The hamstrings are a group of muscles and tendons that insert at the hip and extend down just past the knee. This wide reach of these important muscles means they play a key role in many lower-body movements. Any sport that requires you to bend or rotate your knees or extend your hips uses your hamstrings, but sports that regularly rely on leg motions are the most effective at strengthening your hamstrings.
Soccer and Football
Because soccer and football rely heavily on the legs, they’re ideal choices if you want to work your hamstrings. In fact, according to U.S. Soccer, the sport relies so heavily on the hamstrings that hamstring injuries are a leading cause of time loss. As you kick the ball and weave across the soccer field, your hamstrings are engaged in rotating your hips, moving your knees and helping you maintain your balance. In football, the hamstrings help move kickers’ knees and hips into the proper kicking position. They also keep your knees and hips in the proper position during runs and tackles.
Baseball and Basketball
Although baseball requires less leg action than soccer and football, it still engages your hamstrings in bursts when you jump up to catch or throw a ball. Basketball is highly running intensive. When you run, your hamstrings help to both stabilize your knees and hips and propel your motion forward. In baseball, sliding or falling onto a base requires action from your hamstrings to keep your knees and hips stable as well as bend them into the proper position.
Tennis, Volleyball and Badminton
Like some other team sports, these net-oriented sports require you to have strong, agile hamstrings. The focus on hamstrings is particularly strong in tennis, volleyball and badminton because you frequently jump to reach the ball, bend your legs to access the ball and extend your hips as you work with your teammates. These sports also require significantly more side-to-side leg motions than some other team sports, and these movements engage the hamstrings to rotate your hips and knees. The hamstring workout in these sports tends to come in punctuated bursts. You might stand still for a few minutes, followed by a running and jumping session that stretches and trains your hamstrings.
Track and Field
Most track and field sports, including all varieties of running and jumping, offer your hamstrings a challenging workout. Jumping hurdles, for example, requires your hamstrings to rotate and flex your knees up and then back down. As with other sports, the running associated with these sports relies on your hamstrings to hold your knees and hips in the proper position and rotate and extend them forward. The crouching positions some track and field athletes use to stretch and to start a run rely on the hamstrings to flex the knees.