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Hamstring strain rehab: Exercises to restore your strength and control

The ball curl exercise for rehab of hamstring strains.
Kim Van Deventer
Kim Van Deventer
Dec 19, 2023
Medically reviewed by
Maryke Louw
Are you struggling with a hamstring strain? Want to recover like an expert?

It all starts with understanding the three critical factors in hamstring rehab, which are:

  1. Building hamstring strength
  2. Enhancing core control
  3. Optimizing flexibility

We previously discussed the most effective exercises to improve hamstring flexibility.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ve curated our top hamstring strengthening and core control exercises with valuable tips to help you minimize rehab setbacks.

Let’s start with why these specific exercises should be the focus of your hamstring rehab.

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Evidence-based rehab plans for hamstring strains
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Male runner using the Exakt Health app's exercises to rehab his hamstring strain.

Why strength exercises help hamstring strains

When injured, your hamstrings lose some strength, making them prone to further injury.

That's why it's common for people to pull a hamstring again (sometimes soon) after they get back to training.

Simply resting is not enough to fully recover from a hamstring strain.

Building strength before you get back to your activities is essential to avoid the frustration of recurring hamstring injuries.

3 Types of hamstring strength exercises

A comprehensive rehab plan for hamstring strains must target all 3 types of muscle contraction.
1
Isometric exercises
When the hamstrings contract but stay at the same length, e.g., when you hold the bridge position for several seconds.
2
Concentric exercises
When the hamstrings shorten while they contract, e.g., when your foot moves towards your bottom while doing the leg curl exercise.
3
Eccentric exercises
When the hamstrings lengthen while they contract, e.g., when lowering the weight while doing a Romanian deadlift.

According to research, hamstring rehab plans that include targeted eccentric hamstring strengthening and core control exercises can lead to quicker recovery times.

How core exercises help hamstring strains

Having poor core strength and stability can predispose you to hamstring strains.

Here’s why.

Your core consists of the muscles around your trunk (stomach and back) and pelvis (gluteal muscles, adductors, and hip flexors).

Core muscles

These muscles play a vital role in controlling the movement of your back, pelvis, and hips when you walk, run, and jump.

Your hamstrings attach to your pelvis and rely on your core muscles to keep your pelvis stable so they can work in a coordinated way.

Anatomy of the hamstring muscles.

If your core muscles aren't working optimally, your pelvis won't be stable enough to support your hamstrings adequately. As a result, your hamstrings will have to work harder and can become strained.

Tailoring hamstring strain exercises to your healing stage

If your hamstring exercises are too high-level or intense during the healing process, they can aggravate your injury.

That’s why your rehab exercises must align with your healing stage.

Let’s look at the different stages and exercise examples for each.

Top tip!

Check out each exercise's “Tips” section to see why we recommend them, what to expect when doing them, and how they benefit your hamstring strain recovery.

Early-stage strength exercises

  • In this stage, your hamstrings are usually not very strong and easy to irritate.
  • Focus on low-load exercises.
  • Avoid positions that cause your hamstrings discomfort.

Exercise examples

Only a snapshot

These exercises are only a snapshot of what you must do in each stage of recovery. The exercise intensities must slowly increase until your hamstrings are ready to safely move on to the next stage.

Mid-stage strength exercises

During the mid-stage rehab, you can start building your hamstring strength through its full range of motion and challenge your core control more.

Exercise examples

Late-stage strength exercises

In the later stages of rehab, you’ll need to ramp up the intensity of your exercises to develop the hamstring strength your sport demands.

Exercise examples

We've split the hamstring strain rehab plan in the Exakt Health app into distinct stages with specific targets for you to meet. That way, you can confidently progress from one stage to the next without worrying that you’re doing too much too soon.

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Female runner using the Exakt Health app's exercises to treat her hamstring strain.

Getting your hamstrings ready for sport

The final stage of hamstring rehab involves exercises that mimic the specific demands of the sports and activities you want to return to.

For instance, if you’re a runner, it’s essential to focus on slowly easing back into running and building your endurance before moving on to faster runs.

In addition, you should include exercises requiring fast, forceful hamstring contractions (plyometrics) so it can cope with these types of loads when you return to your regular running training schedule.

If you do running sports, your final hamstring strain exercises must include plyometrics (jumping and hopping).
If you do running sports, your final hamstring strain exercises must include plyometrics (jumping and hopping).

Another example is if you do sports that involve quick direction changes. In that case, agility drills can help you prepare your hamstring for a safe return to that activity.

The hamstring plan in the Exakt Health app includes customized dynamic run-and-walk programs and plyometric exercises. Rest assured, you'll always know you're ready to return to running after completing your final rehab stage in the app.

Hamstring icon
Evidence-based rehab plans for hamstring strains
Download the app
Female runner using the Exakt Health app to rehab her hamstring.

Conclusion

Effectively rehabilitating a hamstring strain involves a structured approach that evolves with your recovery.

Here are some helpful points to keep in mind:

  • By focusing on exercises that cater to all three muscle contraction types–isometric, concentric, and eccentric–you're setting a solid foundation for hamstring strength.
  • Core stability exercises are crucial in preventing further strain and ensuring your hamstrings can perform optimally.
  • Always align your exercises with your recovery stage, gradually increasing intensity to match your healing progress.
  • Make sure not to skip the final rehab phase, as it’s crucial for preparing your hamstring to cope with the demands of your sport.

With this complete and customized approach, you're healing and building more robust and resilient hamstrings – making them ready for any challenges on the other side of your recovery.

More about hamstring strains
Kim Van Deventer
Kim Van Deventer
Kim Van Deventer is a freelance healthcare writer and digital content strategist for healthcare businesses and medical content agencies. She has a BSc in Physiotherapy and worked as a physiotherapist for more than 14 years, specializing in sports injury rehabilitation, chronic pain management, and women's health. Kim combines her clinical experience and digital marketing skills to create relevant and helpful content that improves patients' lives.
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