Today we will examine some of the research on whether or not you can get stronger Hamstrings from sprint training.
Now, you’ve probably heard some people at the gym say,
“You’ve got to lift weights to get stronger bro!” or “You can’t get stronger from running”.
Now, this may be true and most peoples’ thinking is, that you need to add significant resistance or load, to a muscle to make it stronger. This is certainly the case and not incorrect and at first glance, running doesn’t appear to add heavy loads but most people tend to think of endurance running, which clearly won’t get you stronger from, but what about sprint running training?
What is the load in sprinting for your Hamstrings?
Load doesn’t have to be exclusively a weight per se, when you run faster the load actually increases through the muscle but how much? Check out this video below, showing some research by Chumanov et al (2007) on how much extra load the Hamstring takes when you get up to 100% sprinting speed when compared to 80% speed:
Clearly, the load from sprinting is high as you are maximally contracting your muscles to drive your body forwards as fast as possible. So much so that muscles can even tear from this load!
So what does the research on this conclude? Can sprint training improve Hamstring strength?
Now, one great exercise for Hamstring strength, specifically eccentric strength, is the Eccentric Nordic curl. We have loads of these in our exercise database and it has been used extensively for rehab and injury prevention in the Hamstrings and to perform it under maximal control requires so crazy strong Hamstrings.
Here is a video showing just how good Nordic Hamstring Exercises are at preventing Hamstring injury:
So, what does the evidence say about whether sprinting can strengthen your Hamstrings?
The studies we are looking at here looked at how sprinting training compared to Nordics for strength or hypertrophy, muscle length and sprinting performance.
Firstly, Mendiguchia et al (2020) performed a prospective interventional control study on sprint performance, sprint mechanics and Biceps femoris long head architecture.
They compared before versus after six weeks of training during the first six preseason weeks.
They had three groups as follows:
Group one was the Soccer group.
Group two were Nordics.
Group three did the sprint training.
Sprint performance and sprint mechanics
They found a small to a large improvement in the sprinting group with the exception of maximal running velocity.
Interestingly, the other two groups had a small negative change in sprinting performance and mechanics. This would be expected of the Nordics but not necessarily the soccer group.
Biceps femoris long head architecture.
The Sprint group showed a moderate increase in fascicle length, the Nordics group had a smaller increase and the soccer group it was a tiny increase.
Only the Nordic group had a small increase at pennation angle, which indicates more hypertrophy of the muscle. Now, this may not constitute strength directly but it does have some correlation from size to strength.
The other studys’ results:
In another study this time by Freeman et al (2019), they too compared the effects of sprint training and the Nordic Hamstring exercise on eccentric hamstring strength and sprint performance.
So, what did this study find?
Twenty-eight participants completed an eccentric hamstring strength assessment and a 40metre sprint test to assess acceleration and maximum speed.
They were randomly grouped into a Nordic Hamstring group and a sprint training group.
They performed two sessions per week for four weeks and they performed the eccentric hamstring strength assessment and 40m sprint test at baseline and repeated them again in the week following the intervention.
Another thing that they looked at, was the individual’s perceptions of soreness following the warm-up in each training session.
So, what did Freeman find?
Both groups gained significant eccentric Hamstring strength to similar levels.
The Sprint group improved moderately with sprint performance, especially maximum sprint speed, whereas this was trivial in the Nordic group.
Interestingly, the sprint training produced greater perceptions of soreness than the Nordic group following a four-week training intervention, specifically before the start of the last session.
So yes, sprinting does, in fact, strengthen your Hamstrings, however, we don’t fully know how good sprint training is for injury prevention especially when compared to Nordics, as we know Nordics are great for this already. Muscle soreness may be worse with sprinting than Nordics and this may have implications for training performance.
So, if you want stronger Hamstrings then maybe include some progressive sprint training into your program and you may be surprised!
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