T Nation

Balancing Quad & Hamstring Strength

I am now nursing a low-grade hamstring tear and have decided to ask for some advice.

First off, the tear is just above the back of the knee. Anyone ever have this?

Secondly, I had an ACL rebuild on my left knee some years ago. This has seriously limited my range of motion:I cannot bend the knee more than 90 degrees so I cannot really work out the quad fully. As a result, even though I am very active, I have noticed the creeping tendency to have the relative strength in the quads and hamstrings off.

Does anyone have any suggestions on

  • how to judge the relative quad and hamstring strength – what should it be?

  • any good ways of strengthening the quads?

Leg extension machines are out of the question (too much stress on the knee). Partial squats and variations are ok.

thanks in advance…


I just finished reading the Squat chapter in the book Starting Strength. Mark Rippetoe, the author, strongly suggests not doing partial squats.

Without a balancing pull from the stretched hamstrings, in a full squat, there will be an 'anterior shear, a forward-directed sliding force, on the knee. Especially someone with an ACL injury, I think a partial squat is a bad idea.

Also knee wraps are mentioned in this book. “But in the event of certain knee injuries, wraps can be helpful IF USED CORRECTLY. If the trainee has an old ligament injury that has healed as well as it’s going to, wraps are useful to add stability to the knee…”

You’re forgetting about working on all the muscles around the hip, especially your glutes. Lack of strength and mobility in your hips can contribute to problems in your knees and hamstrings.

  1. if your hamstring is torn then it will need tons of rehabilitation before you start thinking about balancing quad and hamstring strength. a torn hamstring can take six months to a year before it is healthy enough to handle a load.

  2. you need to get past the ACL injury. I realize it is tight and feels like you’ll never be able to bend it beyond 90 degrees but you’ve got to work it. It sounds like you didn’t do much rehab after the surgery.

  3. studies have shown that since the body is bilaterally symmetrical training one side of the body actually effects the other. meaning that if you have injured one limb you should train the other limb hard and surprisingly the injured limb will heal faster and not lose as much strength as it otherwise would have.

  4. once it is ready i suggest, lots of dead lifts, roman chair (glute/ham hyper machine) straight leg dead lifts and full squats to balance leg strength.