Loosening up your hamstrings before a run is a great way to get your blood flowing and muscles ready for action. By taking a few minutes to warm up before you run, you’ll increase the blood flow to your muscles and prepare your body for vigorous activity, which, according to “Runner’s World,” allows it to work more efficiently and gives you a better running experience. As part of a total-body warm-up, hamstring-specific moves can get you ready to hit the pavement with loose limbs and a pumping heart. Loosening the hamstrings can also help you avoid injury.
Standing Forward Toe Reach
An effective way to target the hamstrings is by doing three sets of standing forward toe reaches on each leg. These movements engage the entire back of the leg and get the blood flowing to the area. Stand with both feet on the ground, one foot roughly 2 feet in front of the other. Engage your core and hamstrings and bend at the waist, reaching for your front foot. Use the power of your hamstrings to pull you back to the starting position and repeat 10 times before switching legs.
Walking Lean-Back Lunges
Walking lunges alone are a great warm-up, but with this variation by Elite Athlete Training, an additional stretch is added to prime the hip flexors along with the hamstrings and lower body. Start as if you were doing a regular walking lunge but let your back knee touch the floor and pause. Lean slightly back and tilt your pelvis up and forward to stretch the hip flexors. Rise out of the lunge and repeat on the other side.
Another lunge that is effective for the hamstrings is the knee-hug lunge. Before you take your step forward, bring your lunging knee to your chest and pull it in tight with your hands. Release it and step out into an extended lunge that brings your back leg extended beyond 90 degrees. Repeat with the other leg and complete 10 reps on each side.
The best way to warm up your hamstrings before running is to run slowly. Ideally, you should do this before you do any other warm-up exercises, but it can also be factored into the beginning of your run. If you opt to do it before your warm-up moves, run slowly for two minutes and then stop to perform your warm-up routine. If you factor it into your run after your exercises, just take it easy for a half or full mile before you pick up your speed and settle in at your normal pace.
After graduating from the University of Kansas with a bachelor's degree in sports information, Jill Lee served for 10 years as a magazine editor for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). Also a published author, Lee now works as a professional writer and editor focusing on fitness, sports and careers.