While we may never reach an elite athlete level in our sport or even in our own age group we do share some similarities and commonalities with elite level athletes. I will focus on two of them. One is we push ourselves to be the best version of ourselves we can be and to get the most out of what our bodies can give. The second is like elite level athletes we get injured especially when we are training hard.
One of the most common running injuries especially to runners is to the hamstring. There are simple yet effective exercises to help prevent hamstring injuries and more significant hamstring injuries such as grade 2 and 3 tears.
First though to help prevent hamstring injuries and strengthen them you should have an understanding on how they work.
How the hamstrings work-When people say things like “My hamstring is tight” or “I pulled my hamstring” they are actually speaking of three muscles that comprise of the hamstring.
They are the Biceps Femoris, Semitendinous, and the Semimembranous. These muscles run along the back of the leg from the top of the lower leg and continue upward toward your pelvis. The role of the hamstrings is to bend your knee and help move your knee backward. The hamstring muscles also are involved in decelerating the leg swing forward during hip flexion (hip going forward). It is during the forward swing phase that the hamstrings are at a greater potential for injury.
The hamstrings also work as assisting muscles or synergists with the glutes to help drive the hips back through what is called hip extension. Notice in the picture the runner’s left leg is being pulled toward the back. That is the hip extension action we are talking about.
Hamstring Injury Prevention and Strengthening- It is important in any strength training program to have a balance. So when training the hamstrings we want to have a balance as well. That means here that we want exercises that train both the concentric (the raising portion of the movement), and the eccentric portion of the movement (which is the lowering portion of the movement).
Please watch the videos I have added below for some examples of each type of exercise focus.
Exercises- Please watch the videos I have added below for some examples of each type of exercise focus. While each of them use all of the muscle actions each one does have a bit more focus on a certain movement.
The first video is the Hex bar deadlift which is a great example of a concentric movement. The second video can be used as a warmup or incorporated into a strength training program. The glute/ham raise in the third video is a great example of an eccentric hamstring exercise.
Follow Up- I would like to wrap up with some stats from the study. A male athlete is 19.3% likely to injure a hamstring, and a female athlete is 13.5% likely. Males and specifically older males are more likely to injure the hamstring muscle. Based on the research it makes sense to find the time to incorporate strengthening and injury prevention exercises to allow you to participate at the highest level you can. While we do not always have time to add in every exercise we sure do not have the time be injured either. Always be sure to add in some prehab or injury prevention exercises into your existing strength training.