The Hamstring-to-Quadriceps Strength Ratio in Female Runners: A Brief Overview
In female runners, the hamstrings are responsible for hip extension (rotational force) while the quads are responsible for knee flexion (angular force). Therefore, it makes sense that when comparing the two muscles’ strengths, they should have similar ratios. However, there is no single “right” or “wrong” way to measure these ratios.
They all depend on many factors such as training history, age, gender, body type and even genetics.
For example, some studies show that women tend to have greater quadricep strength than men (1), but others show that the opposite is true (2). There are also studies showing that females tend to have lower hamstring strength than males (3). Again, there are conflicting results.
Some researchers believe that the difference between male and female values is due to differences in muscle fiber composition (4).
So what does all this mean? What’s the best way to train them? How do I determine my own personal ratio?
These questions will be answered in this article.
What Is The Hamstring-to-Quadriceps Strength Ratio In Female Runners?
Plan of Action
To begin, you have to understand that there are many methods used to calculate the strength ratio. These include:
The “traditional” method uses isokinetic dynamometry (velocity specific strength), which involves moving your limbs as fast as possible against resistance in a specific plane. It’s the most effective way of measuring muscle strength. However, it doesn’t take into account real-life movement.
The “functional” method involves testing your functional strength in a range of motion similar to your respective sport. In this case, it would be running.
The “classical” method is the oldest and least expensive. It uses a simple manual muscle test, which measures strength in only one direction. This is less accurate than the other two methods.
The next thing you need to know is that the strength ratio is different for each person. The data provided by scientific research doesn’t apply to everybody. This is because a lot of other factors come into play, such as the method used to calculate the strength ratio and personal biology (genes, age, gender, training history, diet, etc…).
For this reason, it’s important to determine your own hamstring-to-quadriceps strength ratio. In order to do this, you should perform the three methods described above and take the average of the three results.
What about the other leg muscles? Should they be taken into account as well?
While it’s true that hip extensors, knee flexors and minor stabilizers all play a part in locomotion, their strength relative to the quads is much smaller. For this reason, they don’t need to be taken into account when determining your ratio.
Once you’ve determined your ratio, you may compare it to the following chart:
Ratio (Male) Ratio (Female) Excellent Greater than 1.0 Greater than 1.0 Good 1.0-0.9 1.0-1.2 Fair Less than 0.9 Less than 1.0
Although this chart provides general guidelines, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a low ratio is bad and a high ratio is good. It simply means that, in general, an athlete with a higher ratio will have greater speed than one with a lower ratio.
How To Increase Your Ratio
So you’ve determined your ratio and it’s less than 1.0. What does that mean? It simply means that you have more strength in your hamstrings than you do in your quadriceps.
Obviously, this is going to affect how well you run and may even hurt your performance.
The first thing you need to do is determine why you have this type of ratio. There are several factors that play a role here including your training history, genetics and even how you run. The following plans will address the most common reasons behind this problem.
In addition to these factors, there is also the issue of speed. Many sprinters tend to have very high hamstring-to-quadriceps strength ratios because of the nature of their events.
Sources & references used in this article:
Effect of gender and maturity on quadriceps-to-hamstring strength ratio and anterior cruciate ligament laxity by CS Ahmad, AM Clark, N Heilmann… – … American journal of …, 2006 – journals.sagepub.com
Hamstring to quadriceps strength ratio and noncontact leg injuries: A prospective study during one season by D Kim, J Hong – Isokinetics and Exercise Science, 2011 – content.iospress.com
Effect of hamstring-emphasized resistance training on hamstring: quadriceps strength ratios by WR Holcomb, MD Rubley, HJ Lee… – Journal of Strength …, 2007 – search.proquest.com