Our hamstrings play a vital role while running. They are involved in pushing our foot into the ground, generating force for take off, flexing the hip, and controlling our leg through the swing phase. They are also involved in decelerating our body when running at high speeds. Hamstring issues are the most common injury in runners, as well as sports that involve repeated bouts of high intensity running like AFL, soccer, and rugby.
Hamstring injuries often occur when:
- the muscle has not been warmed up and is contracted to produce a rapid movement while at full length (eccentrically)
- the muscle is fatigued and is contracted to produce a rapid movement at full length
- the muscle has been stretched past its normal range of motion
Recent studies show the likelihood of a hamstring strain was increased significantly due to three factors:
- increased age
- previous hamstring injuries
- poor eccentric strength
ECCENTRIC EXERCISES AND STRENGTHENING HAMSTRING MUSCLES
Eccentric exercises focus on placing tension on a muscle while it is at length. Since the hamstring is extremely vulnerable to tearing at length, it is only logical to train our hamstring eccentrically.
Eccentric hamstring exercise examples include:
- Hamstring sliders
- Swiss ball glute bridges
- Chinese planks
These exercises isolate the hamstring and place high amounts of tension while at length, generating strength and neural adaptations to withstand the intense physical demands of sport.
In a study conducted by Peterson et al (2011)., the results showed that after 10 weeks of adding the nordic hamstring exercise, overall, new and recurring hamstring injury rates decreased by 85% in male soccer players. Athletes who did not include the nordic exercise were 3.4x more likely to suffer a hamstring strain.
In summary, through countless hours of extensive research, eccentric hamstring exercises significantly decrease the rates of new and recurring hamstring injuries.