without it hurting without separating your feet. Your legs should look like an opening clamshell.

Lower your knee back down and repeat 20 times for each leg. You can add a resistance band to increase the difficulty of this exercise.


Go through this set of exercises after a run or mix them into your strength training. They can be done in as little as 10 minutes and will boost muscle strength and tone to help improve your running. Giving yourself just a few extra minutes of exercise every day will help prevent injuries and enhance your power as you run.

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Coach Scott's Credentials: He has published over 20 books including, Beginner's Guide to Half Marathons: A Simple Step-By-Step Solution to Get You to the Finish Line in 12 Weeks! (Beginner To Finisher Book 3), which has become an Amazon International #1 bestseller. Scott specializes in helping new runners become injury-free race finishers. He recently completed his 17th half marathon race. 

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6 Exercises That Strengthen Runners’ Hamstrings

Coach Scott