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How to train the hamstring for sports and life?

by Taylor Tollison

The goal of soccer training is improved performance, injury prevention, soccer skills and tactics. Improved performance should never come at the cost of an injured player. Goal #1 is injury prevention in a soccer conditioning program. Goal #2 is to improve performance.

Old school methods train the hamstrings vastly differently than they are actually used in real life. Remember the time of leg curls? I do. In fact, we are probably still in this time. Although to some degree erroneous, I think many athlete still do this exercise. Is it bad? No. But is it optimal? No again. The hamstrings in sport are not used the same way the hamstring curl machine trains. Remember, the greatest carry over in training comes from mimicking real life movement as much as feasible.

Hamstrings-A short overview

The hamstring crosses two joints-the hip and knee joint. It plays a crucial role in many soccer activities such as walking running, jumping, and controlling the movement in the trunk. With two joints which one plays the primary role in movement? The hip or Knee. You might be thinking the knee because when running you see the foot come up to the butt after push off. But this is incorrect. The primary power and resistance comes from the hamstring at the hip joint. When sprinting to you feel yourself being pulled across the ground like a hamstring curl? I donít think so. If that is not how the hamstrings are used shouldnít we train them like real life-The hamstring through the hip joint. hamstring

If not hamstring curl, what?

First, there are probably many reading this article, either trainers (I hope not), coaches (I can understand), Parents or athletes who prescribe hamstring curls. It is completely understandable. Their parents and coaches did it so now they are passing this down. Have you heard the story of the lady that cooked ham with the ends cut off? She was asked why she did it. She said because her mom did it. Well, her mom was asked and replied, because my mom did it. Generations of this family kept saying I cook the ham with ends cut off because that is what my mother did. None of them new the reason. They just did it because the person before them did. In the end, the reason the original person cut the ends off was because the ham couldnít fit into the oven. Even though modern ovens fit the ham just fine generations continued to cut the ham off. This story illustrates that sometimes we do things not knowing why we do them, even though it is not always optimal.

Is it bad to do leg curls? No. But to get the most bang for the buck you should mimic real life as much as feasible. So what exercise mimics real life? Dead lifts. But I want to take it to another level-Single leg dead lifts.

Why Single Leg Dead lifts?

First, single leg dead lifts protect the back? Because you are working only one leg at a time it requires less weight. Less weight on the back allows for more protection of the back. Second, the SLDL works only leg at a time. Wow, shocker. But doesnít running happen one leg at a time? You donít go running around pushing two feet simultaneously off the ground. It is one leg followed by another. By training one leg at a time it requires more balance and proprioception. Finally, the resistance in the SLDL happens at the hip not the knee. Sound familiar? It should because that is how you run. Letís mimic that movement.  Here is a video to illustrate the SLDL.  It is from

To summarize, minimize your use of leg curls and start using SLDL immediately. You donít even need a dumbbells or barbells. Use things like a can of paint, or small bucket of water. Be creative. This exercise does not require a lot of money, but is critical. Remember balance of training. If you work your quads you need to work your hamstrings.