T Nation

Training to Prevent Hamstring Pulls

I’ve noticed that there are plenty of sprinters on this board. What training methods have you used to prevent hamstring pulls?

One often hears that the cause of hamstring pulls is a high quadriceps to hamstrings strength ratio. How do you go about evaluating this ratio accurately in a practical training context? Is the ratio of your front squat to technically correct clean pull, for instance, a good indicator of this? Leg extension to leg curl?

I understand that there are many other causes of hamstring pull (poor mechanics, inadequate warm-up, simple overtraining, adhesions from previous injuries, etc.) but I am interested in the strength training side of this issue.

i tore my hamstring 4 days into the track season and made the mistake of vaulting the next day (12 asprin and red bulls helped), it really slowed me down for the whole season. Before that I’d never really stretched properly. Now I stretch at least once but usually twice a day.

The way i got over the tear was lots and lots of stretching, it helps to do “strides” before you start your sprint workout (strides are when you do two laps around the track with a very long stride to stretch out your legs, walk the curves). I also did hamstring curls in the off season to try and even out the quad strength to hamstring ratio.

http://www.T-Nation.com/readTopic.do?id=1264105

Hamstring strains/pulls/tears are a common injury among sprinters unfortunatley. Often times it isn’t that that you have an imbalance from your quads, or even a “tight” hamstring. Sometimes the cause is indirect and could be from many other things.

When you have a soft tissue injury, it’s possible that something along the way is off or not working properly (glutes, med glutes, weak abs, tight hip flexors, etc etc etc).

This, plus the lack of ability to absorb the large amount of force from a sprint the hamstrings have to take could lead to injury.

Make sure warm up is adequate (dynamic stuff primarily), and limit your speed sessions to 3 per week at the max.

If you’re an athlete, you should be focusing on hip extension work while working on the posterior chain, but knee flexion should be thrown in from time to time.

[quote]WRCortese5 wrote:
Hamstring strains/pulls/tears are a common injury among sprinters unfortunatley. Often times it isn’t that that you have an imbalance from your quads, or even a “tight” hamstring. Sometimes the cause is indirect and could be from many other things.

When you have a soft tissue injury, it’s possible that something along the way is off or not working properly (glutes, med glutes, weak abs, tight hip flexors, etc etc etc).

This, plus the lack of ability to absorb the large amount of force from a sprint the hamstrings have to take could lead to injury.

Make sure warm up is adequate (dynamic stuff primarily), and limit your speed sessions to 3 per week at the max.

If you’re an athlete, you should be focusing on hip extension work while working on the posterior chain, but knee flexion should be thrown in from time to time. [/quote]

I think this is a good post. Charlie Francis has said before that often times a hamstring injury is due to poorly firing glutes.

1-leg SLDL’s are awesome.

[quote]Ross Hunt wrote:
I’ve noticed that there are plenty of sprinters on this board. What training methods have you used to prevent hamstring pulls?

One often hears that the cause of hamstring pulls is a high quadriceps to hamstrings strength ratio. How do you go about evaluating this ratio accurately in a practical training context? Is the ratio of your front squat to technically correct clean pull, for instance, a good indicator of this? Leg extension to leg curl?

I understand that there are many other causes of hamstring pull (poor mechanics, inadequate warm-up, simple overtraining, adhesions from previous injuries, etc.) but I am interested in the strength training side of this issue.[/quote]

Strength and activation:

Russian Hamstings
Band good mornings
walking lunges
single leg hip extension
band abduction

Range of motion:

Dynamic warm up
Hurdle drills
Active isolated stretching

[quote]WRCortese5 wrote:
Hamstring strains/pulls/tears are a common injury among sprinters unfortunatley. Often times it isn’t that that you have an imbalance from your quads, or even a “tight” hamstring. Sometimes the cause is indirect and could be from many other things.

When you have a soft tissue injury, it’s possible that something along the way is off or not working properly (glutes, med glutes, weak abs, tight hip flexors, etc etc etc).

This, plus the lack of ability to absorb the large amount of force from a sprint the hamstrings have to take could lead to injury.

Make sure warm up is adequate (dynamic stuff primarily), and limit your speed sessions to 3 per week at the max.

If you’re an athlete, you should be focusing on hip extension work while working on the posterior chain, but knee flexion should be thrown in from time to time. [/quote]

Great advice. There are so many factors it is hard to say one thing is going to cause it. If you are a runner I would stay away from leg curls. And the post before this a guy mentioned the glutes not firing right, this is one of the many things that could contribute to a pull. Make sure your hip flexors are loose as well.

Fred Hatfield wrote an article about strenthening your hamstrings with glute ham raises in order to prevent hamstring pulls. I realize he’s not a sprinter but I do believe his assertion has merit.

In my opinion, band glute ham raises make the exercise much more effective because it taxes you at the top range of the movement more thoroughly and maintains constant tension on the hamstrings throughout the movement.

Thanks for the replies, everyone.

I haven’t done any real hamstring work outside of oly pulls for a while, so maybe I will try adding in some more hamstring-specific drills like RDLs or maybe even the occasional leg curl, in addition to attending to all the other factors for this sort of injury.

Ross, if you’re looking for “sprinting specific” hamstring strength then you need no other exercsises than the following:
GHRs
Reverse Hyperextensions
Sprints (mostly Flying 30s or full sprints over 60M)

And as far as hamstring pulls go, it is usually due to two things.
1)Inability to absorb force. This can be due to lack of strength, a cold muscle, or any number of circumstantial factors.
2) The antagonistic muscles retaining tension for too long. An example of this would be your quads or hip flexors having some tension still in them when the hams are activated and having them put too much extra stress on the hamstrings. Too much time in the weight room and not enough on the track usually leads you down this path.

So basically, to avoid pulls, do plenty of direct hamstring work, warm up properly, and ease your way into sprint work.

RJ

[quote]RJ24 wrote:
Ross, if you’re looking for “sprinting specific” hamstring strength then you need no other exercsises than the following:
GHRs
Reverse Hyperextensions
Sprints (mostly Flying 30s or full sprints over 60M)

And as far as hamstring pulls go, it is usually due to two things.
1)Inability to absorb force. This can be due to lack of strength, a cold muscle, or any number of circumstantial factors.
2) The antagonistic muscles retaining tension for too long. An example of this would be your quads or hip flexors having some tension still in them when the hams are activated and having them put too much extra stress on the hamstrings. Too much time in the weight room and not enough on the track usually leads you down this path.

So basically, to avoid pulls, do plenty of direct hamstring work, warm up properly, and ease your way into sprint work.

RJ[/quote]

RJ,

Thanks. That really helps explain my pull and what to do about it.

Unfortunately, my gym doesn’t have a reverse hyper or a glute-ham.

Will natural glute-hams, or assisted versions of these, do the job of that exercise to some extent?

I think I might be able to rig up an equivalent to a reverse hyper by climbing over a back extension apparatus and using bands for the resistance.

[quote]Ross Hunt wrote:

RJ,

Thanks. That really helps explain my pull and what to do about it.

Unfortunately, my gym doesn’t have a reverse hyper or a glute-ham.

Will natural glute-hams, or assisted versions of these, do the job of that exercise to some extent?

I think I might be able to rig up an equivalent to a reverse hyper by climbing over a back extension apparatus and using bands for the resistance.[/quote]

Yeah, natural GHRs will do fine. In fact, I use natural GHRs since I too am without access to a dedicated machine. To do them, I stick my shoeless feet under heavy DBs and put stretching mats under my knees and hips. If you can’t do a full rep, give yourself a push off and work from there.

As for the reverse hyper, don’t worry about it. Do 1-Leg back raises while focusing on pushing through the toe. It will more than suffice.

Also of interest, you may want to pick up an EMS machine. If you’re on a budget, I suggest the EMS 7500. It’s like $50. I find these work great on the hamstrings, and with my own cheap model I’ve built some nice hams and hit 11 reps on the natural GHR.

If you have any other questions, feel free to ask.

RJ

I know Stuart McGill says that good sprinters often rely on tight hamstrings for their speed. Static stretching is bad for sprinters because you will lose this tightness, and as a result you will lose your speed. I tore my hamstring 2 years ago, and I kept re-injuring it everytime I came back.

I went to a bunch of physiotherapists and they all had me doing static stretches and I kept getting injured again. I got Magnificent Mobility and I use it to warm up now. I haven’t injured my hamstring since.

No problem! The lat pulldown machine is your solution. Let me explain:

For reverse hypers, prop a swiss ball on the lat pulldown seat. Drape your body over the top of it facing the weight stack and hold on to the vertical pillars that support the weight stack. Then perform bodyweight reverse hypers. Ankle weights can make them more challenging.

For natural glute ham raises, place a bench in front of the lat pulldown seat. Face away from the stack and kneel on the lat pulldown seat with your achilles tendons underneath the thigh supporter of the lat pulldown and fall slowly onto the bench in front of you.

Works like a charm!

[quote]meanmachine wrote:
I know Stuart McGill says that good sprinters often rely on tight hamstrings for their speed. Static stretching is bad for sprinters because you will lose this tightness, and as a result you will lose your speed. I tore my hamstring 2 years ago, and I kept re-injuring it everytime I came back.

I went to a bunch of physiotherapists and they all had me doing static stretches and I kept getting injured again. I got Magnificent Mobility and I use it to warm up now. I haven’t injured my hamstring since.[/quote]

Thanks. I’ve heard the same thing about static and dynamic stretches. I’ve always used dynamic warm-ups, and it’s seemed to work pretty well for me. I think the only reason I injured my hamstrings this time was a lack of strength and sprinting conditioning, combined with no warm-up whatsoever.

[quote]RJ24 wrote:
Also of interest, you may want to pick up an EMS machine. If you’re on a budget, I suggest the EMS 7500. It’s like $50. I find these work great on the hamstrings, and with my own cheap model I’ve built some nice hams and hit 11 reps on the natural GHR.

If you have any other questions, feel free to ask.

RJ
[/quote]

Do you use the EMS just for therapeutic or prehab purposes, or does it actually work for developing strength?

RJ, Brett C,

Thanks for the GHR and reverse hyper solutions.

I rigged up a mock reverse hyper today pretty easily with a pair of light ironwoody bands and a 45 degree back extension bench (backwards). I’ll definitely give the natural GHRs a try in a day or two, using the techniques you two have described.

Again, thanks for all this advice.

[quote]Ross Hunt wrote:

Do you use the EMS just for therapeutic or prehab purposes, or does it actually work for developing strength?[/quote]

It does a wonderful job of developing strength. During a 3 week period of nothing but sprinting, jumping, and EMS on my hamstrings I hit a 4 rep PR on natural GHRs.

The deal is though, the cheap model only worked on my hams and calves. If you bought a compex 400 model, then you could use it for every muscle group. You just have to remember, crank up the intensity. It’ll hurt like hell, but you’ll be getting stronger.

RJ

[quote]RJ24 wrote:
Ross Hunt wrote:

Do you use the EMS just for therapeutic or prehab purposes, or does it actually work for developing strength?

It does a wonderful job of developing strength. During a 3 week period of nothing but sprinting, jumping, and EMS on my hamstrings I hit a 4 rep PR on natural GHRs.

The deal is though, the cheap model only worked on my hams and calves. If you bought a compex 400 model, then you could use it for every muscle group. You just have to remember, crank up the intensity. It’ll hurt like hell, but you’ll be getting stronger.

RJ[/quote]

That’s great! I’ll definitely give it a try.