Hamstring exercises should be a staple in every person’s training program. They are a crucial muscle group that is imperative for daily function. They play an important role in a wide spectrum from simple activities to more powerful exercises! To warm up your hamstrings, a healthy dose of dynamic mobility, muscle setting, and strengthening, as well as nervous system priming is what creates an excellent warm up routine. Not to worry, you don’t have to feel limited to the traditional and boring standing hamstrings stretch and leg curls. In this article, you will learn how to warm up your hamstrings with a variety of excellent exercises targeting mobility, nervous system activation, and muscle activation!
Why Warm Up The Hamstrings?
The hamstrings cross both the knee and the hip, so naturally, they create movement at both of these joints! Specifically, the hamstrings extend the hip and flex the knee. These muscles are used in a wide variety of activities, from sprinting to squatting, you name it! They also are very powerful muscles and are often involved in fast, plyometric, and quick movements. Therefore, it is very important to warm up this muscle group prior to performing any specific activity to reduce injury risk.
Learn How To Build Healthier Hamstrings
What was your high school superlative? If the hamstrings had one it’d be most likely to be injured in the lower body. The good news is the hamstrings have reflected and want to change their ways to become the least likely to become injured. That happens with strength training geared at injury prevention!
Probably my favorite hamstring warm-up exercise. I am not a fan of static hamstrings stretching prior to working out. There is evidence to support dynamic stretching and dynamic warm-ups are more beneficial prior to working out compared to static stretching. Working the hamstrings eccentrically followed by concentrically should be the theme in a warm-up. For someone that can’t handle standing or half-kneeling hamstrings warm-up, this is one of my go-to hamstrings exercises to warm-up the hamstrings. Try out 2 sets of 6-10 reps and don’t rush it! The slower and more controlled this exercise, the more benefit you will get from this exercise!
What the band does with these exercises is that it allows the hamstrings to work during both phases of contraction, both concentric (muscle shortening to create movement) as well as eccentric (muscle lengthening against gravity). This is great because the hamstrings constantly will have to do this with sport/activity such as running, sprinting, jumping, or weight lifting!
Below is an example of how to perform an excellent warm-up before deadlifting, which requires a lot of activation from our hamstrings! This blog article will help explain why warming up prior to deadlifting is important. It also includes a [P]Rehab Youtube video where Mike will show you the specifics of his deadlifting warm-up routine!
This video demonstrates a collection of dynamic hamstring warm-up exercises to adequately warm up the hamstrings, improve hip flexibility, and promote proximal stability. “Proximal stability promotes distal mobility.” Neuromuscular control of the lumbopelvic region is absolutely imperative for lower extremity mechanics, especially for optimal hamstrings function during sporting activities. Improving the performance of the proprioceptive system at differing joint angles and body positions is key. This can be accomplished through technique-based exercises, balance drills, and plyometric exercises. A neuromuscular control program “aims to stimulate the proprioceptive pathways and the processing of such information, with planned and unplanned movements, and, through repetition and practice, alter the neuromuscular response and allow adaptive changes to occur.”
Below we demonstrate a series of excellent exercises that are great for warming up the hamstrings. As previously mentioned, these muscles both extend the hip and flex the knee. Incorporating both of these movements into your warm-up, both isolated and with combined movement patterns will help guide an excellent preparation for the activity!
Recently Injure Your Hamstring? Learn How To Recover!
HOW: Start by lying on your back with both legs up on a wall or doorway. Move your hips as close to the wall as possible. Let one leg down as you keep the other leg straight up on the wall, relaxed. Move that leg up and down for the prescribed amount of reps.
FEEL: You should feel your hamstring muscles stretching.
COMPENSATION: Keep the leg on the wall relaxed. Don’t move the foot. Also, keep your deep core stabilizers engaged with this exercise to avoid excessive lumbopelvic motion.
Foam Rolling – Does it work?
To gain more mobility, blood flow, and the overall movement of the hamstring musculature, foam rolling is an additional intervention that can be added to your warm-up! What is important to note is that this should not be done in isolation; however, it can be combined with other dynamic mobility/muscle setting drills that we are outlining throughout this article.
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Adding in muscle setting, progressive strengthening exercises are also important when designing a warm-up. The hamstrings are particularly susceptible to soft tissue injuries, and part of the reason for that is often due to inadequate strength of the posterior chain.
Want to start adding more hamstrings exercises but you don’t know where to start?! Follow the levels in this video! Demonstrated in the video are levels 1-7 for progressively strengthening the hamstrings only using furniture sliders. You’ll learn a ton of unique hamstring strengthening exercises here!
Don’t have sliders? No worries, just grab a towel/pillow sheet/or any piece of clothing and perform these same movements on a wood/tile floor. The versatility of this progressive hamstring strengthening program is what makes it so feasible for anyone to perform anywhere!
Learn more about hamstring strains, including the causes behind how they may occur, how to rehab a hamstring strain appropriately, and the best treatment strategies below!
Probably my favorite hamstring strengthening exercise. When it comes to addressing the hamstrings, most people are great with sagittal plane-focused movements including hip/knee flexion and extension. However, the hamstrings are not oriented just in the sagittal plane! This is due to different insertion points of the individual hamstring muscles.
The hamstrings are a muscle group that consists of the biceps femoris long and short head, semimembranosus, and semitendinosus. All of the hamstrings muscles except the biceps femoris short head originate on the ischial tuberosity, but they insert in different locations near the knee. Due to the different insertion points, the hamstrings not only contribute to sagittal plane movement but also transverse plane rotational movements.
Adding rotational movements to eccentric biased hamstring exercises is essential to fully address the hamstrings. Two traditional hamstring exercises you can add rotation to are:
Video 1️⃣ RDLs ➡️ make it easier by providing a target, such as foam rollers. We explain this further below!
Video 2️⃣ Airplanes ➡️ cue the person to reach for the inside/outside of the foot that is on the ground to help groove the rotation.
When rehabbing a hamstring strain, pain thresholds are important to establish. The concept of ‘no pain no gain’ is thrown out the window in this situation, in addition to other sustained injuries! Check out the infographic below.
Romanian Deadlift Variations
The Romanian deadlift is an excellent exercise you can incorporate into a warm-up routine that is excellent for not only the hamstrings, but also intrinsic foot strength, dynamic balance, joint proprioception, and hip strengthening! It is a much more difficult exercise than it looks, so starting with warm-up drills and breaking the movement down to practice motor control will help you build up the ability to perform this movement correctly! We have an entire blog post dedicated to this topic. Read all about how to master the single-leg deadlift!
While hitting the same muscle groups, the Romanian deadlift will elicit greater levels of glute and hamstring activation; whereas the traditional deadlift elicits greater levels of quadriceps activation. Below we show a couple of examples of Romanian deadlift variations that you can incorporate into your hamstring warm-up routine.
Begin this exercise by balancing on one leg next to a wall. Place your back foot on the wall behind you to give you some support to make balancing easier. Next, focus on hinging primarily at the hips. This is achieved by bringing your torso forward and pushing your butt back. Lower yourself as far as comfortable, then pull yourself upright by using the muscles in the back of the leg. Squeeze your butt once you are upright to ensure that you stand fully erect.
This exercise requires a lot of stability. Make sure you are staying engaged with the foot muscles. Make sure your hip, knee, and ankle are in alignment. Using a mirror can help guide you with visual feedback to focus on your form and technique.
As previously mentioned, like any other exercise or activity, warming up your body is absolutely crucial to prime the body for the specific activity it is going to undergo! There are a multitude of ways to warm up the hamstrings, including dynamic mobility drills, muscle activation exercises, or foam rolling. Be sure to keep a mixed bag of options when warming up, and include a variety of movements that combine all actions of the hamstrings, including knee flexion and hip extension. Warming up will ensure your nervous system, muscular system, cardiovascular system, and energy systems are ready to be utilized properly in whichever activity you will perform!
The Ultimate Hamstring Program At Your Fingertips
It is time to build a stronger posterior chain, with the hamstrings being at the forefront!
About The Author
Craig Lindell, PT, DPT, CSCS
[P]rehab Co-Founder & Chief Content Officer
Craig is a South Jersey native & Penn State Kinesiology Alumni. When the opportunity came, Craig packed his bags and drove to California to pursue his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of Southern California. With [P]rehab, Craig oversees all digital content creation and multi-channel publication that reaches millions of people on a weekly basis. As a PT, Craig has a wide array of experience from working with various neurological conditions to working with collegiate & professional athletes across the Big Five in North American sports. Experiencing physical therapy first-hand as a soccer player in high school, Craig has a passion & special interest in adolescent athletic development working with young athletes to overcome injuries. In his spare time, Craig enjoys exercising, playing golfing, hiking, traveling, watching Philly sports, and spending quality time with his family.
Disclaimer – The content here is designed for information & education purposes only and is not intended for medical advice.