Hamstring strains are a common injury throughout many sports, especially those that involve high speed running.
Although the strength of the hamstring itself is considered a factor in the likelihood of suffering a hamstring injury, it is not the only factor that needs to be considered in both minimising risk and the rehabilitation of hamstring injuries.
Factors such as flexibility/mobility, training history, muscle endurance, sport/position are also important to consider.
Strength is a key component in the risk minimisation of many injuries. The hamstring muscles cross both the hip and knee joint, therefore a variety of exercises are important to expose the hamstring to load at different lengths and joint angles.
The below exercises have all been shown to increase the strength and fascicle length of the hamstring, building tolerance to positions and load that are experienced during games and competitions.
Sprinting: Start with shorter sprint segments, followed by double the duration in recovery, or more if needed. You can then increase the intensity by manipulating the time to take your sprint workouts to the next level.
Nordics: Begin in a kneeling position with both ankles secured by tucking your feet under a bar or have someone hold them down, then progressively lean forward as slowly as possible while keeping your back straight. When you can’t resist anymore, fall forward and catch yourself with your hands against the floor.
Romanian deadlift: Stand with the bar or weight in your hands (not on the floor). Slowly lower the weight with a slight bend in your knees, bending at the hips and keeping your back straight. Lower until you feel a slight stretch in your hamstrings – usually when the weight has just passed your knees – then drive your hips forwards and use your hamstrings to power back up to standing.
45 degree back extensions: Using a hyperextension bench, position thighs on padding and hook heels on platform lip or under padded brace. Lower your body by bending waist until fully flexed. Raise, or extend waist until torso is parallel to legs.
Glute bridges: Lie face up on the floor, with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground and arms at your side. Lift your hips off the ground until your knees, hips and shoulders form a straight line. Squeeze your glutes and keep your abs drawn in so you don’t overextend your back. Hold your bridged position for a couple of seconds before easing down.
Improve flexibility and mobility
The length that your hamstring can achieve passively and actively is also an important consideration, in particular, ‘fascicle length’. Short fascicle length or weakness increases the risk of a hamstring injury.
Exercises to increase the fascicle length of the hamstring – such as sprinting and nordics as mentioned above – are considered to give a protective quality in minimising hamstring strain risk.
By having a greater range of motion that the hamstring can achieve when under load during sprinting and sporting movements it is thought that the tolerance of the hamstring is increased, therefore reducing injury risk.
Static stretching and flexibility work is also a training modality to consider when discussing muscle and joint range of motion.
Increase exposure through training
Fatigue levels are a risk factor for hamstring strains, so it is important to expose your hamstrings and other muscles to a steady, consistent increase in training to ensure your muscular endurance is maintained.
The key to strong hamstrings is not only exercises that are specific to your sport, but also exposure to sprinting and activities that are related specifically to hamstring strains.
Exposure to what is considered a ‘high-risk’ activity can be a protective factor. By administering small doses of poison (sprint exposure) you become immune to the poison (sprinting).
Test your hamstring strength at Healthy Mates High Performance
Combining advanced sensors, real-time data visualisation and cloud analytics, the NordBord is a comprehensive system for accurately quantifying and monitoring your hamstring strength and imbalance.
If you are looking to reduce hamstring injuries or to improve overall performance, book an appointment at Healthy Mates High Performance where we can test your hamstring strength so we can understand and improve any weaknesses in the muscles.