If you’ve ever seen an athlete running on a track or a field who suddenly winces with pain and grabs the back of her thigh, you’ve witnessed the tell-tale signs of a pulled hamstring muscle. To avoid becoming a victim of the dreaded pulled hammie, you can strengthen the muscles on the back of each thigh with various exercises, including cardio activities. Cardio exercises will not only tone your thighs, they will also burn calories.
Perform a dynamic hamstring stretching routine, either as a warm-up before your workout or as a workout itself. Perform walking lunges by lunging forward with your right foot, standing up as you bring your left foot forward next to your right, then lunging forward with your left foot and continuing the pattern down the floor or field. Do walking straight leg kicks by striding forward while kicking alternate legs straight in front of you.
Run through a rope ladder. You can run straight through with high knees, run through the rope backward, or cross over into the ladder, stepping out to the right, running back into the ladder and then stepping out to the left.
Use the elliptical machine. Set your feet on the pedals so you can press down harder with your heels to focus on your hamstrings. You can also pedal backward to emphasize your hamstring and gluteus muscles.
Walk outdoors. Walking up hills, in particular, strengthens your hamstrings, calves and glutes.
Row a boat or perform rowing exercises on a machine. Rowing provides a total-body workout that targets muscles from your calves to your shoulders, including your hamstrings. Your hamstrings are activated when you’re pulling the bar -- or the oars -- toward your body and when the bar moves away from your torso.
Swim laps or practice competitive strokes. You’ll work your hamstrings whether you swim the freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke or butterfly.
- Team in Training: Dynamic Flexibility and Mobility
- University of Delaware Sports and Orthopedic Clinic: Preventative Exercise Progresson for Hamstring Strain
- Tri-Newbies Online: For Running Speed, Hit the Hills Season Long
- Concept2: Rowing and Your Muscles
- Swim to Slim: Muscles Used Swimming
- Mendeley: Hamstring Muscle Forces Prior to and Immediately Following an Acute Sprinting-Related Muscle Strain Injury
- Consult your doctor before starting a new exercise routine. Stop performing any hamstring exercise if you feel pain, particularly in the back of your thigh.
M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.