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5 Best Exercises To Recover From A Hamstring Injury

Hamstring injury
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Have you ever been running along in training or a match and felt a ping at the back of your thigh?

Unfortunately, this is the symptom of a hamstring strain, the most commonly experienced injury seen in running sports such as soccer, Australian football and rugby.

We will discuss who is at risk of hamstring strains and the top five hamstring exercises to recover from them.

The same exercises can also be effective to prevent hamstring injuries occurring in the first instance.

WHO’S AT RISK

The research into hamstring strains indicates many factors expose a player to injury.

They include:

1. Previous Hamstring Injury

This is an obvious factor but the reason is that players return to sport before they have fully regained their hamstring strength.

2. Age

Naturally as we age, our muscle fibres reduce in size and we lose muscle mass and strength.

3. Lack Of Hamstring Flexibility

During sprinting or kicking, our hamstrings stretch out and a lack of flexibility can cause the muscle to strain.

4. Lack Of Hamstring Strength

During sprinting, the hamstring muscle produces two different forces or muscles contractions. The muscle eccentrically contracts as the leg is being stretched out in front. This slows the movement of the leg just before the foot hits the ground. Secondly, when the foot is on the ground, the muscles concentrically contract to push the leg backwards, thus driving the body forwards.

hamstring injury

TOP 5 HAMSTRING EXERCISES

Exercises should focus on both hamstring flexibility and strength. It would be counterproductive to work on one aspect without the other.

Hamstring Exercises

Here are my 5 top hamstring exercises to keep you off the sidelines:

1. Nordic Hamstring Curl

This exercise has been proven to reduce hamstring strains by 51% in footballers.

It is performed by kneeling on the ground with someone holding your ankles on the floor behind. Cross your arms over your chest and very slowly lower yourself. Once you lose control, put your hands out to catch yourself on the ground.

Top tip - you can do these on your own by wedging your heels under a weighted barbell.

Example of programme:
Week 1: 3 reps x2 sets, twice weekly
Week 2: 5 reps x2 sets, twice weekly
Week 3: 5 reps x3 sets, twice weekly
Week 4: 8 reps x3, twice weekly (maintain this throughout the season)

2. Single Leg Romanian Deadlift

This is one of my favourite hamstring exercises for two reasons.

Doing it on one leg means you can’t compensate by using the other stronger leg.

Secondly, the muscle is being stretched and strengthened at the same time. This movement replicates what the hamstrings do when you sprint or kick a ball.

Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell with one hand. Stand on one leg with your knee slightly bent. Now slowly lower the weight towards the ground, keeping your back straight and not allowing the knee to bend any further. The opposite leg should extend behind you at the same time. You will know you are doing this right if you feel a strong pull on your hamstring on the way down.

3. Eccentric Single Leg Slide

This is another single leg exercise that has been shown to maximise muscle strength.

It is best to do this on a wooden floor. Start with lying on your back and place a folded towel under one of your heels. Now lift your hips up into a bridging position. Lift the foot with no towel underneath, off the ground. Slowly slide the other foot forwards until the knee is straight. Use both feet to get back to the starting position.

4. Gymball Kicks

This exercise recruits muscles fibres at speed, an important part of rehabilitation to get back running.

Lying face down, get a partner to hold a gym ball against the gluteal muscles. Then quickly kick the gymball with alternate heels.

Start with 3 sets of 10 seconds, and gradually increase the time.

5. Core stability

The hamstring muscles attach to the pelvis.

It is important not to overlook pelvic stability when it comes to improving the hamstrings.

A study carried out by the University of Wisconsin Sports Medicine Department compared two hamstring rehabilitation programmes. The programme that included core stability exercises resulted in a 7.7% hamstring re-injury rate within one year. The other group who did not do core stability exercises, experienced a hamstring re-injury rate of 70% within one year.

Examples of pelvic stability exercises include the front plank, side plank and side plank with a twist.

There are many ways to progress these exercises over the season.

WHAT TO DO NOW

If you are a player or coach, think about introducing these hamstrings exercises into your off-season and pre-season, and maintain this throughout the year.

Start by adding a core stability exercise into the pitch warm-up and include Nordic hamstring curls into your gym or pitch programme.

After all, hamstring strains are the most commonly experienced injury in running sports, often resulting in athletes missing weeks of training and matches. 

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