T Nation

Glute Ham Raises Bad for Hamstrings?


#1

Hey guys

I'm a long time lurker first time poster and I wanted to get the opinion of guys here regarding this article

http://www.ausport.gov.au/sportscoachmag/sports_sciences/a_systematic_approach_to_hamstring_prevention_and_rehabilitation_part_1

Basically from what I understand it to say is that GHR's/Nordic (Russian leg curls) are bad for hamstring rehab which flies in the face of everything I've heard regarding posterior chain strengthening

What do yall think about this

Cheers


#2

For those that can't be stuffed trawling through the article this would be the pertinent paragraph

Hamstring function

In order to select effective exercises to prevent hamstring injuries and optimise sprinting performance, it is necessary to understand hamstring function. The nature of the injury and the phase of the stride cycle where the injury commonly occurs provide a major indication of hamstring function as well as insights into the mechanism of injury.

Despite this clear evidence of hamstring function and the biarticular nature of the hamstrings there is a continued search for ways to isolate the hamstrings in order to strengthen them. With the understanding of the eccentric role the hamstrings play in the stride cycle, some people (the authors included) searched for ways to strengthen the hamstrings eccentrically. Unfortunately, most of those methods still relied on single joint movements, for example:

hamstring curl (regardless of the position of the body)
ham/gluteal raise â?? this is an exercise that has gained much favour, but it still isolates the hamstring in a position of mechanical disadvantage
kneeling Russian hamstring exercise â?? executed from a kneeling position with a partner securing the ankles. Slowly lower, extending the knees. This puts undue stress on the distal hamstring. In the authorsâ?? experience this has caused many hamstring problems.

#3

I used to try everything but nothing worked. I found that the best thing for me to keep my hamstrings healthy is to not weight train them when I'm doing heavy doses of sprinting sports.

My squats and step ups seems to hit them just fine. I find that I am much stronger after a few weeks of just sprinting versus a few weeks of deadlifting/hamstring exercise combined with running sports. If I absolutely can't resist I do some light single leg deadlifts primarily to get a good stretch.

That version of the GHR is incredibly stressful on the knee for anybody who requires healthy speedy knees I can't see it being worth the risk of injury


#4

I don't know if I buy this. I'll admit I couldn't be bothered reading the whole article but I did read little snippets. While simultaneous hip flexion and knee extension may be a more "functional position" I don't think that it is that much of a concern. Although the Nordic hamstring curl only addresses the muscle at one joint, it is at the joint where injury occurs (knee joint). This is because hamstring co-activation increases at the end of knee extension to protect the acl, so by this mechanism it may not be as important to have movements at both joints.

There is also little explanation for the strong evidence presented in a study of Norwegian football players and the significantly lower hamstring injury rates of those that performed the nordic hamstring curl (can't be bothered looking up the reference, I am sure you can easily find it if you want). Eccentrically biased training has been shown to alter muscle fascicle length (by increasing in-series sarcomeres) which alters the force-length curve of the muscle, making it stronger at longer lengths. This shift should still occur in the nordic hamstring curl, and obviously, would lower injury rates. There may be benefit to using eccentrically biased methods at the knee joint WHILE the hip is in a flexed position (as it would be in a dynamometer for example), but I just don't see enough information as to why the nordic hamstring curl is contraindicated, it seems to me its better than nothing. I know a guy doing his PHD on hamstring strain I'll have a chat to him or his supervisor and see what he thinks.


#5

thanks for the thoughts airtruth and powersnatch i must say i certainly didn't really believe what was said given the weight of various levels of evidence suggesting these exercises are good for strenthening and injury prevention.

I'd love to see what your phD candidate thinks of this power snatch. I'm a doctor and as such have a great interest in MSK injuries and theories for and against them so this came as a big suprise when I came upon it. The only thing for it , is that it is from a reputable australian sports medicine website and the trainers who did it are known to be quite reputable

anyway would love to here more thoughts


#6

No problem, I might see him tomorrow, if not I'll definitely see his supervisor (he's my lecturer and extremely intelligent) tomorrow so I'll bring it up. I was thinking the same thing, in that they appear to be reputable yet they make these sorts of definitive claims with what appears to me to be non-definitive evidence. Then again, the ACSM are considered reputable yet they make same pretty whack claims here and there. Are you in Australia yourself?


#7

I agree with the article 100%. My opinion is based on experience as a sprinter doing every type of hamstring exercise and from discussions with some of the worlds best sprint coaches. It really comes down to this for me at least: doing any sort of knee flexion hamstring exercise + sprinting = ham pull.
Contrary to popular belief, glute ham raises & leg curls in no way train the hams in the manner that they act during a sprint stride. The only time you lift your heel to your ass is if you are checking if there is something on the back of your foot. It is MOMENTUM that causes your leg to curl up under your thigh during a stride. The glute & hamstring contract to cause hip extension, once your hip has extended then the hip flexors begin to act to bring the leg forward again, this combined action of hip extension quickly followed by hip flexion causes the lower leg to curl up under the butt almost entirely from momentum. Doing knee flexion exercises disrupts this subtle coordination and can predispose the hamstring to injury during sprinting.
Strengthen your hamstrings with hip extension exercises as suggested in the article. GHRs may be good for powerlifters but I wouldn't perform them if you are doing any type of sprinting on a regular basis. Didn't Bret Contreras show that hamstring activation was way higher in deadlifts & hypers anyway? I don't see the point in performing knee flexion exercises. Just my 0.02


#8

Completely agree with this. I have experienced the same thing


#9

IMO, the sport/activity you are going to be taking part in, along with training history, injury history, and current physical capabilities all are factors in determining what is appropriate for exercise selection, etc.

What I am not fond of in the article is how they made blanket statement against exercises for all athletes. From my experience working as an athletic trainer for a variety of athletic settings, as well as an athlete myself, I agree with their recommendations when they are pertained to track athletes, whose hamstring injuries commonly come from over-training, fatiguing of the hamstrings. Specifically with track athletes, I would recommend a decrease, but not complete elimination, of knee flexion based exercises.

When it comes to multi-directional athletes (american football, european football/soccer, rugby, etc), along with hamstring injuries, there is also a great concern for ligamentous structures of the knee. The ACL specifically is protected by the eccentric strength of the distal hamstrings (amongst other factors), so to avoid training the distal hamstrings would not be beneficial to those athletes. Again, the amount of training would be dependent on the athlete's current strength and injury history, as well as their position in their sport.

Another factor that I have noticed a lot from my experience is that people with chronic hamstring strains have almost always had poor gluteal activity and control, and poor hip mobility, along with tight, restricted IT bands and/or adductors. Specifically with tight IT bands, you will have and increased demand placed on the biceps femoris, which is what the article stated was the hamstring muscle with the highest injury rate. If there is weak/inhibited gluteal function, than the hamstring will have to take on the extra load that the gluteals are not taking up.

The article also stated that "Poor timing-intermuscular coordination and eccentric strength in the short head of the biceps femoris muscle". But the short head of the biceps femoris has no ability to extend the hip and is mainly responsible for flexion at the knee. So to bastardize the knee flexion exercises, but claim that the short head of the biceps femoris has poor timing-intermuscular coordination and eccentric strength doesn't make sense to me. Maybe I am mis-interpreting what the author was trying to say in the article, but if they are stating that high rate of hamstring injuries is due to short head of the biceps femoris, then I think proper training of that specific muscle would be needed.

I guess I will refer to the old adage - You don't need to throw out the baby with the bath water. Majority of athletes will benefit from more hip extension based exercises, but that doesn't mean that they all need to eliminate knee flexion based exercises.


#10

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#11

very interesting angles thanks alot for taking the time to discuss this issue. Yes powersnatch I am from australia how about yourself ?Both anecdotally and personally having had quite a few hamstring problems it is interesting to see certain ideologies being challenged

Keep the opinions coming


#12

type it up again bushido if you can be stuffed would love to hear your 2 cents


#13

Hey mate, yes I am in Australia too, in Brisbane actually. My lecturer (the supervisor) said pretty much exactly what I said except had much better wording lol. He simply said that they are over considering specificity and not at all considering the muscle architecture changes (which is what I was talking about with the in-series hypertrophy). Thats pretty much all he said and then we discussed these sorts of issues we have in the strength and conditioning industry. Though I never saw them use the words, they are basically falling into the 'functional training' shit we see today.

They do not seem to understand the point of eccentrically biased nordics IS the increase in in-series sarcomeres which favourably alters the force-length curve of the muscle. It has nothing to do with mimicking running, I mean, why would you? They are already running aren't they? We are trying to reduce injury risk. Ironically another consequence of increase in in-series sarcomeres is a greater maximum rate of shortening, meaning we can not only shorten faster, but at any given speed of shortening, we can produce more force. I brought that up with my lecturer too, and he said its a potential benefit, especially since some research shows the same muscular adaptation seems to occur with plyometric training, but primarily we are considering injury prevention, and that the potential performance enhancement may not be significant, since running is already occurring. What it does seem to mean, however, is that performance should definitely not drop if training is properly managed (obviously as we are damaging the muscle fibre membranes like crazy with all the eccentrics).

Keep in mind, I am talking about the NORDICS only, I am not defending leg curls and glute ham raises. I do not know of any research on them in regards to muscle architecture changes, but my lecturer also mentioned that the highest amounts of force are required when the hamstring is in a very short position, so it is probably unfavourable (hence may be considered contraindicated by some).