Long and Strong Hamstrings to Prevent Injury Hamstring injuries are notorious in running sports such as football, soccer and track-and-field. Arguably the most common mechanism of injury is in the late swing phase of high-speed running, where the hamstrings work eccentrically to decelerate the leg (Figure 1.).

What makes hamstring injuries more frustrating is that almost 1 in 3 will reoccur within 12 months. So what can you do to reduce the risk of hamstring injuries?Answer: Eccentric strength training. Eccentric muscle training is when the muscle is lengthening under load. An example of this is with a bicep curl, when you lift the weight you are performing a concentric contraction when you lower the weight it is an eccentric contraction (figure 2.)

Eccentric training for your hamstrings involves lengthening the muscle under load. Which mimics the late swing phase of running. Why does Eccentric strength training work? One of the proposed benefits of eccentric training is its effect on fascicle length within the muscle (figure 3.). Recent evidence has demonstrated that short fascicle length, particularly when paired with reduced hamstring strength is a significant risk factor for a hamstring injury. Eccentric training not only increases strength, but it also increases the length of the muscle fascicles, which directly correlates into reduced risk of injury.

This is where “long and strong hamstrings’ comes from, if you look at figure 4, you can see that short and weak hamstrings get injuredwhereas long and strong ones don’t.

So what exercises? Different exercises work parts of your hamstrings more so than others, so it is a good idea to include a variety of hamstring exercises to ensure you are getting to maximum strengthening benefit. However, If you’re after the best bang for your buck for injury prevention, arguably two of the best exercises are:

  • Nordic Hamstring lowers

  • Hip extension

 

Both these exercises work different parts of your hamstrings in an eccentric fashion. They also have been researched extensively and have been proven to increase eccentric strength, fascicle length and most importantly, reduce hamstring injuries. Give them a try as part of your Pre-season strength and conditioning. A word of caution, eccentric exercises do put a lot of strain on your muscles, so it is common to experience delayed onset muscles soreness (DOMS) after the first couple of session. Thanks for reading, contact us on 03 5721 4162 for more information

References: Bourne, M.N., et al. (2017). Impact of exercise selection on hamstring muscle activation. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 51(13), 1021-1028.Bourne, M.N., et al. (2018). An evidence-based framework for strengthening exercises to prevent hamstring injury. Sports Medicine. 48(2), 251-267.Malliaropoulos, N., et al. (2012). Hamstring exercises for track and field athletes: injury and exercise biomechanics, and possible implications for exercise selection and primary prevention. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 46, 846-851. Timmins, R., Bourne, M., Williams, M. (2016). Short biceps femoris fascicles and eccentric knee flexor weakness increase the risk of hamstring injury in elite football (soccer): A prospective cohort study. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 50(24), 1524-1535. Bourne, M.N., et al. (2017). Impact of Nordic hamstring and hip extension exercises on hamstring architecture and morphology: Implications for injury prevention. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 51(5), 469-477.